Percat hoped car fire would blow out

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 07/07/2019
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus, pics: Ross Gibb

Nick Percat was prepared to rejoin the second leg of the Watpac Townsville 400 with his car still on fire, before a red light forced him to stop at pit exit.

An issue with Brad Jones Racing’s fuel rig during Percat’s final stop led to a large fuel spill, which subsequently ignited when Percat accelerated away.

While the crew battled to stop the fuel leaking from the rig and extinguish a fireball in the pitbox, Percat was travelling towards the pit exit with the back of the #8 Holden also on fire.

He stopped at the pit exit and got out of the car while crews from various teams extinguished that blaze, and then hopped back in to finish 19th.

“I saw when I dropped and went that there was fire, but you never know if it's on the car, if it's going to go out as you drive,” Percat recounted.

“I didn't realise the extent of it [the pitlane fire] until I walked in [to the garage afterwards].”

Percat said he could feel the heat in the car, adding: “My seat was real hot and I thought to myself, this must be bigger than I can see.

“Then I got to the end of pitlane and saw the light was red, which was probably a good thing, because I would've gone onto the track and hoped that it went out with speed.

“I could definitely feel it was hot and then when the smoke started when I stopped, I was trying to get out as quick as I could and let the guys extinguish it.”

Officials had displayed the red light at pit exit specifically to prevent the car from returning to the track on fire, which disappointed team owner Brad Jones.

“I think that if the red light wasn't on it would have blown out and everything would have been fine,” he said.

“There wasn't fuel coming out of the car. The problem was in the garage.”

Television footage and still images of the pitstop appeared to show the nozzle breaking away from the fuel hose before the car had even arrived in the box.

A stewards bulletin issued on Sunday evening confirmed Deputy Race Director David Stuart “has opened, but not yet concluded, an investigation into the fire.”

“Something has obviously gone wrong, but we need to take it back and have a look at it and work out exactly what went wrong,” said Jones.

“We need to go home, we need to have a look at it. I don't want to speculate about what went wrong with it, because that would be the wrong thing to do.

“We had a fire, I felt like everyone did their job properly. I was right in the middle of it, the ones that needed to move did, the ones that needed to put the fire out did.

“We got great help from Walkinshaw and the CoolDrive team came in, and the fire was out really quickly.

“I felt like everything that could be done once the situation had started was pretty well executed.”

It was a tough day for BJR, with all three cars attracting penalties for driving infringements.

Percat tagged eventual third-place finisher Cameron Waters during an extended battle between the pair, sending both down the Turn 3 escape road.

Tim Slade finished 12th after an incident with Simona De Silvestro, and Macauley Jones 18th after a clash with Mark Winterbottom.

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