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Willys Coupe Drag Car Crash - Action!!

Bill Burch's Scary Left Turn

By John O'Neill, Photography by Graybeard

The 47th annual March Meet at the Auto Club Famoso Raceway just north of Bakersfield, California, had been postponed for a week due to bad weather, and on March 19, 2006, Bill Burch finally got to run his AA/GS Willys coupe. Bill was in the first pair of his class to run Sunday morning. As you would expect, he did a stout, tire-smoking burnout then staged for his pass down the 1,320. Unfortunately, at about the 1,000-foot mark, his car did an immediate left turn, crossed the centerline, and headed for the opposite guardrail. After a violent impact, he began to barrel-roll down the track. The car broke up into several pieces, scattered shrapnel high and wide, and burst into flames as it rolled. The safety crew used the Jaws of Life to cut his rollcage and get Bill out of the wreckage as quickly as possible. Once Bill was free from the car, the tower announcer told everyone that he was OK and that he went over and kicked the car out of frustration. In fact, it wasn't the car's fault but rather the condition of the track. After several days of rain, the surrounding ground was saturated, and water seeping out of the track's surface evidently caused a slick spot. Two more cars crashed right after Bill, and the March Meet was canceled for the first time in its history after the event organizers and track officials determined it was no longer safe to run.

By John O'Neill
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