Flaming 31

An extinguished race

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

The photos here are a sequence showing how a collision occurred and the dramatic result of that collision. The impact was not hard, but one that’s typical of braking incidents that can happen after a fast straight into a tight corner. No one was injured, just damaged hopes and ambitions of a team and its drivers.

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 that creates 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 but car #42 has locked front wheels under braking, smoke from the burning rubber exiting 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 it 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 on down the track leaving car #31 facing oncoming traffic.

V de V Endurance Series web site

Recovery attempt 1

The driver of car #31 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 of the car. The car becomes uncontrollable, sliding on its own fuel, lubricants and melting rubber, to come 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 photos a marshal 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, the driver makes a second attempt to continue. This time the vehicle executes another uncontrollable 180-degree turn and slides to a halt.

Bad fortune

Eventually the driver 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 the driver makes a very swift exit from the car 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 condition of the car, considering the race was yet young with 5 hours remaining and two other drivers back at the pits waiting for their sessions.