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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Racing driver who fractured spine at Yas Marina Circuit expects full recovery 

James Winslow paid tribute to safety standards that saved his life and expert medical treatment received in the UAE

James Winslow recovering after his accident / Courtesy James Winslow
James Winslow recovering after his accident / Courtesy James Winslow

A racing driver who suffered life-threatening injuries in a crash at Yas Marina Circuit is slowly recovering from the ordeal.

James Winslow, 34, smashed into a barrier after an apparent brake failure during the Gulf 12 Hours race on December 16.

The car had been travelling at speeds of up to 240kph.

He fractured his spine in three places, suffered a broken sternum, a fractured right wrist and internal bruising. He was also hit by post-crash concussion and post-trauma vertigo.

The safety car was brought out, delaying the race while repairs to the barriers were made.

Winslow spent about two weeks in Abu Dhabi hospital before flying back to Australia where is now recovering.

“I remember everything very clearly,” he said. “During the crash I felt my lower back snap and my crash helmet hit my chest very hard crushing my sternum, chest and ribs.”

Despite the injuries, Mr Winslow managed to climb out through the passenger door, but then passed out.

“[It] felt like a little peaceful dream. In the ambulance once I woke up, I needed to be convinced that it did actually happen and it wasn't a dream – a very surreal experience.”

He paid tribute to the safety standards at Yas Marina, which he said saved his life, along with the expert medical treatment he received in the UAE.

“The track was amazing. The safer, F1-style barriers at that corner saved my life totally and there's no doubt about it, plus the HANS (head and neck support) device I was wearing stopped my neck breaking and the medical crew helped save my live. I can’t thank them enough.”

Mr Winslow checked himself out of hospital on Christmas Eve and flew business class back to Australia as the doctors would not allow economy, he said. "It was the most uncomfortable 15 hours of my life," he said.

He did not have personal insurance that covered this type of in-race accident and now faces a substantial medical bill. Every deal between the team and driver is different, but many drivers race under similar circumstances. A fund-raising campaign has been started to help pay his bills and he said he will ensure he has the right insurance in future races.

Mr Winslow was racing in a Ligier JSP3 car with the French-based Graff team and was defending the title he won last year. He has also driven in Dubai before.

The promoters of the race, Driving Force Events Limited, said when it learned how serious the accident was, an Abu Dhabi-based representative was sent to help Mr Winslow.

Separately, the Graff team said it took the accident very seriously as the safety of all drivers was at stake. It said the team was working to find a solution and it was in touch with Mr Winslow.

“We attach the greatest importance to understanding the exact cause of the accident,” a spokesperson said.

Mr Winslow, who was born in the UK, was involved in another incident in 2006 when he helped a fellow driver escape from a car during an Asian Formula 3 race. He ultimately won that year and was profiled in a BBC series for his actions.

For now, Mr Winslow is still wearing a body brace, but says the prognosis is a full recovery in three to six months.

“My goal now is to fight hard. I'll be giving it 110% to be back for the French classic, the Le Mans 24 hours in June, it's the world's biggest race and I want to be fitter than ever.”

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