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Pobst Position: My First Fire
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Well, after thirty-five years, over two hundred Solos and nearly five hundred races, it finally happened. My first real fire. I recall driving a track-rat 944 Turbo that blew a line, igniting an minor flareup, but the owner/mechanic riding shotgun seemed quite experienced with such things, and snuffed it as soon as I quickly stopped with a small hand-held extinguisher. "My kingdom for a small hand-held," I thought, as I stood by helplessly watching my concours-level K-PAX Volvo S60 going up in flames.

All was going rather well in the first of two Pirelli World Challenge races at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP), the racetrack formerly known as Mosport. We qualified second, led for a short time until passed on a goofed-up "Green! No, don't go! Green-green-green!" restart, and were a comfortable second fifteen minutes in, holding the rewards-ballasted and still-fast Cadillacs at bay (they have run a terrific, smart, consistent season), and resisting the evil little devil on my left shoulder that was hoping Mike Skeen's CRP Corvette would break or tangle with a lapper. We were blasting up the meandering straight, passing a GTS Camaro and 370 Z, just into sixth gear, maybe 135, when a wall of flame suddenly presented itself up the front of the windshield, like looking out the back of a fireplace. "Perhaps I shall ease to the side and disembark," I said to myself calmly as my heart started to pound right out of my chest. With the engine still running fine, I figured it must be a fuel or oil leak. With the cockpit rapidly filling with the most vile, toxic, blinding fumes I've ever experienced, my focus shifted so rapidly to exiting the car that I failed to radio K-PAX and let them know. I did, however, immediately do the correct thing, killing the master power and firing (so to speak) the on-board extinguisher. What I later realized I should have done but didn't, was hit the clutch, too. If it was an oil leak, that would eliminate the oil pressure possibly spraying more fuel on the blaze.

Because the normal race line at the top of the hill goes driver's left, I angled to the right. It was self-preservation by getting myself out of the way and altruism by working to keep leaking fluids from crashing the innocent. I honestly never thought of finding a worker station, only of stopping as fast as possible and bailing out. I also failed to remember to pull down my face shield, which I normally run closed with a F.A.S.T. fresh air system, but not that day because it had gotten so clouded I could barely see. Figures.

Squinting through an ever thicker and darker cloud of emissions, and trying hard not to breathe, my Volvo suddenly slewed side-to-side in it's own oil, leaving a burning trail like "Back to the Future". Do not miss the video at kpaxracing.com and on Facebook. Blind car control. "Use the force, Luke!" As Charles Espenlaub told me after his big one, practice exiting blindfolded. He's right, couldn't see a thing. The clear outside air never smelled sweeter, but my radio and cool suit were still attached; no prob. A fan handed me a water, but I just swished and spit, rinsing out smokey poisons. The on-board had no visible effect on the fire, so I kept going back in to hit it again, power on and off. Will Moody says it's just to buy time for the driver. It did wet down my lower legs. The fire crew came quickly but it felt like forever as the flames slowly spread over the right-front corner of our pristine K-PAX S60. I popped the hood and helped direct the excited rescue team. Thank you, Workers! A sneaky flame scorched the left sleeve of my suit, passing through the unibody, but I'm just fine. Thank you SCCA safety rules. Here's hoping you never conflagrate, but be ready. And maybe carry a hand-held.
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