Santa Pod driver escapes after car engulfed in flames during Northamptonshire drag race

  • Watch the moment Kevin Chapman's car crashed and burst into flames

A drag racer escaped unscathed after his car crashed and erupted into flames in front of crowds at a drag-racing strip.

Kevin Chapman was competing in the 10,000 horsepower "Funny Car" at the Santa Pod Raceway in Northamptonshire when it spun and crashed into the track walls.

Crowds held their breath as they watched the vehicle burst into flames as it ended up on its roof, the bodywork shorn off, and its safety parachutes deployed.

But Mr Chapman, who was the Funny Car Cup series' defending champion, climbed out without any injuries.

"When I left the start line the car veered to the right," he explained to ITV News Anglia. "I came off the throttle to pull the car straight, then reapplied the power to continue the run but unfortunately the right rear tyre had more traction than the left and turned me hard left into the wall.

"These machines have 10,000 bhp and are very unforgiving. As you can see, it was a huge crash - but I walked away totally uninjured."

A spokesman for Santa Pod Raceway in Wellingborough said the safety equipment in the car - including a roll cage, multi-layered fire suit and crash helmet - was thought to have protected him from the worst of the impact.

"We are thankful for the high safety standards maintained in drag racing which saved driver Kevin Chapman from harm in the accident," they added. "Kevin was thoroughly checked over at our medical centre and found to be uninjured, for which we are all grateful.

"Kevin's next race in the Funny Car was scheduled for an event in July but it is unlikely that the car will be repaired in time. We all wish Kevin and his team well and look forward to their return to the track whenever they are ready."

Early investigations suggest a loose body panel may have jammed the Ford Mustang-bodied car's fuel injector mechanism.

Funny Cars were developed in America in the late 1960s and their nitromethane V8 engines can reach 300mph in just four seconds.

The weekend saw the second round of Santa Pod's Funny Car Cup series taking part at the Wellingborough racetrack.

Mr Chapman, from Bury St Edmunds, had already won the first round at Easter.

Santa Pod Raceway is a quarter-mile drag racing strip which hosts about 80 events a year, and calls itself the European home of drag racing.

It was converted from a disused US Air Force base in 1966 and christened Santa Pod - Santa to evoke the spirit of Southern California and Pod for Podington, the name of the airfield and closest village.