Dramatic footage of an in-car fire at the Donington Park race circuit has emerged online.
Racing driver Calum Lockie was leading a race behind the wheel of a £340,000 recreation of the iconic Shelby Daytona Coupe earlier this month, when smoke started billowing from behind his seat. The heat was coming from the car’s differential, which was rapidly overheating.
Lockie, a veteran of the Le Mans 24 Hours and a former British GT Champion, told the Press Association that a lap before the video started, he’d noticed some puffs of smoke inside the car.
He said: “I thought to myself that Donington is hard on brakes, so they’re probably getting a bit hot; I’ll ease off the braking for a minute and see if that helps.”
Shortly afterwards, a safety car was deployed on circuit because of a stopped car on the track. While Lockie believed it was a chance for the car to cool down, he was soon proven wrong.
Heavy smoke quickly became flames, and the racer broke with convention to overtake the safety car and drive at full speed back to the pit lane as fire licked around him.
Lockie explained the incident in greater detail: “Because of the speed reduction [behind the safety car], the air flow was much reduced. Very quickly it became a great cloud of smoke, and then suddenly flames appeared about a foot from my right shoulder, and I thought ‘ah’.
“It was a choice of pulling over at a marshals post or making it back to the pits. The marshals do a great job, but the resources at their posts are limited. So, if it’s a persistent fire in a difficult to access place, they’re at risk. Parking on grass in that situation is another interesting one, potentially.”
The driver elected to “zoom back to the pits”, where the better-equipped marshals, fire tender and Lockie’s team could extinguish the flames.
“I went by and signalled to the safety car; by the time I got to the final chicane everything had heated up, and there really wasn’t much braking left”, he said.
The fire truck stationed at pit entry put out the fire, and the car has already been repaired ahead of a race in France this weekend, just three weeks on from the incident.
Once the fire was put out and the car was examined, it was discovered that a tooth from the car’s gearbox had chipped away and became lodged in the differential’s oil pump. This caused the differential to overheat, which started a fire and eventually caused the fuel tank to burn through and leak.
Race officials commended Lockie rather than reprimanding him for his actions. Fortunately, he was unharmed aside from “coughing the next day, because I did breathe in some fumes”.
Remarkably, Lockie took part in two further races in other cars that day, finishing third overall and first in class in his final race.