A Mustang GT350 Lapping Roebling Road catched fire due to some oil leakage touching hot surfaces of the car as mentioned by the eyewitness HiPo Joe Charles:
It was the last session of the day, I had no idea it would come so close to being my last session ever…
On April 30, 2016 I was running a track event in my 2016 GT350 Mustang at Roebling Road. Being my second track event in the car I was slowly gaining confidence in the car and more especially myself. This was the most capable car I had ever driven on track and she was fast. I spent most of the day creeping up on my abilities behind the wheel and was nowhere near the capabilities of the car.
The forecast was hot and muggy so the organizers of the event announced that drivers of streetcars wouldn’t have to wear long pants. So I wore my standard everyday shorts and t-shirt along with my helmet and gloves.
I had been on the track about 15 minutes of the last session when I experienced a catastrophic engine component failure. This caused a massive oil leak. The oil ignited on the exhaust. If this wasn’t bad enough, the oil fire caused the main fuel line to rupture. At this point, the bottom of the car was fully engulfed. The fireball was two lanes wide and trailed behind the car at least 25’.
I had just exited the last turn onto the front straight when all hell broke loose. I was following a BMW and had just been given a “point by” to pass. I checked my mirrors and initiated the pass. As I’m accelerating pass the “yielding” BMW I was able to go from 3rd gear into 4th gear. This would have me running 125ish MPH as I was about to merge back in front of him. When I checked my mirrors again I saw the large fireball.
My first reaction was “Oh no, what’s happened to the BMW?!?”. Before I could even finish that thought I realized that the flames were coming from me. My very next thought was “Oh fuck, I’m on fire.” I knew I needed to get off the track, but the pit wall was to my right and the “racing line” and other fast cars were on my left. I lifted and started trying to slow the car down.
The heat from the flames must have been very intense as the brake fluid boiled and the brake pedal went to the floor. So now I’m still running 100+ MPH on fire with no brakes. By now I’m past the pit wall and I’ve made my way on to the grass running along side the track.
One thing all racers know is to get off the racing line as soon as possible when there is trouble. Another thing HPDE guys know is there will always be fire extinguishers at corner stations and I was quickly approaching the one at T1.
With no hydraulic brakes I tried to use the emergency brake. I knew that I couldn’t yank it up because it would lock the rear wheels causing me to lose what little bit of control I had. About 20% through the travel of the lever, the cable snapped.
Sometime during all this, I had turned the car off. So I’ve got zero brakes and no power steering. By now I’ve also got fire in the cabin and I’m still hauling ass burning like a meteor on reentry. I did the only other thing I knew to do. I put the car in first gear and dumped the clutch. Some how I was able to get the car stopped without losing control less than 30’ from corner station and the fire extinguishers.
The corner workers were yelling for me to get out of the car. They didn’t realize just how badly I wanted out of the car! LOL Normally if you have an incident on track you are instructed to stay in the car until the safety team arrives on scene. One of the few exceptions is a fire.
I got out of the car and raced to grab an extinguisher and started fighting the fire myself. The safety crew got to me within seconds and quickly got the fire put out. I walked away without a scratch. I never felt the heat from the fire. I am certain that I had someone riding with me keeping me safe. It wasn’t my time to die.
Ford and my local dealer Prater Ford have been very good to me. My 2016 GT350 is being replaced with a 2017 GT350R. This has been one hell of an emotional roller coaster and I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel.