JASON White's chances of winning a third consecutive Targa Tasmania in his Lamborghini Gallardo went up in smoke yesterday when the car caught on fire while he and his uncle John were racing.
The four-time Targa Wrest Point winners and reigning series champions had been competing in the fourth stage of the Hobart rally yesterday, when the car caught alight.
White said the fuel liner and oil liner on the left-hand side of the car burst and started a fire on the exhaust about four kilometres from the finish line.
``We could see the big fire balls in the mirrors,'' he said last night.
``We'd been on fire in a race before [at Mt Buller] and I'd said to John, this is a lot more extreme.''
White said they knew straight away they couldn't put the fire out with the car extinguishers and that there was a fire truck at the start of the stage, so they wanted to get to that point.
``We had the doors open ready to jump out and the fire extinguishers there ready,'' he said.
``We never really feared for our own safety it was more about trying to save the car and not start a fire in the bush.''
By the time White reached the finish line, the heat from the fire had caused its rear and the chassis to start melting.
The fire had also crept in to the cockpit of the car and the roof, causing $200,000 damage.
The Tasmania Fire Service helped extinguish the fire and White said without their help, almost $700,000 damage could have been done to the car instead of the $200,000.
``We would have lost the whole car if it had taken one more minute,'' White said.
The car will be repaired, however it won't be ready for Targa Tasmania in May.
``It's a pretty expensive car to fix, and time and money are at a premium at the moment so we're going to call it quits for tarmac racing for a bit,'' he said.
``We will suss out other options but it seems like we will be spectating [at Targa] this year, so it's a pretty sad day.''
White said with the car being the most successful in tarmac rally history, he wanted to resurrect it and continue using it.
``We love the way it sounds, we love the way it looks and obviously we've got a pretty good relationship with it because we've won a lot of events with it,'' he said.
White ended up finishing third in the fourth stage of the Targa Wrest Point rally despite the fire, only four seconds behind first place.