Chris van der Drift recovering and intends strong comeback

Chris van der Drift recovering and intends strong comeback

10.08.2010: Surviving a 252 km/hour (157 miles/hour) crash and 210 G-forces It could have been a deadly crash. Race driver Chris van der Drift was launched into the air at 252 km/hour at the English circuit of Brands Hatch. The 24 year old New Zealander

Surviving a 252 km/hour (157 miles/hour) crash and 210 G-forces

It could have been a deadly crash. Race driver Chris van der Drift was launched into the air at 252 km/hour at the English circuit of Brands Hatch. The 24 year old New Zealander, racing in the Superleague Formula by Sonangol, hit an overhead access bridge during his flight on Sunday August 1st, the race car bursting in flames for a short time spinning numerous times before coming to rest several hundred metres further in the middle of the race track. Everyone held their breath.

There was nothing left of the car bearing the colours of the famous Greek football club, Olympiacos. It is a wonder that the Kiwi survived with just some broken bones.

Now a week later, the New Zealander has undergone an operation on his right ankle and on his left hand index finger. Van der Drift’s recovery is designed so that he can get behind the wheel of his car as soon as possible. Because that’s what Chris van der Drift wants.

After numerous race wins in various other formula classes, Superleague Formula was a new challenge and a further step forwards for the Kiwi. Because having success in a 750hp car would give him a boost on his path to Formula 1. Van der Drift began the season without a single lap in testing, meaning he was at a distinct disadvantage to the experienced drivers from earlier seasons, but the talented Kiwi steadily proved round after round to become quicker as he became more accustomed to the car and his race team.

Thanks to ten podium finishes which include four race wins in seven championship rounds, the New Zealander is currently in fourth place in the championship and within reach of the championship leader.

“252 kilometres per hour”

The Kiwi also proved to be quick at Brands Hatch. Through the series regulations, the start grid for the second race is determined by the reverse order of the race one results, giving Van der Drift a grid 12 start position. Earlier the Kiwi had experienced dramatic braking issues in race one when his front brakes failed, Van der Drift finally nursing the car home in seventh place, a superb effort given the circumstances!

He could just as easily have lost control under pressure from those chasing behind, but his skill saw him through to the end of the race. In race two, once unleashed, the Kiwi moved through the field, and towards the end of the race caught the AS Roma car of Frenchman Julien Jousse. Out of Surtees corner, Van der Drift activated the ‘push to pass’ button for additional rev’s and began his passing manoeuvre. “For a few laps, I saw that I was catching Jousse really fast, the car was going really good and I felt really good” began Van der Drift.

“I was finally close enough to make a pass on him and just before going down the hill (Pilgrim’s Drop), he was to the left so I decided to pass him on the right. I was flat out in 5th gear just about to go in 6th with push to pass still activated. Then he moved once to the right and I knew it would be really tight to pull off the manoeuvre and then he moved the 2nd time and he completely shut the door and I didn’t know where to go except for the grass.

And then it all happened in a split second, we touched wheels and my car launched itself up into the air and took off like an aeroplane. And that’s as far as I remember. The technicians downloaded the data and the last recorded speed before the datalogger got destroyed was 252 km/h” (157 miles/hour). The impact generated 210 G-forces, which is the second greatest impact ever recorded in motorsports. Van der Drift’s contact with the bridge parapet resulted in the metal work being bent.

Van der Drift passed out for a few short seconds, but came too once the car had come to rest. Even though he was in extreme pain, he didn’t hesitate a moment and proceeded to climb out of the car. “I realised I was in a lot of pain. I saw my left index finger was completely mangled and I got some massive pains out of my right foot. The only thing I wanted to do is to get out of the car.

The medics wanted to leave me in the car first, but I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to get out. I managed to undo the buckle with my mangled left hand and then fell down onto the ground. I tried to wriggle my way out of the car. From that point the marshals and medical people took control and took me into the medical centre.”

Various things were going through the New Zealanders head. “Firstly I was angry in that I felt I wouldn’t be able to race again straight away because of my foot”, said Van der Drift. “And of course the holiday that I was going too with my girlfriend on Friday crossed my mind.”

Damage assessment

Once the circuit medical staff had completed their examination of Van der Drift, he was quickly transferred to the nearby hospital at Dartford. Although he knew that his right ankle and his left hand index finger were extremely painful, the Kiwi was not exactly sure what else he had done to himself.

 In his hospital bed and under influence of painkillers, the Kiwi made various jokes (typical for Chris) to family members, management, Superleague Competitions Director Robin Webb and Doctor Chris Ruddlesdin, team boss Günther Unterreitmeier, girlfriend Billie and best friend Björn. Over this last week, the latter two have been at his side 24 hours a day. For Björn this was a strange time. Exactly two years earlier it was Chris that helped his friend Björn after the two of them were involved in a jetski accident in Bulgaria.

The first questions to those at his bedside weren’t concerned with his injuries, but if he looked fast in the race, who had the fastest lap and if there was a video of the crash available. The video he was able to see the following day in hospital when team BB (Billie and Björn) arrived. “My first reaction was… Oeewhh that was a good one.”

On Sunday evening Van der Drift had a great deal of pain. “I felt pain in my entire body. Probably the most came from my left hand index finger. It was totally mangled”, said Van der Drift. Eventually it was determined that the New Zealander had suffered two broken fingers, two cracked ribs, cracked right wrist and a dislocated and cracked right shoulder, on top of the right ankle broken in two places and the badly lacerated left hand index finger. Fortunately the Kiwi could undergo surgery on his ankle on Monday afternoon, having a plate, pins and screws inserted.

“The hospital wasn’t able to operate on my finger and really I wanted to leave the hospital as soon as possible” said Van der Drift, who was discharged and returned home to Milton Keynes on Tuesday afternoon. Superleague doctor, Chris Ruddlesdin, further offered his assistance:

 “I must sincerely thank him for his help as he was able to recommend and help me get admittance into the hospital in Northampton for plastic surgery on my finger. He has been very helpful throughout the accident and my surgery’s. A special thanks Chris Ruddlesdin for getting me a very good plastic surgeon for my finger. ” The New Zealander had a successful operation on his finger on Thursday afternoon.

Hundreds of expressions of support

The accident has not gone unnoticed. Within minutes of the crash the first videos appeared on YouTube. After five days the various videos have been viewed well in excess of one million times. In addition huge attention by world wide television, radio and newspapers have given the accident coverage, and several hundred news items have appeared on the internet. Further Chris van der Drift appeared on BBC television in an interview at his bedside, and even appears on the front cover of Autosport, England’s largest autosport magazine.

The New Zealander has also received over a thousand expressions of support on his fan page on Facebook. Not alone from family and friends, but also several hundred from Greece. Chris van der Drift: “I am really impressed with the support I have received, and certainly by all the support from the Olympiacos fans. It is so overwhelming and all the messages I have received have given me great strength. I would like to thank each and everyone for leaving their messages of support.”

Racing in Portimao

Although Van der Drift’s Olympiacos car has been completely destroyed, a new car in the colours of the Greek football club will be appearing on the start grid at the following championship round at Adria in Italy over the weekend of 4/5 September 2010. The Kiwi is worried that this round will be too soon for him to compete at. The doctors at the Darent Hospital in Dartford indicated that the Kiwi needed to work on a recuperation period of at least three months.

“But I have also spoken to the doctor who treated Robert Kubica after his crash at the 2007 Grand Prix of Canada. He said that I could recover quicker than in three months”, said an encouraged Van der Drift. “Everyone needs to be wary because my injuries won’t stop me. Not now, not ever! It is my goal to be racing in Portimao in Portugal at the ninth round of the championship on 19 September.”

But before that can happen, the New Zealander must undergo a rehabilitation programme: “We’re trying to get the financial resources together now for this. There are various options and it also depends on how quickly I heal. Preferably I would like to do a program specially designed for race drivers.”

In addition the New Zealander has a special wish. “Hopefully I will be able to thank the Olympiacos fans in person very soon and to let them all see how proud I am to represent their colours and maybe to kick some balls! Soccerballs that is!”

About Chris van der Drift

Christopher Jason van der Drift was born on 8 March 1986 in Hamilton, New Zealand. At a young age he began racing in karts, which many Formula 1 drivers have done. In nine years he won twelve kart titles, preparing himself for bigger things. His parents and grandmother sold their houses to make the step to racing in Europe possible.

Originally living with his grandmother in Holland, then later in Germany, he won a scholarship from BMW to take part in Formula BMW, where in his first year he was fourth overall and best ‘rookie’ (new comer) in the championship. Locating a budget was a challenge, but that didn’t stop him from achieving good performances. In 2006 he only just missed the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup title and also the Northern European Cup title, finishing second in both championships but once again the best rookie, in both championships.

Following that he won the 2008 International Formula Master championship, after finishing second the year before. The prize for winning the 2008 championship was a test with the Honda Formula 1 team, however Honda withdrew from Formula 1 at the end of the 2008 season, and the test has not eventuated.

His performances have not been unnoticed and he tested and raced on invitations in GP2, World Series by Renault and the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport. In 2010 he received the opportunity to represent the giant Greek football club of Olympiacos in Superleague Formula, and currently, and once again, he is by far the best performed rookie.

Chris van der Drift is currently supported by Ekris, Stockholm Fashion, Vision Racer, Racing Pool, National Meats, Arai, en Oakley.

 -Chris van der Drift press -  photo Superleague Formula


10.08.2010 / MaP

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