Former F1 driver Anthony Davidson has recalled the moments of his terrifying crash at last weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours, which left the Englishman with two broken vertebrae. Nonetheless, the pint-sized racer as declared himself “very lucky” not have suffered more serious injuries.
The former Minardi, BAR, and Super Aguri driver suffered the accident shortly before the six-hour mark of the iconic endurance race. Driving one of Toyota’s TS030 Hybrid LMP1 racers, Davidson attempted to lap Piergiuseppe Perazzini’s GTE-Am Ferrari 458 Italia approaching Mulsanne corner.
The Italian privateer appeared not to have noticed Davidson on the inside line and moved right to claim the apex of the corner. The pair touched and the impact launched Davidson into the air, somersaulting the car before it landed heavily and slammed into the barriers lining the roundabout at the outer edge of the corner.
The crash left Davidson with two broken vertebrae – his T11 and T12, for those of you interested in anatomy. Davidson was taken to hospital for treatment, and will remain there until at least the middle of this week.
“I was almost completely past the car after the apex of the kink,” he said, recalling the accident from his hospital bed.
“I [had] passed a Corvette and a Ferrari with the pro driver sticker on. They were fighting each other and I just assumed the Ferrari ahead was part of their group and therefore another pro. The car was all the way to the left as you would expect a pro driver to do.
“It was only when I got right up to the back that I realised it was one of the amateur-stickered cars. But I still wasn’t alarmed, I still felt it was a completely legitimate move and thought he would stay to the left, which it looked like he was doing. I made the apex of the corner, started to brake and I was almost out of the corner when I felt contact on the left rear.
“Instantly it spun the car, pivoted round to the left, then took off and turned upside down. At that point, I felt I was in an aeroplane out of control. I knew how close the barriers were and, travelling at that speed, I was going to be there in no time. That part of the crash was pretty petrifying. I felt an almighty punch up my spine when the car hit back down on four wheels. I still had my eyes closed and my hands off the wheels, in the brace position. Half a second after that, I had the forward impact into the barrier.”
Such was the strength of the TS030 chassis – initial examinations by Toyota indicate that it could be raced again! – Davidson was able to avoid a much more serious injury. Knowing almost immediately that he had suffered a major spinal injury, his first inclination was to get out of the car.
“I reopened my eyes and realised I was still here, albeit in a bit of pain,” he continued. “I had feeling and could move my feet; everything was working. I know I should stay in the car, especially with back pain, but initially I felt full of panic and claustrophobia – I just had to get out of the car. It was really odd. I banged the door open and clambered out carefully because I knew I was in pain. I had to stretch out and the closest point was the side of the car, then the medics came over.”
Davidson was taken to hospital and diagnosed with the fractured vertebrae. Despite the typical complaints over boredom, pain management and the hospital food, he acknowledges that his situation could have been so much worse.
“The doctors say the average recovery time is three months, but that’s an average person not a professional sportsman or athlete. That estimate is to get back to an absolutely healed bone, as strong as it was before. It’s more like three weeks until the pain subsides and I get my mobility back fully.
“I have felt better, that’s for sure. I am in a bit of pain, in my lumber area, the middle area of my back, [but] that’s the only thing that hurts really so I’ve been lucky.”
He certainly has been. We wish Anthony a safe and speedy recovery.
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