RaceFans exclusive: Billy Monger

Billy Monger exclusive: “I just want to be a racing driver again”

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It is less than a full year – 351 days, to be exact – since the horrifying crash which cost Billy Monger parts of both his legs. Today he will return to the cockpit of a single-seater and line up on the grid for the first time since that fateful race.

Monger will be one of 17 drivers on the grid for the season-opening round of the British F3 championship at Oulton Park. His race seat with Carlin is only for this weekend but he intends to make a full-season commitment once he’s got a budget in place.

Motor sport has many heroic tales but even among these Monger’s is remarkable. From the moment his Mygale F4 car impacted Patrick Pasma’s stationary machine at nearly 200kph it took an hour and a half to free him. He was airlifted to hospital but despite the doctors’ best efforts his legs could not be saved.

Billy Monger's car, British F3, Oulton Park, 2018
The cockpit of Monger’s Carlin-run Tatuus F3 car
The 18-year-old describes the events of the past year in a calm, matter-of-fact fashion which drastically understates the scale of the trauma he has gone through. This is perhaps to be expected from someone who mere days after this horrific ordeal was sat in his hospital bed working out how to use a steering wheel-mounted clutch.

Speaking exclusively to RaceFans, Monger says he switched his attention from rehabilitation to training for his comeback “pretty early on”.

“I knew that I wanted to get back to racing fairly soon so it’s always been on the back of my mind,” he says. “I think it was 11 weeks after my crash I got my licence back to compete in GT cars.”

Monger graduated from karts into GTs via the popular Ginetta Junior championship where he competed with the likes of Lando Norris, so this was an obvious route.

Other drivers who suffered life-changing injuries in single seaters later in their careers made new homes in tin tops, such as Alessandro Zanardi. But Monger is determined to pick up where he left off. His single-seater licence arrived in December and since then he has been testing in preparation to enter the British F3 series, which he had intended would be his next move after F4 last year.

In the aftermath of his crash many fans and a roster of motor racing’s biggest names from Lewis Hamilton to Chip Ganassi contributed to a crowdfund to support his recovery. The fund eventually reached more than triple its target, over £800,000.

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But Monger makes it clear this is only being spent to finance his rehabilitation and not to directly further his motor racing career. Like his rivals the cost of his planned season in British F3, estimated at £125-150,000, will have to be met by the funding he can attract.

The British F3 series granted Carlin a dispensation to run an extra car for Monger this weekend. They also permitted his Tatuus F4-016 chassis (British F3 runs to a different specification than the FIA’s European F3 series) to be modified for his needs.

Adapting the car presented Monger and his team with a multi-dimensional problem. Changing the controls on the car to suit him is just one aspect: he also required special prosthesis and customisation to his seat so he would be comfortable at the wheel.

He has one leg-operated control worked by the right limb, which was amputated lower down than his left. “I’m now braking with my right leg on a pedal that’s been moved closer to me, so I use a shorter prosthetic,” he explains.

A full-size prosthetic leg would move around more when cornering because of the G-forces acting upon it. Using a shorter one gives him better control. “And the seat’s been moulded around me to try and secure me as much as I can so I can hit the brakes a hard as possible,” he adds.

Billy Monger's steering wheel, British F3, Oulton Park, 2018
Monger’s modified steering wheel includes his accelerator
The modified steering wheel includes the rest of his controls. “The throttle’s on the left-hand-side of the wheel, that’s obviously how I accelerate the car. And then the up and down change are both on the right-hand-side with two paddles the top one being for up gears and the bottom one to go down.”

Despite all the changes, Monger says “I don’t feel any different to how I did before” at the wheel.

“The way I control the car, I’ve had to change what I learnt from when I first started. [But] actually how that affects the car and how I drive it on-track is, in terms of speed, no different to before, it’s just purely using different controls.”

Nor have any compromises been made for Monger to pass the minimum cockpit evacuation time. “To get my licence back and to be able to compete I have to get out of the car within seven seconds. So that didn’t take too long, it’s easier than you think to get out of the car.”

“Obviously when I get out of the car I’d have to hop along or whatever if it was an emergency. If not I’d sit with the car and hop onto the nose cone and wait for the medical team to come out to me. But it’s no big deal.”

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This was put to the test shortly after our interview when Monger returned to the track in practice and had a minor shunt, bouncing the front and rear of the car off one of Oulton Park’s barriers. He believes his confidence at the wheel hasn’t been shaken by the events of last year.

Billy Monger, Carlin, British F3, Donington Park, 2018
Monger has already been back on track at Donington
“I guess you could say it’s affected me mentally but I don’t think in a negative way,” he says. “If anything it’s only made me stronger mentally.”

“Physically it’s been challenging, learning to walk on prosthetics. But I’m getting on well with that and trying to get my career rather than on track.”

On the day we spoke Monger had begun the day setting the second-fastest time on a slippery track. For him the time has come to draw a line unter the events of last year and get back to doing what he loves.

“I just want to be a racing driver again,” he says. “I’m proving that this weekend so far.”

“Hopefully we have a good weekend and change peoples’ opinions that I can’t compete competitively.”

Race one of the British F3 championship takes place at Oulton Park today, races two and three are on Monday.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 18 comments on “Billy Monger exclusive: “I just want to be a racing driver again””

    1. Hoping to attend on Monday. Billy P5 for race 1.

      BRDC British F3 Championship, Oulton Park, Qualifying result:

      1. Clement Novalak, Carlin, 1m30.866s
      2. Linus Lundqvist, Double R Racing, +0.116s
      3. Nicolai Kjaergaard, Carlin, +0.359s
      4. Krish Mahadik, Double R Racing, +0.539s
      5. Billy Monger, Carlin, +0.548s
      6. Tom Gamble, Fortec Motorsports, +0.561s
      7. Sasakorn Chaimongkol, Hillspeed, +0.600s
      8. Sun Yue Yang, Carlin, +0.687s
      9. Jordan Cane, Douglas Motorsport, +0.824s
      10. Kush Maini, Lanan Racing, +0.885s
      11. Manuel Maldonado, Fortec Motorsports, +1.059s
      12. Jamie Chadwick, Douglas Motorsport, +1.076s
      13. Tristan Charpentier, Fortec Motorsports, +1.518s
      14. Pavan Ravishankar, Double R Racing, +1.681s
      15. Arvin Esmaeili, Douglas Motorsport, +1.809s
      16. Chia Wing Hoong, Chris Dittmann Racing, +1.811s
      17. Ben Hurst, Hillspeed, +7.754s

      1. I’m not surprised that he’s competitive, considering the car’s mods, at first glance I see no hindrance. With practice, he should be fine. He’s fortunate that he can operate the brake with his leg, otherwise it would be very difficult to modify the car, and also I would think brakes, is where the feel is most necessary. Throttle on the wheel is a simple mod. I wonder if his disability compromises his performance in any way, anything that can make one forget a disability means everything.

      2. 3rd place in race 1.
        Brilliant achievement. Hopefully his performances on track will attract the sponsorship he needs to complete the season.

    2. This is pretty amazing. Like many I had never heard of him before his crash- did he have potential to make it at that stage??

      Hope he does well-known just shows what a positive attitude does.

    3. “Known” is an error- suggestive text 😲

    4. Josh (@canadianjosh)
      31st March 2018, 16:57

      Wow, so awesome

    5. Donald F. Draper
      31st March 2018, 18:02

      Not to be a downer on his situation, especially given his comeback and scale of his achievement, but does anyone else feel like he has an unfair weight advantage? This is a legitimate question.

      1. Without knowing for sure, I suspect the British F3 series, like most other open-cockpit series, has a minimum weight for driver and car together.

      2. Josh (@canadianjosh)
        31st March 2018, 20:08

        Not sure, good question but in NASCAR, not sure how F1 or open seaters rules go, the cars go through inspection and a driver who is 180 pounds compared to a driver who is 120 pounds is made up with weights I’m farely certain. I know at short tracks in Ontario(1/4 mile asphalt) we can use brass weights in certain parts of a car to meet standard rules.

      3. I think they use ballast to make them all weight the same, I don´t know if they do in this particular series though but i guess he would have a little more ballast onboard than the others.

        1. There would be ballast added to meet the minimum car/driver combined weight, and since F3 requires ballast to be in fixed places, it doesn’t even offer the same centre-of-gravity/balance benefits that the same situation does in F1.

    6. …and he’s on the podium! Congrats!

    7. Well he’s off to a good start, podium in his 1st F3 race is very solid by any measure. That it’s only his first official race since the accident only further accentuates that. I wish him all the luck and hope to see him do well in his chosen career for many great years.Quite the inspiration.

    8. Yeah, amazing, hopefully ESPN or someone will pick the story up

    9. Awesome mindset!!

    10. Awesome, thanks

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