Super sprints in club motorsport are time trials, and are run against the clock with only two cars on the circuit at the same time. My nemesis was Alistair Browne from the Alpha Romeo club who always seemed to produce a better lap time than myself. On this particular day I was determined to better my existing lap time and take the points from Alistair for the first time. The car had been tuned and was running perfectly, and with the first lap I was able to reduce my pervious lap time of 72 seconds, down to 66 seconds. However there were further improvements to be made. During the day, subsequent runs continually reduced the lap times down to almost 60 seconds.
For the last sprint of the day, I was lined up with Alistair Browne. I was determined to beat him and break the 1 minute barrier. After getting a blinding start, I led into the first corner. The third corner was a sweeping bend called Dunlop Loop, this is where the wheels fell off, literally!! After exiting the sweeper, an axle broke and the right rear wheel decided to leave the scene without permission, and took off into the bush. In the process of departing, the wheel managed to unbalance the car rather abruptly. I was desperately trying to regain control, however the car failed to respond at this critical point in the proceedings.
It is said that when a person is under severe stress, their life flashes before their eyes. This did not happen to me. What was flashing before my eyes, were the trees on the outside of the circuit, with the added complication that they were upside down. I do recall saying to myself in a millisecond, “This may not end well”. One also tends to become very religious in these circumstances.
During the bumps, thumps and the bangs, I managed to turn off the ignition and firmly grasp the steering wheel to avoid my arms being thrown around inside, or outside, the vehicle. When the noise stopped, the car was on the grassy infield facing in the correct direction of travel, and upright. I do recall the flag marshal running up behind the car, speaking on the radio, “I think he’s dead”. To which I replied, “I am not dead, please help me out of the car”, or words to that effect. I emerged from the wreck unscathed, with only bruising to my shoulders from the racing harness.
A quick inspection of the car revealed that during the airborne activities, the other rear wheel had also departed.
From Alistair’s description, “When I came around the corner, the Escort was completely inverted, three metres above the track, and sideways to the direction of travel. You were still going that fast that I could not catch you, however when you hit the ground between rolls and flips, I did manage to catch up”.
Degree of difficulty….not rated as the jury is still out on whether the driver problem created the mechanical failure, or the mechanical failure created the driver problem. Artistic merit and presentation, as rated by Alistair Browne,…10/10.
After the compulsory medical check I was released to inspect the remains of the Escort, which had by this time been returned to the pits on a tilt bed truck. One bystander, who obviously had a Degree in Mechanical Engineering, offered his considered opinion, “It’s stuffed”. I could have done without that input at the time, but unfortunately the mighty Escort’s injuries were extensive and proved fatal. In a brief, but moving ceremony, the log book was closed and the Escort deemed gone forever at 19.00 hours on Sunday 29th March 1998.
The remains were transported to my local panel beater who offered a similar response to the trackside expert, only in more colourful language. His assessment was that the car had rolled from side to side, end to end and corner to corner, seven times. The impact was so severe that the axis of the body had been twisted around 5 degrees. The only panel on the car that was not damaged was the passenger side rear door, shown in the image below.
PS: The surviving mechanicals were salvaged from the wreck and installed in a two door Escort shell. This car then won the club circuit championship a number of times with subsequent owners from the same car club.