Motor racing continues to be one of the world’s most dangerous sports, and its history is littered with crashes and accidents that have left people dead or badly hurt.
On April 16th, 2017, Billy Monger, joined that list when he was involved in a high-speed smash at the Donington Park circuit which led to him losing both his legs below the knee.
At the age of 17, he was a rising star of the motorsport world, having placed fifth in the 2015 Ginetta Junior Championship and with two promising F4 seasons under his belt.
The BBC TV documentary Driven – The Billy Monger Story tells the story of how the accident happened and follows the teenager through a long process of rehabilitation and recovery as he seeks to rekindle his dreams of becoming an elite racer.
Not so long ago, such life-changing accidents would also have been career-ending, but Monger’s story is surely one as one of motorsport’s greatest comebacks, and the programme captures his positivity and determination in the face of adversity.
The documentary also shows how crucial both family and public support has been to Monger. His father Rob – a former kart racer himself – played a key role in his recovery phrase, while sister Bonnie’s motivational input was important in terms of the training aspect, especially in the use of his prosthetic limbs.
‘All the support just makes me more determined to get back in the car and win again. That’s my goal’ – Billy Monger
The young racer has also received a huge amount of goodwill from other people – a JustGiving page set up after his accident raised £500,000 in just its first 24 hours.
He’s also had plenty of support from the motorsport world, including from his childhood hero Lewis Hamilton.
The five-time F1 champion says in the documentary: “I think I was affected more by Billy’s accident than I probably have been by most others.
“It really hit home. He was doing well fighting to get to Formula 1, and then such a horrific incident.”
As Monger says: “All the support just makes me more determined to get back in the car and win again. That’s my goal.”
The programme also charts how Monger’s determination to return to single-seat racing has led to a change in motorsport’s regulations.
In order to compete in F3, he and his family had to appeal to the FIA, the sport’s international governing body, as its rules prevented disabled drivers from racing in single-seat cars on safety grounds.
The FIA decided to lift the ban in December 2017, allowing disabled drivers to race in modified single-seaters, so Monger’s driving ambitions are now back on track.
He says: “I don’t want my accident and injuries to effect the path in motorsport which I take. Now the ruling has been [made], it makes it possible.
“To have the passion to keep going with single-seaters is where I think I’ll thrive and be at my best, and then I’d love to have the opportunity to do Le Mans like that in the future. That would be awesome.”
In this way, Driven – The Billy Monger Story can also be taken as an inspiration for disabled people as it shows you can achieve so much if you are willing to work hard and fight for your dreams.
This is the key message the documentary delivers, and as a disabled person, it makes me proud that someone like Billy is standing up for the disabled and that he wants to help them get into motor racing.
I hope he continues to be a great role model for future disabled racing drivers.
Feature image courtesy of the BBC. Driven – The Billy Monger story is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer.