KnightHawk retired due to fire

June 15, 2002 Le Mans, France -- KnightHawk's ...

June 15, 2002 Le Mans, France -- KnightHawk's #30 MG Lola 675 LMP was retired in the eighth hour due to a spectacular fire that all but destroyed the team's only entry. The car's pilot at the time -- Mel Hawkins -- walked away unhurt.

While traveling the Mulsanne straights at high speed, Hawkins was stunned to see a huge bolt of flame shoot right past him -- from inside the cockpit -- on his left side.

"I was on the straight, right between the first and second chicane, when all of a sudden a huge flame shot up the left side of the cockpit," said the suprisingly calm Hawkins. "I quickly looked in the rear-view mirror and saw huge flames coming at me from the back of the car. They came clear over my head -- almost like an explosion -- although I didn't feel or hear one. I never saw any smoke, or smelled any smoke -- at all. I was probably about a quarter-mile past the first chicane, at a speed of about 150mph and all of a sudden it was just as if the car blew up! I pulled over as quickly as I could, and by the time I did get over there were absolutely no lights on in the car any longer. It was completely dark. I got out of the car as fast as I could, and as soon as I was out, with my feet on the ground I quickly tried to set off the on-board extinguishers. I couldn't see -- couldn't find the button. At that point, I just got away from the car as fast as I could.

The team quickly retired the effort and Team Manager Mike Johnson has yet to determine the actual cause of the fire. Preferring to wait until the car could be inspected more closely, Johnson offered no guess at this time.

The car, rather than being returned to the KnightHawk paddock, by regulation will be stored in Park Ferme until the end of the race tomorrow afternoon.

"I'd like to thank the corner workers for their fast response," added Hawkins. "By the time my feet first hit the ground, when getting out of the car, they were right there with fire extinguishers."

-kh/hc-

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Mike Johnson