Flaming 31


Collision and fire at turn 1

A photo story of an extinguished race

V de V Endurance Series
Proto cars, six-hour endurance race
Circuito del Jarama, España
Sunday 3 September 2017

The sequence of photos here show how a collision occurred and the dramatic result of that collision. Justice was not served in this instance as the lead car in this particular group, car 31 driven by Rémy Kirchdoerffer for CD Sport, was forced to retire whereas the perpetrator, car 42, was able to continue and eventually win the race! The impact was not especially hard, but one that’s typical of braking incidents after a fast straight into a tight turn. The problem was caused by car 42 carrying excessive speed into the corner entry, making it difficult to turn. No one was injured but the hopes and ambitions of a team and its drivers were left in ruins. 

After the race start, I positioned myself on the inside of the tight right-hand turn at the end of the main straight. It’s a long straight (approximately 900 metres) the top end of which starts with a short downhill section, creating plenty of opportunity to build momentum. I figured that turn 1 would provide some drama under braking, some overtaking and slow the cars enough to get a few decent shots.

The cause

Almost 1 hour to the minute into the race this incident occurred. You can see the three cars charging into the corner entry, with the orange car 31 of Rémy Kirchdoerffer in the lead. The driver of the blue car 42 is carrying too much speed into the corner and has locked the front wheels under braking. Smoke from the burning rubber exits from the rear of the vehicle. Car 42, unable to turn the corner continues straight and comes into contact with car 31, the impact forcing car 31 to slide out of control until it is facing the wrong way on the track. There appears to be secondary contact, as car 42 attempts to manoeuvre past, before it eventually continues down the track leaving Rémy Kirchdoerffer in car 31 facing oncoming traffic.

Recovery attempt 1

Rémy Kirchdoerffer waits until it is clear and then attempts to continue the race by urgently executing a 180-degree drift, seemingly unaware of the flames and excessive smoke emanating from the rear right. The car becomes uncontrollable, sliding on its own fuel, lubricants and melting rubber, coming to a momentary halt with the rear end resting on the kerb at the edge of the track.

“Fire, fire”

By now track marshals are shouting “fuego, fuego, fire, fire” and rushing towards the car with fire extinguishers in hand. The flames have become very intense, helped in part by the driver’s action, and you can see in the photo below a marshal is forced to recoil as more flames erupt from the car.

Recovery attempt 2

Now, surely the driver must abort the race and evacuate the car but no, incredibly, to everyone’s astonishment, Rémy Kirchdoerffer makes a second attempt to continue. This time the vehicle executes another uncontrollable 180-degree turn and slides to a halt.

Bad fortune

Eventually Rémy Kirchdoerffer realizes that all the smoke and heat is more than just burning rubber and becomes aware of the protestations of the marshals as they rush towards him. At this point he makes a swift exit, surveys the damage and heads for the safety of the track side, incredulous at his bad fortune. I can imagine his valiant determination to get going combined with race adrenalin made it difficult to accept the situation, considering the race was yet young with 5 hours remaining and two other drivers back at the pits waiting for their sessions. My sympathies indeed for his misfortune but I also credit him for showing determination to somehow keep in the race.

V de V Endurance Series web site

Circuito del Jarama

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