Lola Formula Three racer Joey Foster was badly injured during the Recaro F3 Cup meeting at Lausitzring in Germany on July 30. After a rearwards impact with the wall, estimated to have been approximately 120mph, the Cornishman spent two months in hospital with extensive back and neck injuries. At the time of the accident Joey was lying in 2nd place in the series standings after four race wins and was widely tipped to challenge for the title in what was his first year in Formula Three with the HS Technik Lola B06/30-Spiess.
Here, speaking for the first time since his discharge from hospital, the 2005 Autosport/McLaren Young driver finalist talks of the career threatening accident, his rehabilitation and his committed desire to race again next season.
Joey, you have been back in the UK for a month now, how is your recovery going?
There are huge improvements almost every day now. I can just about do everything that I used to do before the shunt. I can even put my own socks on now which is a huge relief to everyone!
My back is not as stiff as it was when I first came home but I don’t really have any flexibility back yet. That will come though. I am doing my exercises and the doctors are very pleased with my rate of progress.
What are the next steps for your treatment?
I will go to see a specialist Germany called Mr Hertz at the sports clinic in Bad Nauheim. He worked on Ralf Schumacher when he crashed at Indianapolis in 2004.
I will have the steel rods that were placed in my back taken out early next year. Obviously I cannot race with them in. So, if the rate of recovery continues as it is then I am hoping to be back in a car sometime in February. The doctors will say that is too soon I am sure, but that is the target that I am setting myself at the moment. As far as I am concerned I would get in a car now, but obviously that would be pretty irresponsible of me after the great work that the surgeons and medical staff did at the Carl Thiem hospital in Germany.
What exactly do you remember of the accident?
Everything. I was going in to exit Turn 1 and there was a slower car higher up the banking. It came back down ever so slightly and that distracted me. There was no collision but at the precise moment I glanced at it I went down lower and clipped the kerb on the inside. That turned the car around and I went back up the banking and hit the wall gearbox first.
Everyone has had high speed spins before and you kind of try and work out at which angle you are going to hit at. I didn’t expect it to be an especially large impact but obviously it was. I remember the bang and then I just felt really winded. Then I realised that my legs had been pushed up and were right up in the cockpit and I remember thinking that probably isn’t a good thing!
I had some pain but it wasn’t too bad, I guess the adrenalin was overriding it. The marshals were terrific and once they came I relaxed a little. To be honest the car didn’t look too badly damaged at all but it was just unlucky the angle that it hit at. Everyone knows that the Lola is a very fast car, but it is also bloody strong, considering the speed it hit the wall.
What were the first few weeks like after the accident?
It didn’t really hit home until just a few days later that I had really hurt myself. When they (the doctors) explain that you have smashed the L3 vertebrae, fractured 2 others, smashed the C5 bone in your neck and also fractured another two, it really gets your attention!
After the operations and after a few weeks you obviously start to think things through quite a bit and you just have to deal with it. It was, at the end of the day my mistake and I had to accept that. In terms of whether or not I still wanted to race, well I would be lying if I did not say that I never wanted to see another car ever again. But that didn’t last very long at all. Once I saw the team at the hospital and the supportive comments from everyone then it just pushes you along to get better. Oh, and the German nurses are very nice too!
But seriously, the support I received from well wishers, some of whom I didn’t really know that well was quite something. I want to thank them all and obviously without the support of my parents (Ivan and Judy) it would have been doubly difficult.
What is the plan to get back in the cockpit?
I want to be in the Euroseries next season with a Lola. I really believe in the car. There is so much more potential in it. HS Technik are a team I want to work for. That is what I have in my mind and I think that we could be a very potent combination.
Before that though, I have to get strong enough. That will come and I hope to take my first laps in one of Don Hardman’s Formula Fords in the early New Year.
I have no worries about not being the same driver as I was before the shunt. I will not be any more conservative. All this will make me stronger and more determined to succeed.
How hard was it to accept that a title in your first year of F3 was gone?
Hard, very hard. We would have won it, I am sure. We had great consistency throughout the first part of the year. We pretty much dominated on pace at Assen and there two more races coming up there. The Lola was the best car by a long shot and the HS Technik team were fantastic. I feel that we could have dominated the rest of the year. Ho-Pin Tung (the eventual champion, also driving a Lola) is good and the JB Motorsport team did a great job so well done to them, but I am just really frustrated that we did not have the chance to finish the job off.
For more information, please visit www.joeyfoster.com