jimbbski
jimbbski SuperDork
7/6/20 4:37 p.m.

I attended a road race this past weekend. I instructed on Sat. for a drivers school and on Sun. I worked grid.

The first race of the day early in the afternoon on Sun. was for the "big bore" cars. All V8 cars as well as most of the 6 cyl cars and the turbo cars were in the group. One car was reported by corner workers to be smoking in both the morning practice and qualifying sessions. The driver was informed and  said he would  take care of the problem.  In the race I heard on the radio of heavy smoking again coming from this car on the 3rd lap of the race.  About 1/2 way around the 2.0 mile course I hear reports of small flames under the car.  An attempt to black flag the car was missed. As the car was coming down the back straight toward the last turn before the front straight I now hear reports of "big flames" coming from the car. 

As the car comes around the last turn I'm standing almost on the pit entrance road and I see the car with flames licking up both sides coming from below the engine. At this point the drive knows he on fire. What do you do?

Stop the car as soon as you can and bail?  Or drive it somewhere there are people with fire extinguishers? Depending on when he realized his car was on fire he had a short list of what he could do.  Stop ASAP and bail and perhaps watch the car burn up before Fire & Rescue arrived?  Stop at the next corner station and hope a corner worker can arrive with a fire bottle and put out the fire? Or drive like hell to pit lane knowing there are many people with many fire bottles  just waiting to use them? He choose the last one!  The correct answer should have been to fix the oil leak so it wouldn't leak.

The driver was OK considering, the car not so much.  After 30 minutes spent cleaning up the spilled oil on track, about a 1/3 of a mile trail 3 ft wide,   we got back to racing.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
7/6/20 4:43 p.m.

Well, in the context of spreading oil on the track, stopping ASAP seems like the thing to do.

Peabody
Peabody UltimaDork
7/6/20 4:53 p.m.

It all depends on how far they are and how bad the fire is, but I've been in this situation. I drove to the extinguishers, they put it out, and I fixed the problem in time for the next race.

 

L5wolvesf
L5wolvesf Reader
7/6/20 4:59 p.m.
Peabody said:

 I drove to the extinguishers, they put it out, and I fixed the problem in time for the next race.

Yes, this is what I was about to write. Also . . . 

When I was flagging if a car was showing flames we would grab an extinguisher and hold it up so the driver could see it. 

alfadriver (Forum Supporter)
alfadriver (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/6/20 5:24 p.m.
Peabody said:

It all depends on how far they are and how bad the fire is, but I've been in this situation. I drove to the extinguishers, they put it out, and I fixed the problem in time for the next race.

 

Me, too.  Although, my car has never been on the track again.

alfadriver (Forum Supporter)
alfadriver (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/6/20 5:25 p.m.
L5wolvesf said:
Also . . . 

When I was flagging if a car was showing flames we would grab an extinguisher and hold it up so the driver could see it. 

Which is a very sobering thing being shown to you.

LanEvo
LanEvo Dork
7/6/20 5:40 p.m.

If feasible, drive off-line to the nearest flag station. Pull fire handle and GTFO.

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
7/6/20 5:52 p.m.

+1 on the GTFO portion............I poped the bottle and leaped as the car was stopping (single seater).

poopshovel again
poopshovel again MegaDork
7/6/20 5:54 p.m.

Stop. On track (not grass) GTFO. 

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/6/20 7:57 p.m.

Why anyone would go on track without an extinguisher IN the car is beyond me. I have them in all of my vehicles (except my daily driver late-model GTI). There's really no reason not to. Will a small bottle put out a car fire? I guess it depends on what is causing the fire. But I can certainly hit it faster than trying to drive to somewhere else, or waiting for a corner worker.

 

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
7/6/20 8:01 p.m.

In 1982 a guys 1972 Cutlass started on fire under the hood at the end of the entrance  road on the last day of school at College of DuPage.  Nobody had cell phones so somebody drove and called the fire department.  

He got out and watched it burn.  I had nothing going so I watched it burn up too.   Strong memory still in my head.  

Olemiss540
Olemiss540 Reader
7/6/20 8:37 p.m.

First question:

Do I have track insurance?

Second question: 

Do I have life insurance?

bmw88rider (Forum Supporter)
bmw88rider (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
7/6/20 8:46 p.m.

As a marshal, I'd love for you to get close to me but just know the last thing on our safety list is the car. If it's bad, GTFO.

I've put out my fair share of cars and drivers. I had a p2 car spitting out of the air intake onto the back of the drivers head. I has to scream at the driver to get out of the car so I can put it out and not burn the car down. 

And Please Please Please stay on the racing surface or a paved/gravel surface if you can. I almost had a major grass fire that I got lucky enough to get out there fast enough to put it out before we lost acres of grass. A buddy was working a race and wasn't so lucky and it went up really quick. They lost 3 arces of grass that day. 

jimbbski
jimbbski SuperDork
7/6/20 10:16 p.m.

In reply to irish44j (Forum Supporter) :

You seem to be ignorant fo the fact that this was a race and all race cars are required to have a fire extinguisher on board in all classes. Certain classes require a "fire system" where it can be activated either by the driver or by someone outside of the car. This car was in one of those classes. However most fire systems are not set up to put out an oil fire. They would be directed into the drivers area, the top of the engine where a fuel fire would be  a serious problem,  and perhaps the fuel tank/cell area.  This was an oil fire caused by an oil leak on hot headers or some other hot engine parts.

chada75
chada75 Reader
7/6/20 10:17 p.m.

Put it out.

Recon1342
Recon1342 HalfDork
7/6/20 10:36 p.m.

Cars are easier to rebuild than people. Stop,  GTFO and live to race another day. It doesn't take much for a small oil fire to become a car-enveloping disaster... 

triumph7
triumph7 Reader
7/6/20 11:08 p.m.

Two points...

First, the onboard fire system is only enough to protect you while you get your ass out of the car.  It's not big enough toput out and oil or fuel fire.

Second, last place you want to take a burning car is to the pits, it put lots of people in danger where, yes, there are lots of fire extinguishers but lots of fuel, other cars and such.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) UberDork
7/7/20 1:22 a.m.
triumph7 said:

Two points...

First, the onboard fire system is only enough to protect you while you get your ass out of the car.  It's not big enough toput out and oil or fuel fire.

It might put out the fire if pulled soon enough (and the car shut down), but yes, that's not the point.  The point is to buy the driver a few precious seconds to get the car stopped and get out.

I've had the power steering pressure hose fail in my Miata, spraying PS fluid all over the exhaust manifold and turbo.  I first noticed the smoke going through turn 2 at Laguna Seca, it took me a couple corners to figure out that it was me and by that point I was approaching turn 4.  The smoke wasn't all that bad (there isn't much PS fluid in a Miata), so I decided to drive it to the corner worker at turn 5 where there's an emergency exit with a gap in the fence.  I was pondering stopping sooner and had the smoke gotten much worse (and definitely if I'd seen flames) I would have.

I'm pretty dubious about the utility of a handheld extinguisher in a track car because you don't just stop the car on the track, get out, and start fighting a fire.  Race tracks are dangerous places to stand, cars are moving very fast and if someone approaching you loses control (like say spinning on the oil that you dropped) it can be a very bad thing.  This is why every driver's meeting they say "if you stop on track, don't get out of the car unless it's on fire".  If it IS on fire, you get out and you run for the fence/wall to put it between you and the other cars.  So perhaps it's useful if you've got a car with a small fire that can drive to a gap in the fence, but those gaps are usually manned by corner workers who have fire extinguishers with them anyway.

OTOH, there are lots of reasons why you want to have a fire extinguisher in the pits and paddock.  Put one or two in the trailer, another in the tow vehicle, etc.

 

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