Billy earlier this year at Brands Hatch
(Photo from: www.www.thecheckeredflag.co.uk)
On Sunday the 16th April, the motorsport world was in shock. 17-year-old British Formula 4 driver Billy Monger was making his way through the field at Donington Park after an earlier setback when he came across the stationary Patrik Pasma at Schwantz Curve and had nowhere to go. Monger crashed into the Carlin driver’s stationary car, a crash that was captured live on Monger’s on board camera.
It was a freak accident which left Monger trapped in his car for over 90 minutes. Little information was revealed at the time however three days later, the sickening news was revealed that Monger had sustained life changing injuries, as both his lower legs had to be amputated as a result of the accident and that he remained in an induced coma.
The news was first revealed on a “Just Giving” page which was set up by The Monger family, JHR Developments’ Steven Hunter, Nick Armstrong and British Touring Car Championship series leader Tom Ingram to help Billy with his recuperation. The target set was £260,000 which those involved later admitted that they felt it was ambitious to expect that much.
After just six hours, the target had been hit with Billy being supported by the entire motorsport community, from fans, to club drivers, to the biggest names in the sport such as Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Mark Webber. As Billy was woken up, news started to filter through that he was in good spirits and remarkably positive with regards to the news which he had received, news which would surely make most normal people crumble.
However over the last three weeks, Billy has shown that he is anything but normal as his positive attitude in the face of such horrendous circumstances has touched many around the world.
The fact that Billy hinted at a return to motorsport immediately only made inspired onlookers even more determined to help. With what would have been Billy’s next round at Thruxton, young Alfie Weaver devised the “Walk the Track for Billy” idea with the hope that as many people as possible, whether they were involved or interested in motorsport or not, would descend upon the Hampshire circuit to walk the track and donate a suggested minimum of £5 towards Billy’s recovery.
Amazingly, over a thousand arrived with around half the circuit covered in enthusiastic walkers during the lap at any one point, a remarkable sight. Despite the sad truths behind the event, it was a very special occasion and one that showed how the motorsport community, as well as kind well wishers, can all come together to create something incredible for a fantastic cause.
Once all the money had been counted, the sum came to £7499.97, with the ever increasing overall total currently standing at over £800,000, a truly humbling amount.
Throughout the Thruxton weekend, continuous signs and messages of support were visible all around, such as “Billy Whizz” decals being put on the front of all BTCC cars where the number plate would normally be. This section was very kindly donated by Dunlop, as this area would usually bear the companies’ name. In addition to this, all Ginetta cars’ sun strip sported the Billy Whizz hashtag as well as stickers covering each and every car in the TOCA support races.
In addition to these messages Formula 1 also showed their support for Billy as teams such as McLaren, Haas and Williams all added messages on their cars in Russia with Williams holding a charity auction to raise funds.
Last Sunday saw Billy return home to Charlwood in Surrey, after spending three weeks in various wards at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham. Billy thanked all the staff at the hospital for everything that they had done for him including saving his life.
Despite everything that has happened Billy remains positive, a true testament to his character and bravery. In addition to this he has also vowed to get behind the steering wheel of a racing car again, something which has already caused him some frustration as he teaches himself how to use the clutch, brake and accelerator with his hands!
Billy is undoubtedly an inspiration to as all and with himself in no doubt of his future aspirations in motorsport, it is fair to say he will be followed with pride by many new fans from now on.
Having raced myself, I was able to watch Billy when he first started out at the age of 8 at my local track Bayford Meadows and Buckmore Park. It was clear to see from the first moments that Billy was special. His aggressive yet measured driving style stood out amongst the rest from very early on.
Although financially Billy often found it hard to compete with those around him, he always showed that talent really could shine through as he rose through the TOCA support categories following his karting career.
For me, towards the end of last season and into this, Billy had taken it up a level, his driving was the best I have ever seen it, his aggression was still there, but it was more refined, more consistent and much more clinical. This will never leave Billy, despite what has happened to him.
Freak accidents happen in motorsport, motorsport is dangerous, but you never ever want to see something like this happen to anyone, it really is the stuff of nightmares.
A special mention must also go to Jamie Caroline, Billy’s best friend who is also a young, and seriously talented, driver in British Formula 4, who has also shown great strength and maturity over these last three weeks, it has been a pleasure to see such qualities and I will watch his career with keen interest to see how he progresses in the coming months and years.
I am in no doubt that Jamie will go far.
I am certain this will not stop Billy, there is no reason why it should, take inspiration from the likes of Alex Zinardi. I cannot wait to see him behind the wheel again. Wherever this may be, I will be on the banking supporting you, along with many others who are looking forward to your return.