By now the internet is buzzing with stories about a fifth gen Camaro that took in the Shift S3ctor California Airstrip Attack this past April. If you haven’t seen the videos above and below, then you probably don’t know that the driver, Nacho Bernal, and his passenger, Louie B., took home the first place trophy for the six-speed class at the New Coalinga Municipal Airport in Coalinga, California, taking the 2012 Camaro to 195 mph.
It would also mean that you didn’t know he took home the gold after his car went off course and executed a Richard Petty-like finish by flipping over on his roof. But he went much further and rolled end over end several times, according to those on the scene who witnessed the accident.
The Cunningham Motorsports (CMS) tuned twin-turbo LSX436 Camaro started and completed the run just fine, putting nearly 1,800 RWHP on the line and crossing the traps at just over 195 mph. But after the speed was recorded and the tarmac was beginning to run short, something happened and the duo inside the car took the ride of their lives – quite literally. Nacho told us, “You can see in the video that I’m fighting the steering wheel. I hit the brakes and something happened to the right front and it pulled pretty hard.”
“I tried turning back and I think my rotor had broken, because when I hit the brakes again it pulled hard left. Next thing I know, I’m off in the dirt and after I hit that berm I started tumbling,” he said. Nacho is no stranger to speed or this car, and this wasn’t his first rodeo in it. “I built this car myself, with the exception of the engine and trans. I started with 630 horsepower, bumped it up to 700… 800… I eventually wanted 1,800 and we got 1,781 the last time we ran it on the dyno,” he said.
In the opposite lane was CMS tech Troy Gleason, who said, “I fully expected Nacho to come around me with me being on the bike. I looked back and saw that he was getting sideways, so I made sure I was straight and looked back again and saw him rolling, going end over end a few times.”
“I was the first one on the scene,” he said, “and saw the flash fire in the engine compartment. When I got there I didn’t know what I was going to find. Louie was knocked out, and I knew not to move him, but I wanted to make sure he was going to be okay.” Troy helped to put out the fires, stating that it took a few more seconds before rescue was able to get onto the scene.
I think I may have blacked out for a couple of seconds there. -Nacho Bernal
Watching both the in-car footage above, and the drone footage below, you are probably wondering how both men made it out alive – as are we. Fortunately, the two of them were able to walk away from this horrific crash, with Louie being airlifted to a local hospital to get checked out. He ended up with a bruised lung and some other minor injuries. Nacho said they went out for a steak dinner and drinks that night, and realizes how lucky they are.
Looking at the fifth gen paperweight, you can see where the rear hoop on the bolt-in roll bar took the brunt of the impact and kept the roof from completely collapsing in on the two. The factory windshield pillars took a lot of the rollover impact as well, and though the roof did cave in quite a bit, you can tell that the strength of the A pillars did an impressive job of keeping the guys from further injury – or worse.
But this wasn’t a cheap roll bar, it was a $3,000 chromoly roll bar and it saved us -Nacho Bernal
Both Troy and Mike Franz told us that CMS shop owner Ryne Cunningham, who only tuned the twin-turbo beast, is now insisting on full, weld-in cages in cars that are potent enough to propel the car to these speeds. Mike said, “I was there, and rushed out to the car and didn’t know what I would find. Yeah, we’re all going to make sure that people who build cars like this take in-car safety more serious, too.”
Mike said, “The cage was a bolt-in cage and it was approved for this event, but a full cage would have protected them more.” Troy agreed, saying that Louie has decided to have a fully-welded six-point cage installed in his own car after this crash. The roll bar, fortunately, did its job and protected the occupants, but it was pretty banged up and completely lost it’s shape. However, just a rear hoop and door bars is not enough for these speeds; Troy agreed.
Incidentally, Louie returned to the track after his check up and despite the injuries he sustained he was back out on the track in his own car. We’ve heard of falling off your horse and getting back up, but this took that expression to its most extreme example. We’re glad both men are okay and able to laugh about it afterwards – though they both know just how lucky they are after seeing the carnage of the rollover. We hear the engine survived somehow and was sold, but the rest of the car doesn’t look hopeful that much of it can be salvaged.
I went 193 last time out, and this time my data logger showed me at 208 mph when I reviewed it. -Nacho Bernal
Believe us, it’s possible, it happened, and both Nacho and Louie were able to walk away and joke about it. “These are material things,” Nacho said, “we’re lucky but I’m not going to worry about the car. I have my family and I’m going to make sure that I’m better protected next time.”