Anthony Davidson admitted he was 'petrified' during his massive crash at the Le Mans 24 Hours and that he had 'been lucky' to have come away with only two broken vertebrae.
The Toyota driver has been talking about the crash that put him out of the race and into hospital on Saturday night, just five hours into the race.
Davidson suffered a heavy accident at the wheel of the #8 TS030 HYBRID when he collided with a GTE Am class Ferrari as the pair turned into the Mulsanne corner. Davidson's car was sent into a barrel roll before hitting the tyre wall while the Ferrari, driven by Pierguiseppe Perrzini, also hit the tyre wall and landed on its roof. The driver was unhurt.
Davidson initially looked to be ok but after being sent to hospital for precautionary checks it became clear the crash had inflicted more damage than originally thought and he will remain in hospital until Wednesday to begin the recovery process on the broken vertebrae.
Here's what Davidson had to say about the accident (issued by Toyota press):
How do you feel?
Anthony Davidson (AD): 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. That’s the only thing that hurts really so I’ve been lucky.
What’s the diagnosis and when will you be back?
AD: Basically I have two broken vertebrae; T11 and T12. 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.
Can you describe what happened to cause the accident?
AD: I was almost completely past the car after the apex of the kink. I 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 realized 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.
Can you describe what happened then?
AD: 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. It crashed back down to the ground, 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.
What happened when the car came to a stop?
AD: I reopened my eyes and realised I was still here, albeit in a bit of pain. 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.
Has the team visited you already?
AD: All the drivers have been. Stéphane [Sarrazin] and Sébastien [Buemi]turned up last night, the #7 guys this morning and it was a nice touch that my team-mate last year Sébastien Bourdais came to the medical centre. It was nice to see a familiar, friendly face at that moment. All the team came over this morning to check how I was.
What is your feeling about the TS030 HYBRID’s race debut?
AD: When the team visited we all gave each other a pat on the back for our performance. More than anything, we wanted to show the speed of the car. When we look back, even from my hospital bed, there were a lot of positives. We needed to tick many boxes this weekend and being fast was one of them. We had a great qualifying session, splitting the Audis, and showed great pace in the race to take the lead through Nico in the #7. I think that was really good for the fans.
The strength of the TS030 HYBRID chassis protected the former F1 driver from a more serious outcome and initial examinations of the chassis by Toyota suggest it is intact and can be used again.
It was the first time the new petrol-powered hybrid Toyota had raced and both cars entered at Le Mans were seriously challenging the eventual winners, Audi. Just before Davidson's crash, the #8 car had taken the lead of the race but it would also be forced to retire following damage caused in a crash when Kazuki Nakajima was at the wheel.
Although Davidson is understandably in some pain:
he has still been able to joke with his team-mates
Team boss Pascal Vasselon said the team's pace was 'genuine' and that Toyota could have maintained a sustained challenged for the whole of the race.
"You saw we had two cars running a very similar pace, it was not something really requiring a huge effort."