We all try to be safe with our cars. As we upgrade the motor to make the car go faster, we also add better brakes to help stop. We pick out quality suspension and other parts to hopefully eliminate the possibility of failure. Most of us go a step further, adding a roll cage of some degree and upgraded seat belts over a traditional lap belt or shoulder belt.
Recently, a story on Motorsport-Saftey.org was posted about a gentleman racing, where his car was engulfed in flames in mere seconds while exceeding triple digit speeds. “It was the same sound you hear when you pour too much lighter fluid on the charcoal as you’re preparing a Fourth of July barbecue. A giant ‘whoosh’ followed by a flash of flame. Except it was a thousand times louder. And it wasn’t charcoal that was on fire. It was me,” said the racer.
He talks about how his car had all the standard safety precautions. From an extinguisher system, helmets, harness’s, and fire suits. The one part that failed him, was when he didn’t practice getting out of the car in an emergency situation. He knew where the belt latch was, the window net and door handle – but he hadn’t practiced doing this in a mock emergency situation. Even though it only took him a few extra seconds to exit the vehicle because of this, when you’re on fire those seconds seem like an eternity.
“Flames poured through every crack in the firewall. My right hand was on fire. Splashed with fuel, my right leg was burning as well. Even the inside of the cockpit was ablaze as fuel vapor ignited and literally set the air on fire. I could see nothing. I could not steer the car off the track because I couldn’t see the track. I stomped the brake as hard as I could, but it takes a while to get a Porsche from 125 miles per hour to a dead stop.”
Luckily, he walked away with his life, but not after sustaining some serious injuries. “The world went black and I remember nothing of the next 46 hours. First, second and third degree burns covered 7% of my body,” he continued.
Before you hop in your car and head to the next event, be sure to take a few moments and practice your exit from a car. Better yet, put on a blindfold and do it without looking. If the same thing happens to you as this gentleman, you won’t be able to see anything from either fire or smoke. Practice exiting until you can do it flawlessly without even thinking about what you need to do. You never know, you might have just saved your own life someday.
For the full story, head on over to Motorsport Safety Foundation.