HONG KONG, China, Nov 21 – A 17-year-old racing driver who fractured her spine in a horrifying crash at the Formula Three Macau Grand Prix has vowed to return to the sport after surviving surgery lasting nearly half a day.
German Sophia Floersch flew off the track on Sunday, hurtling into marshals and photographers, before being rushed to a Macau hospital in a stable condition.
“I survived the operation which took 11 hours. Hope from now on it only gets better,” she wrote in a Facebook post late Tuesday.
“I’m going to come back!” she added.
Floersch said she had to stay “a few more days” in Macau until it is possible to transport her elsewhere.
She thanked the medical staff who treated her as well as the people who helped at the scene of the crash for their “encouraging, calming words in these tough minutes in my car”.
Dramatic footage captured gasps from the crowd as the Van Amersfoort Racing driver’s car flew through the air and into safety netting at the Guia Circuit’s Lisboa bend, a sharp right-hander.
Running 16th, she lost control in a contact down the straight, launched off a kerb and bounced off Tsuboi’s TOM’s Racing car.
“My thoughts are also with everyone who was involved in the accident. I hope everybody is healthy,” Floersch said in her post.
– Circuit ‘not dangerous’ –
The International Motoring Federation (FIA) has opened an investigation but FIA race director Charlie Whiting said it is “too soon” to say what caused the accident. Whiting also insisted that the Macau Grand Prix circuit is not dangerous.
“It is too soon to try and establish what the cause was,” Whiting told AFP.
“We know the initial cause for her loss of control but we need to analyse very very carefully.
“It takes a few weeks to analyse data from the car, analyse video very carefully and try and establish exactly how the two cars made contact, how they interacted and what played which part and where. We have to do it right.
“When an accident like that happens, our thoughts are with the people involved and the injured people.
“We look to try and understand why they were injured and then we need to find out what we can learn and what improvement can be made to insure that if the same accident happened again, we would have zero injured.”
At least three people have died on the Macau Grand Prix circuit.
British rider Daniel Hegarty died last year after hitting a barrier at Fisherman’s Bend during the Macau Grand Prix’s motorcycle race.
In 2012, Portuguese motorcyclist Luis Carreira and Hong Kong driver Phillip Yau were killed within two days of each other during the Macau Grand Prix.
Whiting says the fatalities were not the fault of the course.
“Macau is not a dangerous circuit,” he said. “In common with all street circuits the incident rate is higher than a normal circuit but there is no evidence to say that the circuit is dangerous.
“There are far fewer run-off areas on this type of circuit. However, where cars do hit the walls it is generally at a very low angle which imparts lower forces into the car and driver.
“The guardrails, crash barriers and debris fences have been systematically upgraded over the past few years with significant improvements in a number of areas.”