Although it’s been said a million times previously, it bears repeating for the sake of your own safety that the starting line of a dragstrip is not the place for congregation or social hour, no matter how important you feel or dire the Instagram photos you’re taking with your phone are to the race at hand. Lest we need another example to illustrate why, Australia’s South Coast Raceway delivers.
During a South Coast Wild Bunch Wars event at the Portland, Australia facility, a nitrous-assisted Ford Capri driven by Ken Donat had its throttle lodge on the burnout, sending it spinning out of control, where it struck the rear of the already-stopped Pontiac GTO of Dean Cleary. Cleary’s crewmember had already hopped the guardrail to back him to the starting line, unaware of the wayward Capri in the other lane — while that was hairy enough in its own right, Donat’s machine, still at wide-open throttle but clearly under his control as evidenced by the locking-up of the brakes, powered back toward the starting line in a cloud of tiresmoke.
Very fortunately, the entire frightening ordeal came to a conclusion when the car became lodged in the wall behind the burnout boxes without any injuries to Donat, Cleary, track officials, or other bystanders. The South Coast Raceway was ultimately forced to cancel the remainder of the event as a result of the damage done to starting line equipment by the runaway Capri.
The incident has raised questions about the response by Donat and whether he had endured a medical issue that rendered him unable to hit the kill-switch or shift the car into neutral — all details of which have not been made available at this time. Regardless of the cause, however, the entire incident serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of being present anywhere inside the guardrails … guardrails designed to separate the cars from the spectators. Truth is, track owners go to great expense for grandstands, so do them a solid and use them.