This one has already made the rounds on NASA Northeast racer and two-time Super Touring National Champion Eric Magnussen’s Facebook page, but it’s worth publishing again as a Yokohama Move of the Month for the message it delivers: Practicing your emergency exits is vitally important. Doing them with your eyes closed is more important than you think. Red flags are serious command flags to be obeyed.

As Magnussen decelerated into Turn 1 on the Lightning course at New Jersey Motorsports Park, his car burst into flames at 130 mph. Magnussen pulled the fire handle on the dash, brought the car to a stop, unbuckled and exited the car. From eruption to exit is about 12 seconds, and emergency workers arrived 30 seconds after the fire broke out.

“The fire started around Start/Finish,” Magnussen said. “I smelled fuel for about a second before it ignited.”

Powered by a GM LS engine, Magnussen’s E46 M3 is fitted with a larger driveshaft and a modified pinion angle. The driveshaft had rubbed a hole in the plastic OEM fuel tank, which had become slightly loose over the years. When the fuel spilled out, flames from the tailpipe on deceleration ignited the fuel.

Just the week before, Magnussen was coaching in a competition school, and he demonstrated for the students what a fast exit looks like. While his car was still rolling in the paddock he stopped the car and was out in five seconds.

When the fire broke out, Magnussen’s visor was open. He closed his eyes and still was able to get out quickly despite struggling to get the door open a second time and a window net that was melting to his gloves. Magnussen suffered burns to his nose, but nowhere else thanks to proper safety equipment and ample training. We’re all relieved it wasn’t worse.

Images courtesy of Brett Becker and Viken Photography


  1. Was in a BMW Club Race my E36 at Nelson Ledges, about ten years ago. I was going around the big 180, when the motor quit, smoked filled the cockpit, then rapidly cleared due to open windows. That’s when I noticed flames at the top left of the drivers footwell. I was able to stomp out the flames as I coasted the car off track. It wasn’t serious enough to pull the fire pin. I had a one foot square piece of carbon fiber in the footwell to provide an even surface under the peddles. The wire from the fuel cell rubbed the edge of the carbon fiber. The short caused the fuse to go and the motor quit. Carbon fiber burns. No damage. Back on the track with some minor changes.

    I did have an engine fire in the mid 70’s. Standing around a parking lot with friends. Saw smoke under my car’s hood. Popped the hood and it was all flames. Popped the trunk. got the fire extinguisher and put the fire out in seconds. Car was back on the road in two days.

    I have a fire extinguisher in every vehicle, in the garage and every floor of the home.

    • Ernie, this was a mechanical failure, I only smelled fuel for about a second before it ignited. This car has 3 national championships over 3 years, 3 regional championships, over 50 wins across 10 different NASA race and TT classes, with no mechanical changes, and no mechanical DNFs. And I’m to have my license suspended?

  2. How is he allowed to run with an OEM plastic tank and not a fuel cell in a wheel to wheel race car?
    I assume that’s what Ernie above is talking about.
    Every racer should be required to take the 15 second test at least annually. Maybe with mock smoke in the cabin.

    • 15.4 Fuel Cell / Tank
      All fuel cells must be FIA FT3 (or higher) certified.
      A fuel cell is not required, except as specified by class rules. All vehicles having a fuel cell must comply with the rules in this section, even if a fuel cell is not required by the class rules.

      • Every wheel to wheel race car should be required to have a fuel cell. This is clearly a trailer queen race car. No reason not to have a fuel cell. And don’t give me the cost nonsense……..the damage this did would have been well worth the insurance the cell providers.

        • This car is demonstrably not a trailer queen. Given its two national championships, and a perfect season in the Northeast in 2020, it has seen a lot of action.

          My post above is not my opinion. It’s a cut and paste from the CCR.

          • By trailer queen I mean it’s no longer a street driven car, it’s a dedicated race/track car. I get what’s in the CCR, it needs to be changed and this is a prime example of why. I’d go as far as to say as soon as you put a full cage in a car, it needs to have a fuel cell because you’ve just made it more difficult to get out.

      • That probably isn’t because fuel cells are less effective than OEM tanks. Done right I think they’re much more effective. This could have been a lot worse. What if it was backed into a barrier, maybe went upside down. Very tough to get out or get pulled out. What if the driver blacks out. Preventing a fire should be the first strategy. Full cages with door beams and window nets make it much harder to get out of a car. A fuel cell and fire system reduce the likelihood of a fire.

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