The Nürburgring 24 Hours is arguably the most challenging endurance race in the world. The difficulty of the 15.7-mile Nürburgring circuit goes without saying. When you add in the other factors of the race, it seems impossible. In recent years, unpredictable weather conditions have featured every form of precipitation, from rain and sleet to snow and hail. Drivers also have to share a narrow ribbon of pavement with a field of over 130 other cars. Though, no driver would ever expect an empty KTM to roll across their path in flames.
During the sixth hour of the race, a KTM X-Bow pulled off the track at Aremberg. Fires were spewing out the back. As the fire spread, the driver, Felix von der Laden, opened the X-Bow’s hatch door but didn’t exit the burning vehicle. When Von der Laden finally climbed out, the car rolled away down the hill towards Fuchsröhre. The flaming X-Bow rolls down the pavement before listing over into the barriers on the right side. Then the car violently cut across the track and smashed into the Armco barriers on the opposite side.
Felix von der Laden described how it happened in an interview:
“Approaching Schwedenkreuz, I had no power, the petrol pressure dropped and that’s when I saw the flames in the rear view camera,” he said. “I then tried to stop as quickly as possible. At the post inside Aremberg, I activated the onboard fire extinguisher and stayed in the cockpit as long as possible because I wanted to hit the brakes. When that didn’t work and there was more and more smoke in the cockpit, I had to get out. The car has no handbrake and so it rolled off. There was no stopping it.”
Retiring early from a 24-hour race is never a good feeling. But, having your car suffer a catastrophic failure and burst into flames is at least a memorable way to make an early exit.