This weekend, as the Repco Championship heads to Northern Queensland for the NTI Townsville 500, refuelling is part of the weekend for the first time since the season opener at Newcastle.
The #8 Brad Jones Racing headed into pit lane late in Sunday's Race 18, having run as high as sixth. All seemed normal – to an unbeknownst Percat, especially – until race fuel began gushing out of a faulty hose all over the rear quarter of the jacked-up Holden.
The explosion blasted out the back of Percat's BJR Commodore as he charged out of the pit bay, a flash and swirl that shot up above pit lane, instantly snapping necks across Reid Park towards the inferno.
A faulty fuel hose had been the culprit, spraying a significant amount of fuel all over the side of the car and across the pit bay, with Percat – strapped into the driver's seat with steel eyes locked on the car controller ready to go – noticing that his crew had scurried a little oddly, but otherwise seeing it as business as usual.
Before he realised what was happening, the ZB Commodore was dropped onto its wheels, the spilt fuel instantly ignited by the exhaust heat as the South Australian dropped the clutch – and all hell broke loose.
“I just saw the big burst of flames and I just though ‘I'm outta here' … I just wanted to get away from the crew and the team … I had no clue what had happened,” Percat said looking back at the incident.
Get away Nick did, leaving a swell of fire on the pit bay as he left a line of flames a la Back to the Future – but it wasn't over – he was still in danger. A windswept flame accompanied the Commodore down pit lane, the bootlid a healthy glow as flames swallowed the back of the car
Percat then noticed Greg Murphy – part of the TV crew that weekend – gesticulating at him as he headed towards the pit exit; a look at the rear wing and Percat saw that rear wing endplate was dripping fuel, which was catching fire.
“I obviously saw the fire as I left [but] I didn't know how it'd happened so I was couldn't really see if my car was on fire,” Percat told Speedcafe at the time.
“As I got further down pit lane, the whole underside must have been on fire as the seat got real hot, so that's why I ejected out. And turns out it was on fire.”
Still eager to get back on track, it was the red light at pit exit that pulled Percat up. With the race still underway, rival team personnel abandoned their posts to spring into action, helping officials put out the fire.
The lanky figure of Percat stood across from the cloud of smoke as the crews ensured the fire was totally out, including a quick check inside the boot – and the natural expectation was that his race was done.
Yet with the battered BJR #8 covered in extinguisher residue – looking worse for wear after a tangle with Cam Waters before the fiery pit stop – Percat gallantly climbed back aboard and finished the race in 19th.
Practice 1 for the 2023 NTI Townsville 500 starts at 10:15 local time/10:15 AEST on Friday July 7.