ASTC: Fire at Wakefield Park injures two

Two Wakefield Park Raceway staff were taken to Goulburn Base Hospital today suffering from shock and smoke inhalation from a fire which caused $200,000 damage to a workshop after the first practice session for Sunday's seventh round of the BOC...

Two Wakefield Park Raceway staff were taken to Goulburn Base Hospital today suffering from shock and smoke inhalation from a fire which caused $200,000 damage to a workshop after the first practice session for Sunday's seventh round of the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship.

The fire started accidentally when Edward Sueeull, from Goulburn, and on-site caretaker Shelton Loughrey were welding, and it destroyed a $60,000 V8 Supercar engine, a V8 Future Tourer, two Formula Wakefield open-wheeler cars, tools and equipment.

Sueeull and Loughrey were treated at the track's Medical Centre by First Aid Australia personnel, and then taken to hospital for treatment and observation.

The fire, which was accompanied by black smoke, flared for about 10-minutes before being extinguished, and guttered the workshop.

Initially, track marshalls fought the blaze with hand-held extinguishers, and it was eventually extinguished by water pumped from the track's on-site Fire Truck. The NSW Bush Fire Service also despatched four units to the track.

Sydney businessman and race driver Garry Holt, head of the consortium which owns the track, was one of the first to arrive on the scene after the fire started and he said it could have been caused by a spark igniting.

The fire occurred between the first and second practice sessions. Despite the incident, the second sessions went ahead on schedule.

Newcastle's Luke Searle emerged fastest with the best lap time of 1-min 4.65-secs around the 2.2km circuit in a Roadchill Express-SAE College BMW 320i. He finished 0.37-secs clear of Sydney teenager Kiel Johnston in a Hi-Tech Nissan Primera, who was followed by Jamie Miller of NSW in a Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry.

Super Touring champion Paul Morris was fourth quickest in his first drive in a V8 Future Tourer. Morris drove an APS Racing Holden Commodore to evaluate its performance for regular driver Ray Sidebottom.

Morris will resume driving his all-conquering Mount Cotton Estate Winery BMW 320i in tomorrow's two qualifying sessions, to determine grid position for Sunday's two 28-lap races.

GARRY HOLT (Wakefield Park Owner): "I was about 40m away when I saw the flames and went running over to the workshop. Thankfully the two guys doing the welding got out, and we've got them off to hospital. However, the race cars, engines, and everything else inside is a write-off, and the total damage is probably around $200,000. The temperatures at the track were about 40-degrees and at this stage it seems likely a spark may have ignited on some vapour from the welding. Our staff, and the fire safety people who came to the track did a good job to get the fire out in difficult circumstances."

LUKE SEARLE (Roadchill Express-SAE College BMW 320i): "We did the quickest lap on old tyres, so we will be quicker tomorrow in qualifying with fresh rubber. It's much hotter than the last time we were here (October, 2000). The track is melting and seems like an oil slick in some places. The car doesn't want to handle, turn, or stop in those bits."

MARK ZONNEVELD (Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo): "I'm keen to get good results this weekend because I'm from Canberra and this is my 'home' track. This is the first time I've been around the place since the improvements – it's wider, faster, and more open. I think I can finish in the top five here, bit I've got to settle in quickly on the first couple of laps."

<pre> PRACTICE LAP TIMES (Thursday): POS DRIVER CAR TIME 1. Luke Searle (NSW) SAE College-Roadchill Express BMW 318i 1:04.65 2. Kiel Johnston (NSW) Hi -Tech Motorsport Nissan Primera 1:05.02 3. Jamie Miller (NSW) Phoenix Motorsport Toyota Camry 1:05.42 4. Paul Morris (Qld) APS Racing Holden Commodore 1:06.46 5. Tim Shaw (Tas) ISASO-Carplan Holden Commodore 1:06.48 6. Kerry Wade (WA) Kerry Wade Racing Ford Falcon 1:07.37 7. Mark Zonneveld (A.C.T.) Signature Security Systems Ford Mondeo 1:07.48 8. Mark Papendell (SA) Pretty Motorsport Holden Commodore 1:10.03

-Mike Porter

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Series General
Drivers Paul Morris , Luke Searle , Garry Holt , Mark Papendell , Kerry Wade