Historic FFord driver saved from fiery crash

Marcus Pye and Stefan Mackley
This article first appeared on autosport.com

Historic Formula Ford driver Nelson Rowe credited two spectators and a competitor for saving his life after he was dragged from his car while engulfed in flames at Cadwell Park.

The double Historic Formula Ford champion won last Saturday’s race and was disputing the lead of race two when he collided with Cameron Jackson at Charlie’s corner – a long, uphill right-hander that tightens at the end – on lap three.

Jackson had missed a gear, catching out Rowe out. His Crossle was launched over Jackson’s Lola and landed inverted in the grass, with its engine bay bursting into flames.

Fellow competitor and champion Callum Grant, having seen the start of the incident, stopped his Merlyn near the scene and ran back to help.

“The first thing I did was look under the car to see whether the driver was still in it,” said Grant, who was assisted by two spectators.

“Nelson’s eyes were closed but he was shouting ‘get me out’.

“I wasn’t strong enough to lift it [a 400kg car] off him, but I have so much admiration for the spectators [who climbed over the fence].

“They were in T-shirts, but as we lifted the car up one of them undid Nelson’s belts and pulled him out.

“One also went back for a fire extinguisher.”

Rowe said: “I was awake for all of it.

“I couldn’t see the flames but could smell petrol and felt something wet on my leg.

“That was from the [in-car] extinguisher, [which was] triggered when the roll hoop moved.

“I could see Callum’s blue overalls alongside the car and was relieved to be out.

“My helmet was cracked and my overalls singed. I’m stiff but fine – a lot better than expected.”

Still in shock, Grant drove back to the grid where long-time racer Don Hardman sat him down under the trees and comforted him while competitors waited.

“I couldn’t believe that Nelson was sitting there calmly having tea with his wife and young daughter,” Grant added.

“That was brilliant, but I hope I never find myself in that situation again.”

Jackson went on to win the race, with Grant an emotional third. “I’m relieved that Nelson’s OK,” said Jackson afterwards.

Jonathan Palmer, whose MotorSport Vision concern operates the circuit, said the incident would be investigated but did condone the reaction of the spectators.

“The marshals were beaten to the scene by two spectators who jumped over the fence and helped put the car back on its wheels, after which the driver got out himself,” he said.

“It was an unusual situation and prompt action from those spectators but what I would say is for obvious reasons we can’t encourage other spectators to do this.

“It certainly could have helped and we’re grateful for their quick thinking.

“It would be wrong of us not to look into all incidents, and we are already studying this one to see if anything can be learnt.”

Pictures courtesy of Mick Walker

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