Malcolm Wilson, the principal of the Ford World Rally Team, has admitted that the team 'feared the worst' for Patrick Pivato following his accident during Rally Japan last week.

Pivato was left seriously injured when Francois Duval went off on SS6 of the event last Friday, suffering a fractured pelvis, broken right fibia and internal bleeding.

The Frenchman was placed into a medically induced coma, but was brought out of the coma on Wednesday and has spent the day talking to his family and Duval, who stayed in Sapporo following the incident.

Doctors at the Higashi Tokushukai hospital have declared themselves happy with Pivato's progress and the plan is to keep him under observation for the next 36 hours before a decision is taken as to when he will return to France for further surgery on his injuries.

With Pivato now making good progress, team principal Wilson admitted that the team had feared for the Frenchman's life following the incident and paid tribute to all those who had been involved in the start of his recovery.

"The severity of this accident shocked me and there were times during last Friday night when we feared the worst," he said. "Thankfully Patrick is on the road to recovery. So on behalf of Stobart Motorsport, Ford Motor Company and his family and friends, now seems the right time to pass on my heartfelt thanks to everyone who gave their assistance during what was a difficult period.

"Unfortunately there are too many people to mention individually. But Rally Japan's medical staff and rescue teams at the scene of the accident did a really professional job in extricating Patrick from the car and transferring him to hospital in Sapporo. The skill of the doctors and surgeons there saved his life and for that we are truly grateful.

"During the Friday night it became apparent that the lack of the rare A- blood in Sapporo could become a real concern during surgery. My thanks go to those people from teams, organisations and the media who responded to an SOS appeal to donate blood from that group during the night. Further volunteers came forward the following day to ensure medical staff had sufficient blood to ease their fears.

"And my thanks must also go to fellow competitors who gave such valuable assistance at the accident scene. Particular praise should go to Denis Giraudet, a good friend of Patrick's. He took the decision to accompany Patrick to hospital in the ambulance and helicopter and remained with him until emergency surgery began.

"He left to tackle the final two stages at Sapporo Dome before returning to the hospital, where he spent much of the night alerting colleagues by telephone of the need for blood. He remained in close contact with Patrick's wife, Agnes, before returning to the team's hotel and finalising her travel arrangements to Sapporo. He had little more than one hour's sleep before restarting the rally.

"I was genuinely moved by the wonderful spirit and camaraderie shown by the WRC community to one of its colleagues. On the special stages competition is rightfully fierce, but last weekend the 'family' nature of the WRC came to the fore when rivalries were thrown aside in the desire to help one of its own.

"Once again my thanks go to everyone who helped, offered support or who has enquired as to Patrick's welfare and I'm looking forward to the day when we can welcome him back to a WRC event."



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