Greenwood Corvette Bursts Into Flames

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Vintage Greenwood Corvette driver escapes unharmed after sudden fire at historic race.

Few things will ever be scarier for racecar drivers than fire. And few racecar fires are scarier than those that occur suddenly at more than 100 miles per hour. Veteran sports car racer Didier Andre experienced exactly that while driving a vintage Greenwood Corvette at the Daytona Classic 24 Hours.

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We just found this 2015 onboard video from Historic Sports Racing, who hosted the Classic 24. It shows things running normally on the back straight during night practice. However, when Andre stands on the brakes for the Bus Stop at 270 kph (about 167 mph), there’s a bit of smoke and what looks like some oil misting onto the windsheild. Just one or two seconds later, a massive fireball erupts over the hood and through the cabin while the car is still traveling at triple-digit speed. The car slides, probably from dropped oil, to the infield and Didier scampers out with admirable haste. The car was repairable, but unable to run later in the weekend’s races.

CHECK OUT: What Forum Members Are Saying About This Frightening Video

The Greenwood Corvette in question is the famed “Spirit of America” widebody C3 that ran at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1976. John Greenwood had attempted to race Corvettes at Le Mans twice before that, but the French, eager to fill their waning grid after the Oil Crisis in 1973, invited Greenwood, two other IMSA teams, and two NASCAR teams to Le Mans for ‘76. Greenwood turned up with the widebody C3, and it qualified 9th, a stunning achievement. The Corvette ran strong through the race, eclipsing 220 miles per hour on the Mulsanne Straight, but it ultimately retired after a tire failure.

The Spirit of America has changed hands a few time, occasionally showing up at auction. It runs today with a monstrous 600-cubic-inch V8 and the unmistakable widened Stingray bodywork. Check out the fireball video above, along with a second video below showing the Greenwood Corvette running strong at more than 280 kph on Daytona’s high banks. Throw on some headphones and crank it up.

Eric Rood is a regular contributor to Corvette Forum and LS1Tech, among other auto sites.

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