How Winslow’s bravery saved his F3 rival

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarThursday, September 11th, 2008

 
 

A TV show documenting cases of real-life heroism is to feature British driver James Winslow’s rescue of a rival racer from a crashed car that was on the verge of bursting into flames.

Winslow, a rookie driver for Team GBR in A1GP and former Asian F3 champion, is to feature in an episode of BBC1’s Accidental Heroes documentary series on Thursday September 18 which will examine how people demonstrate bravery in life-threatening situations.

The episode will feature interviews and footage of Winslow coming to the aid of Indonesia’s Moreno Soeprapto during the 2006 Asian F3 Championship at that country’s Sentul circuit.

Winslow was leading the race and Soeprapto was in second when he ran into the rear of the English driver’s Dallara F304 under braking into turn three.

Soeprapto’s car flipped up and over Winslow’s, rolled several times and landed sideways with the driver’s head against the tyre wall.

Marshals saw the incident and began the process of red-flagging the race – but Winslow had already reacted.

He rushed over to Soeprapto’s car and discovered the fuel line had ruptured. He had the presence of mind to switch off the fuel pump before squeezing between the barrier and the car to free the driver before it burst fully into flames.

The fire it caused damaged more than fifty metres of tyre wall and left burns the length of Winslow’s race suit.

Recalling the incident, he said: “It was one of those situations where you really didn’t have time to think. It was another driver in there and I knew I just had to try and get him out.

“It was fortunate that Moreno was driving the car that I had driven the previous season, so I knew where the fuel pump switch was. That probably bought us precious time.

“How he had landed, however, was worst case scenario, with the car upside-down and his head against the barrier, so there was no room to escape. It didn’t take too much to work out that he was going to need help and, at first, I didn’t even think about the car bursting into flames.

“The biggest thing was being able to get between the car and the barrier and move it enough to be able to get hold of him and help free him out of the cockpit. I just did whatever I could and Moreno’s okay — and that’s the main thing.”

Winslow returned to the track for the re-started race later that afternoon – and took victory, helping ensure his title success at the end of the season.

Soeprapto escaped with only minor injuries, although his car was reduced by the fire to little more than a pile of engine parts. He was taken to hospital for a precautionary check but was cleared as having made an amazing escape.

Winslow was presented with the Gregor Grant and Innes Ireland awards by the motorsport industry for his actions, and was subsequently awarded the Royal Humane Society’s bronze medallion.

Following his 2006 Asian F3 championship he went on to win the 2007 Formula V6 Championship and leads the 2008 Australian Formula 3 Championship – although the funding problems that have dogged his season have stopped him running at the last minute and have put his title in doubt.

Speaking after the incident, Soeprapto said: “I ran into the back of James and the next thing I knew I was looking directly up at the sky. Then I heard James shouting at me.

“I owe my life to James because I was trapped in my car.”

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