With two stages of the International Rally of Whangarei to go and every prospect of a podium finish Michael McLean smelt smoke.
Then he saw flames coming through the fire wall and it was time to stop, get out and race for the fire extinguishers.
Michael was competing in the rally from April 28-30, the second round of the New Zealand Rally Championships which doubles as the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championships.
This rally attracted some of the best international rally drivers and was won by Gurav Gill of India.
Competing in Tier Two and in his first NZ Championship experience, Michael, with co-driver Len Fisher was expecting to stand on the podium when his turbo blew up, spreading oil over his hot engine. Spectators reported Michael drove for5km with flames coming from under his car before he noticed the smell.
It took three fire extinguishers, one from his mate following behind, to put out the flames, the damage as bad as the first incident last year when he rolled it on its roof.
It had been an exciting time for Michael, having rebuilt his car which he displayed at the Dannevirke Wheels With Attitude show in January.
After a few local rallies, including Mill Stream, he competed in Rod Millan's Leadfoot Festival over Waitangi Weekend at Coromandel.
He was thrilled to form a partnership with co-driver Len Fisher who at 73 is one of the most experienced co-drivers in New Zealand.
Michael says they gel perfectly.
The event at Whangarei would not have been possible without support from sponsors LTS, Ernie Christison Contracting, Turton Farm Supplies, Paewai Mullins Shearing, Catching Pen Café, and his naming sponsors DDS and A&A Auto Works.
Andrew Brookes of Auto Works closed up shop for the week and went up to crew for Michael.
Sponsors are all the more important for Michael now that he has given up his employment at Tumu Timber to pursue an apprenticeship in engineering with Mike Christie Sheet Metals.
Michael is committed to motorsport and hopes to move into motor sport fabrications, building race cars as a career while still driving.
Next up in the programme is the Rally of Coromandel on August 26 - if he can get his car ready. Michael would love to hear from new sponsors on 06 374 7209 or 027 247 1369.