John Bowe and Jim Richards¹ chances for a strong finish at today¹s Queensland 500 went up in smoke with a dramatic pit fire.
The Cat Racing pair charged their way through the field to actually lead the race after eighty laps.
But disaster struck on lap 101 when Richards pitted for his mandatory brake pad change while in fourth place.
A failed o-ring in the re-fuelling rig resulted in fuel spraying from the hose, igniting on the hot exhaust.
A huge fire-ball engulfed the rear of the car, sending crew members sprinting for cover.
Re-fueller Mark Epis received burns to his chest, face and ears, but returned to duty after being treated by medical officers on track.
The resulting clean-up dropped the car five laps in arrears, ruining any chance of a strong finish in the inaugural Queensland Raceway 500 km event.
"We were extremely unlucky with the fire, but we are just fortunate that Mark is O.K. and nobody was seriously injured," a disappointed Bowe said.
"Our strategy was going exactly to plan and Jim had done a brilliant job in his stint.
"I don¹t know whether we had the pace to win the event, but we had certainly put ourselves in a very strong position.
"You really need luck on your side in these long distance events, but the weekend showed we were extremely competitive."
Bowe and Richards pressed on despite the set-back, eventually finishing in 18th position.
The event was won by the Holden pairing of Larry Perkins and Russell Ingall.
Richards is confident the Cat Racing team is in a strong position to finish the year on a high note in its rookie season.
"The car is exceptionally good and I am certain we will be a strong contender at Bathurst," Richards said.
"We are all disappointed with the day, but everybody now had their sights set on the next event."
QLD 500 - 161 laps 1. - Perkins/Ingall (H) - 3hr 29min 44.63sec 2. - Tander/Bargwana (H) - 161 laps 3. - Lowndes/McConville (H) - 161 laps 4. - Seton/Crompton (F) - 161 laps 5. - D.Parsons/S.Parsons (H) - 161 laps 6. - S.Richards/Murphy (H) - 161 laps 7. - D.Johnson/S.Johnson (F) - 160 laps 8. - Ashby/Reed (H) - 160 laps 9. - Faulkner/Wills (H) - 159 laps 10. - Brabham/Bates (F) - 159 laps 18. - Bowe/Richards (CAT FORD) - 156 laps (F)= Ford (H) = Holden
CALENDER November 14 - FAI 1000, Mount - Panorama, Bathrust