Video: First-Person Inferno—ChumpCar Catches Fire

In a fraught and highly competitive Chump Car battle amidst the storms which ravaged Florida in September, one unlucky contender’s BMW smoldered as the rest of the field pressed on. E Racing’s beautiful BMW E30 caught fire seven laps into Hunter Biederman’s stint. Though Biederman had practiced his egress in the past, it’s hard to truly prepare yourself for the shock of flames licking at the windscreen, as he candidly recounts.

After exiting Turn Five and coming into Big Bend, Biederman noticed a lack of power when upshifting, despite the engine still clearly ticking away. Slowly rolling to a stop while wondering what he’d done to make the reliable M50 motor quit, hell broke loose. After a faulty fuel line stopped feeding the motor and began spraying something very hot in the engine bay, flames started spitting out of the Beemer’s nostrils, and immediately, Biederman began running through the exit routine he’d practiced so many times before.

It’s tricky to think clearly with the fire so near.

“First, I released the belts. Second, I shut off the power, and third, I released the window net,” recalls Biederman solemnly. He struggled momentarily emerging through the window of the closed door—kept snagged by his cool suit’s still-connected line, but within thirteen seconds, he made it out of the flaming wreck.

Standing outside the car, Biederman considered pulling the toggle for the fire suppressant, but was escorted away by a marshall who took him to safety on the other side of the wall. He regretted the relatively slow escape, and wished he’d triggered the fire extinguisher, but—crucially—he emerged unscathed. It’s a frightening demonstration of how difficult it is to think clearly with the threat of fire so close, and an encouraging example of why it’s crucial every driver practice their emergency escapes.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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