Billy Monger suffered the ‘worst motorsport crash in history’ at the age of just 16. The trauma cost Billy his legs, but not his racing spirit.
The rising star of motorsport had joined the F4 British Championship and taken three podiums, finishing 12th in the championship in 2016.
But in April 2017, just 18 months ago at Donington Park, Billy suffered a crash at high speeds of 120mph, which would reset his course to the top.
The motorsport crash, which has gone down in history, was caught on camera:
Billy had first experienced the thrill of driving on a go-kart at six years old, after his dad encouraged the youngster to try it out.
One weekend every month on the track became two, then three, until it became an obsession fit for a champion, Surrey-born Billy, now 19, told UNILAD.
Eventually, he added, every moment spent not racing was a rarity; a waste of his love of the sport and natural talent.
Racing quickly became the focus of Billy’s one-track mind, until the crash back in April 2016 left him injured with potentially catastrophic effects to his wellbeing, as well as his career.
The season had started well, and Billy garnered two third places in the first four races.
It was a strong and consistent start for the burgeoning talent, and as he put it, he and his crew ‘were fighting for podiums’.
In the fifth, everything changed.
Recalling the moments before the crash, Billy said:
I had a fairly good starting position but I was quick, I was coming through the pack. But I had the accident at about 120mph going into the back of this stationary car.
Immediately after the high-speed collision, Billy was confused and numb, unsure how bad his injuries were, ‘because the adrenaline was still going and I felt fine’.
But Billy was far from fine. He was put into an induced coma not knowing how he would wake up – or if at all.
Doctors told Billy’s family they would have to operate to amputate both his legs below the knee in order to save their son’s life, when he was still in a coma.
Upon waking, Billy described an initial reluctance to race ever again. It’s an understandable reaction considering the trauma.
As a result of the accident Billy had to come to terms with life as a double amputee. It was also fair, at the time, for Billy to assume there would be no way for him to race, especially when a lot of people were telling him to ‘take it easy’, he recalls.
But after the operation to amputate his legs, Billy was overwhelmed by the support which came from not only his family and friends, but far-reaching corners of the motorsports industry.
In among words of encouragement from his own mechanics, engineers and other familiar crew members, were those from strangers and distant supporters.
A JustGiving page was set up by his team JHR Developments, to raise money for Monger, raising over £500,000 in the first 24 hours.
View this post on Instagram
#Repost @lewishamilton (@get_repost) ・・・ Billy, congratulations on being nominated for @laureussport's Sporting Moment of the Year! 🙌🏽 Thank you for being my guest at Silverstone this year, it was an honour to have you. Guys, check out the link in my bio to vote for Billy #BillyWhizz @billymongerracing
A number of F1 drivers have shown their support of Billy, including Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Jolyon Palmer and Nico Hülkenberg.
With a newfound confidence of champions, Billy decided he would race again. But rather than build back up, Billy wanted to come back and race against the drivers he had been, before his accident.
I didn’t want to come back to racing and be stuck at the back, not really competing with these guys. I really wanted to show ’em what could be done.
Mere months after the crash, Billy was given confirmation from the FIA he had met their criteria to be able to race again, after rigorous testing and a few tweaks to the controls here and there.
So it was straight out to the track with his new, adaptive F3 car.
Billy was now driving the fastest car he’d ever driven with an entirely new set of controls. But it only served to make the teen dedicate himself further to sporting excellence.
It worked, and after a lot of gruelling physiotherapy and practise on the track, Billy headed to his first competitive outing at Oulton Park.
I didn’t set myself any goals going into the first round at Oulton Park but I knew we were going to be capable of being quick.
I qualified P5 for the first race, which was more than I could’ve asked for.
Later, he would place on the podium, having gone up against more experienced drivers to get third place.
Speaking about his win, he told UNILAD:
I really wanted to come back with a bang and to show people straight away that I wasn’t there to make up the numbers or be just another car on the grid.
I wanted to fight for great results and to get a great result first race really helped me get that across to all the other drivers that I was there to do the business.
It’s a pertinent message at a time when certain sectors of society still steadfastly stick to the archaic notion of differently-able people sitting out on some of life’s challenges.
In June 2017, it was announced Billy would return to competition, sharing a Group CN Ligier JS53 Evo 2-Honda with quadruple amputee Frédéric Sausset, in a round of the V de V Challenge Endurance Proto, as part of a programme with the aim of fielding a team of three disabled drivers at the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours.
This is Billy’s inspiring story in full :
After making an incredible recovery Billy is living proof so-called disabilities don’t mean differently-abled people have to slow down.
Billy’s mission is just one of many hoping to achieve the same access to all sports for able-bodied and differently-abled people across the nation, especially with the help of adaptive equipment.
Between his own self-belief and courage, and the support of the sport, Billy refused to let the consequences of his crash extinguish his love for racing, which has earned him the nickname of ‘Billy the Whizz’.
Billy wears the nickname emblazoned across his helmet to this day, and will continue to race under his deserved title.
For more stories of incredible people achieving greatness in the face of adversity, check out UNILAD’s Original Series, ‘Against All Odds‘.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.