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Courtney recounts Albert Park inferno

SUPERCARS champion James Courtney has explained how the spectacular Albert Park fire incident played out from the cockpit of his Snowy River Caravans Mustang.

Courtney’s car caught fire on the opening lap of the Saturday race in a repeat of what had unfolded one day earlier with the fellow Gen3 Ford of Nick Percat.

While Percat’s car was able to be repaired to take part in the final two days of the Melbourne SuperSprint, Courtney’s blaze was more severe and forced him to be withdrawn early.

Dramatic images (below) emerged as the Tickford Racing veteran escaped the inferno, and now he has retraced his steps in an interview with V8 Sleuth.

“I got a good start, everything was going well,” he recalled.

“When (Mark) Winterbottom crashed, as I went past there, I sort of smelt something a bit funny and I thought ‘maybe it’s from Winterbottom’s accident, like oil or something as a result of that’.

MORE: Tickford’s $100,000 fire repair bill

“And then as I went around Turn 8 I noticed it wasn’t clearing – and typically when a smell comes into the cabin it clears quite quickly – so I got on the radio to Scaff (engineer Sam Scaffidi) and said ‘I can smell something burning’.

“He said ‘it all looks fine from here’ and then as I was going down into Turn 11 I said to him ‘I am definitely on fire’ because I could see smoke and fire coming out of the bonnet.

“I thought I better not stop because the marshals don’t help you unless there’s a Safety Car and also they only have one, maybe two extinguishers there and I could tell the fire was rather large.

“So rather than having the car burn to the ground and lose it, I drove as quickly as I could into pitlane and stopped in the middle so I could have people from both sides help me.

James Courtney escapes the inferno. Pic: Connor McKenzie

“When I said to Scaff that it’s definitely on fire: ‘I’m coming to pitlane, please get everyone ready to put me out!’

“So I drove to the middle of pitlane with my pit limiter on, because how my weekend was going I thought I would have got fined for speeding in pitlane, so I put the pit limiter on and drove down and pulled up.”

MORE: Penalty strips Courtney of Albert Park podium

The biggest fire of his motorsport career, Courtney admitted his sole priority initially was to protect his new car.

“I wasn’t really thinking about me at that point, I was thinking about the car not burning to the ground,” he said.

“It wasn’t until I stopped and pushed the firebomb that I was like ‘holy shit, I’ve got to get out’ – and the hole is a lot smaller to get out and it seems like it’s miniscule when you are on fire to get out of the driver’s door.

“The new nets with the way they are and my radio, like I got all tangled trying to get out, so that’s something that we are going to address and try to clean up.

“But ultimately I got out and walked away thankfully.”

Courtney added of the aftermath: “My throat has been really quite shit.

“I don’t know if it is from the extinguishers… as well as all of the really black, choking sort of smoke that was coming into the cabin while I was driving.

“So a combo of all that stuff I don’t think was all that good for my lungs but my throat is getting better each day.”

Tickford has sent the engine from its burnt Mustang away to Herrod Performance Engines to be fixed ahead of Round 3 at Wanneroo Raceway on April 28-30.

PODCAST: Supercars searching for answers on Albert Park fires

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