If you are going to race, then you are going to crash. That’s the harsh reality of motorsports, regardless of how good you are. This may sound a bit strange but think of it like any other sport, for example if you play rugby then you will be tackled. Like most racers after a crash, my first thoughts are always how bad is my car and can I get a restart? This has caused some interesting responses over time from the safety crew such as “no you can’t get a restart because your front axle is completely missing” or the silent response of simply holding up broken parts of the race car that really should be attached. Halfway through the Western Springs opening night feature, as I sat in my crumpled heap of metal that used to be a shiny race car, I had these same usual thoughts going through my mind about the midget when a new thought also creeped in… why can’t I move my arm to turn off my fuel and ignition switches?
The legendary combination of the Western Springs Safety Crew and St John Motorsport Team provided their usual quick and efficient service, and I was soon in Auckland Hospital surrounded by medical staff. Surrounded is the right word as what started with roughly 3 medical staff quickly turned into about 15 medical staff after they heard someone was in due to a motorsport racing accident. At 2am in the morning after all the tests had been carried out, my greatest concern was confirmed. I had broken my collarbone which would make me miss the majority of this racing season – this news hurt much more than any of my physical injuries.
After a few days in hospital I managed to escape, but instead of going straight home we stopped in at the workshop to check on the midget. Although it wasn’t in great shape, it was much better than I had expected. I wouldn’t be able to help rebuild it, but the crew already had this well underway. With my mind at ease about the midget, I now looked towards what caused my injuries and how can I make sure this doesn’t happen again, so that I don’t miss another season. This meant looking into my race gear which was all brand new mid-way through last season.
The main piece of equipment we looked into was my neck restraint system called a Hans device, which after the crash I had a lot of people comment about them being a collarbone breaker in speedway. Hans is probably the most well-known neck restraint system in the world and is commonly used in many different versions of motorsports. However looking at the design, the Hans device is made of solid material which is built thicker over the collarbone and does naturally put pressure on it. It also does not provide any side impact protection which would be a preferred addition for speedway racing. Although the Hans device had done its job by saving my life and preventing my neck from breaking, I thought I would look into changing to a more speedway suitable device. After lots of research I decided on a new device of a different brand, which has both front and side impact protection, as well as being specially designed to put minimal pressure on the collarbone.
The other area we will be looking into is the safety belt harness and changing to the double shoulder belt harness which is specifically for use with neck restraint systems. This was recommended by the St John Northern Region Medical Rescue Motorsport Team, as it highly reduces the risk of injuries such as breaking collarbones. All teams should take a look into their race gear over the off season and make sure they are running the best safety equipment they can. It may be expensive, but you can’t race your car from the hospital bed (I can vouch for that!)
All of this managed to keep me occupied for the first week, and then I was stuck with sitting on the couch for the next 2 months. I wasn’t able to attend many race meetings in person, however thanks to the streaming service available at the Springs I was still able to watch each nights racing from my living room. While this showed the entire nights racing in detail and kept me up to date with the racing, nothing beats being at the track itself. Luckily, I had healed enough to be able to go to the track to watch the international midget series. For the international 50 Lapper my girlfriend and I experienced the VIP section for the first time and watched one of my favourite events from a great location while dining on a two course meal. That was a new experience and one that I highly recommend everyone should treat themselves to!
As more time went by the more the doctors seemed uncertain that they would have me back on the track for the end of the season. By now I was getting worried as it did not feel like it was healing and the X-rays showed little progress as well. After a visit with a specialist the answer was clear, no it is not healing and you need to have surgery. There went my plans to be back in the seat for the end of the season. The surgery is to have a metal plate inserted to bolt my broken bone back together, which will make recovery much quicker and less painful as the bone will actually be connected again. While this may sound like a bad situation, in reality it is nothing more than a minor setback. I will heal ‘good as new’ and will be back racing as soon as I am able to. Nothing has changed and I can’t wait to get back out there! Like the saying goes ‘Sweat dries, blood clots, and bones mend’ which in other words means you haven’t got rid of me that easily and I will be back in the 2017/18 race season, and I don’t plan on taking it easy!