Davidson: I was in an aeroplane out of control
18 June 2012
Anthony Davidson has compared his frightening accident at the Le Mans 24 Hours to being in an air crash, admitting that he was helpless to prevent anything from happening once he had been hit by an errant GTE class Ferrari.
The accident, which happened shortly before the six-hour mark, occurred as Davidson launched his Toyota Racing TS030 HYBRID down the inside of Piergiuseppe Perazzini's GTE-Am 458 Italia approaching Mulsanne corner. The Italian privateer appeared not to notice the much faster blue-and-white machine on his inside as he moved right to claim the line for the turn, and the impact was unsettling enough to cause the Toyota to lift off the ground, eventually somersaulting completely before coming back to earth and slamming into the barriers. The Ferrari also made heavy contact with the tyre wall, before flipping onto its roof.
"I was almost completely past the car after the apex of the kink," Davidson recalled 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."
While the strength of the TS030 HYBRID chassis, designed and produced at TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH in Cologne, protected Davidson from anything more serious - to the point where initial examinations suggest it is intact and can be used again - the Briton knew almost immediately that he had suffered a serious injury in the accident. Despite that, his overwhelming emotion was to get out of the cockpit.
"I reopened my eyes and realised I was still here, albeit in a bit of pain," he admitted, "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."
Despite concern about his condition from those not on the scene, Davidson was assessed and taken to the local hospital, where the team has now confirmed that he will remain until at least Wednesday after it was revealed that he had suffered a broken back. Although he has since tweeted that he suffered a 'difficult night last night as pain levels increased' and revealed that 'haven't been allowed to eat anything & v bored of this view', Davidson accepted that he had been fortunate to escape with the injuries he had.
"Basically, I have two broken vertebrae - T11 and T12," the Briton, now a TV analyst for Sky Sports F1 in the UK, acknowledged, "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."