Billy monger is back racing in motorsport
Billy monger is back racing in motorsport

‘Staggering’ transformation of amputee racing star

BILLY Monger does not have an "S" underneath his overalls - but he can fly round the track at the most amazing speeds.

And that is despite having lost both his legs in a horror smash just 18 months ago.

For most people, let alone a teenager, the sheer shock of such a life-changing accident would be catastrophic.

Yet "Billy Whizz" is not only back at the wheel having proved himself all over again but he is pushing forward to try to make his dream of being an Formula One driver come true.

He harbours not an ounce of regret, even as he navigates a tight set of twisting stairs on his prosthetic limbs. There is only ambition, fierce and burning.

Billy said: "I just see myself as a driver. The disability plays a part but I don't see myself as disabled.

"I can still do the things I did before. Some of them are more difficult - but that's just life.

"You can't do everything you want or that everyone else can do.

"When I'm in the car, if you didn't know my story and just saw me driving, you wouldn't know the difference between me and any of the other drivers. I'm just out there competing."

The 19-year-old is doing so, thanks to determination and the love and support of family and friends.

Two champions.
Two champions.

 

His astonishing journey is detailed in a new BBC documentary, Driven: The Billy Monger Story, which aired on Monday (AEDT).

From the cockpit camera as his car ploughed into a stationary vehicle at Donington Park last year, through the physical and mental recovery process, his fight to be let back in a racing car and friendship with Lewis Hamilton, the film offers an amazing insight.

Billy's parents work in the film business. Dad Rob is an electrician on movies, including Skyfall and the F1 epic Rush, while mum Amanda is a make-up artist with credits such as the Star Wars spin-off Solo.

Yet at the Surrey home, shared with Billy's sister Bonny, they are part of a real-life screen drama.

None more amazing than Billy himself, who smiled as he pointed out that he has lost an inch or two since he had to swap his first set of prosthetics for his current ones.

Last December, Billy went to Paris to persuade the FIA, the sport's governing body, to end their ban on disabled drivers in single-seater racing.

A month later, he was in the cockpit of his adapted Carlin F3 car, operating the throttle with a paddle on the steering wheel - allowing Monger to control the car exclusively with his hands.

"What we've then seen of course is this incredible transformation," Carlin Motorsport owner Trevor Carlin said of the team's hybrid project with Monger.

"It's just staggering, you know. I've never known anything like it."

There to discuss the car was his hero, five times world champion Hamilton. He has also formed a bond with Italian F1 driver turned Paralympic legend Alex Zanardi.

Billy added: "Lewis has been my idol since I was eight so for him to be so interested in what I'm doing made a massive difference to my confidence. Alex was a big inspiration, too.

"Before my accident, I didn't know too much about him because he was from a different era, before I was racing.

"But he is an incredible character and has so much experience of the same situation I'm in. I took a lot from him.

"Having people like Alex and Lewis - one for the experience and guidance of living with prosthetics, the other for positive inspiration - has been such a factor in what I've got going."

Billy took third place at Oulton Park in his first race in the British F3 Championship. And he finished the season sixth.

He said: "My belief that I can become an F1 driver has been strengthened.

"I had the chance to drive a 2011 Sauber, which was awesome. It just made me want it more because now I know what that feeling is like.

"When I said I wanted to get back racing my dream was to be an F1 driver. I didn't know how realistic that was going to be until I'd driven again.

"There were times when I was getting frustrated with everything that was holding me back and felt I could be doing better than I was.

"But I wouldn't say there was any point when I thought about giving up

"Having competed this season against the guys I was racing before the accident, I felt I was almost at the level I would have been if it hadn't happened.

"It took a bit of time but we made a lot of progress through the season. I hope I can be stronger next year and fight for wins and championships."

That will require sponsorship and cash, though the love and respect Billy has from British motorsport fans - made clear in the film - makes him a feel-good story to embrace.

Billy added: "I don't feel any different to before, though, if anything, I'm a bit stronger mentally.

"I don't have time for self-pity. I don't see the point in dwelling on the past.

"The nicest thing for me is when I drive is unless you know me, you don't know what's happened to me, which I like."

- This story originally appeared on thesun.co.uk