Photo courtesy Fred Dwyer.
Motorsport is dangerous. We all know there are risks but it still comes as a shock when accidents happen and racers are put in harm's way.
Anthony Begley was recently reminded at the 2013 Nitro Champs just how dangerous motorsport can be, when he was engulfed in flames after the engine exploded in the Chemical Warfare Nitro Funny Car.
"At about half track an exhaust valve broke and lifted the head up about an inch", said Begley. "There wasn't any warning that the engine wasn't happy. Usually it will lay over a bit or give off a pop letting you know it's time to get off the gas."
With the head raised, this allowed fuel to be pumped onto the headers which erupted into a huge fire. It burnt a hole in the left hand side of the fire wall and instantaneously filled the driver's compartment with flames.
As an experienced drag racer, Anthony knew he had to keep calm and go through the safety procedures every driver knows but hopes they'll never have to use. "First I hit the chutes, then the fuel-shut-off and the fire system. Once these were done I had to stop the car safely. I couldn't see a thing and didn't know where Christine [Steffens] was so I tried to keep the car as straight as possible."
After what seemed like an eternity the Funny Car came to a halt when it nudged into the right hand wall. "It was getting pretty hot in there so I was relieved when I could pop the hatch and escape the fire. The only pain I could feel was in my left hand which got burnt from the intense heat of the flames. No fire got into my suit whatsoever which just goes to prove how effective the safety standards are."
"We all know the risks when we get in these cars but we do everything we can to make it as safe as possible," reflected Anthony on what could have been a much more serious incident. "My wife understands the risks and my kids were a little upset; but that's racing."
"I personally want to thank the safety crew at Sydney Dragway for being right on the spot. And to all the well wishers – we all really appreciate your kind words."
No sooner had the team got the car back to the pits that they started talking about what they needed to do to get back on track. "The car owner Rod Bailey and I have spoken a lot about how we can make the car safer and what we can salvage. At the moment it looks like the chassis is ok but we'll need a new body, electronics and safety system to start with."
The team aims is to be up and running by September / October. "We want to be ready for the new season because we are committed to seeing Nitro Funny Car re-instated as an ANDRA Championship bracket. To make sure this happens we have to race and encourage other Nitro Funny Car owners to do the same," said Anthony.