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The forgotten man’s story from Perth inferno

WANNEROO Raceway, 2011, Race 2. It’s synonymous with arguably the scariest fireball in Supercars history, when Karl Reindler stalled on the grid and his Brad Jones Racing/Britek Motorsport VE Commodore burst into flames.

Reinder’s part is often remembered, the future Formula 1 medical car driver frantically escaping and rolling on the circuit’s infield grass to rid himself of flames.

But what of the other party involved? It was not immediately obvious that it was Steve Owen who had rear-ended Reindler, having been blindsided as a fast-starting David Reynolds ahead took last-minute evasive action.

Owen’s Paul Morris Motorsport Commodore was also engulfed, and the two-time Super2 champion was left with an unenviable situation.

“The last thing I remember was thinking, ‘I’m screwed here’,” Owen recalled on the most recent episode of the V8 Sleuth Podcast polished by Bowden’s Own.

“Remarkably I just remember opening my eyes a second later and going, ‘I’m alright, I’m actually not hurt’,” he continued.

“Like I thought I would wake up in hospital again (as was the case when he blacked out at the 2006 Adelaide 500).

“I could have got out pretty quick.

“If you watch it back, I open the driver’s door within about two or three seconds but went ‘hmm, that’s a lot of fire’ so I closed that, jumped over to the other side of the car, opened the passenger door and went ‘that’s a lot of fire’, closed the door and just sat in the tunnel in the middle of the car.

“The good thing was, I knew I was close to the pits, so I thought that’s probably the best place to have a fire. If you were down at the Bowl, you might think about kicking the windows out or something.

Crew members rush to the scene. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

“Thankfully it was actually a couple of the crew from other teams who’d jumped over, because by then, sitting in the middle of the car for another 10 or so seconds, it had actually melted the door handles on the inside, so the door release that the driver pulls, that got so hot from the fire that the door handle dropped inside the door.

“So when I went to get out a second time, there was no door handle, so I went ‘this is not good’.

“Luckily by then the boys had opened the door from the outside and I jumped out with remarkably very little injuries. The HANS device broke, just the carbon all delaminated, but I didn’t have a sore neck at all so it all worked really well.”

The aftermath. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

Despite sustaining major visible damage, Owen’s Triple Eight-built Holden was repaired in time for the very next round in Darwin.

The Perth inferno is just one of many fascinating tales recounted by Owen, who is humbly self-demeaning on many occasions including speaking about his latter years co-driving at Tickford Racing and how he hopes to have his FIA licence downgraded because he is “the world’s slowest gold driver”.

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