It was about as bad a debut as any in motorsports history. The twin-turbo Ferrari 599 of driver Federico Sceriffo burst into flames on its first run in the first round of the Formula Drift season-opener Saturday in Long Beach, California. Sceriffo was able to get out of the car and was unhurt.
The car appeared to work fine during qualifying but had troubles during Sceriffo’s first round against former Long Beach winner Chelsea DeNofa.
Formula Drift is a judged competition, with a pair of cars sliding sideways as gracefully as possible through a prescribed course of several turns. In this case the course is turns nine through 11 of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race track, a street circuit that will see IndyCars battling it out next weekend. The drift cars do two runs, with one leading on the first run and the second car leading the second run. It’s like 1000-hp automotive dancing with tire smoke.
On Sceriffo’s first run he punted DeNofa into the tires at turn nine, the first turn after the cars launched down Long Beach’s back stretch. On the second run, Sceriffo went straight into turn nine’s runoff area, where the car burst into flames with Sceriffo in it. After a terrifying few seconds Sceriffo got out of the car, then ran around to the passenger’s side in an attempt to pull the car’s onboard extinguishers. The safety crew finally arrived and put out the fire.
Reports are that a knuckle broke on the car, which severed a fuel line that led to the fire. You can see what appears to be burning fuel on the ground near the left front corner.
The driver described the incident on his Instagram page, federicosceriffo17:
“We are SAFE and OK, and more charged than before…..! What happened?
When I hit @chelseadenofa on top 32 I probably cracked my upper arm that broke completely when I was initiating when leading, the front left wheel when I hit the wall destroyed my protection of the fuel line and ripped off a hose… That’s it .
Positive side: We are ok and safe. I really saw so many people today, starting from all the staff of @formulad , many of the PRO drivers, and many fans gave me a lot of support and comfort for what happened. THANK YOU ALL from my heart.”
Sceriffo said he will be back. We wish him the best.