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Former F1 driver based in Norfolk could lose leg after freak moped accident

PUBLISHED: 08:53 10 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:40 10 July 2019

Martin Donnelly, chief driving instructor for the driving academy at Lotus, and ex-F1 driver for the team. Picture: Lotus

Martin Donnelly, chief driving instructor for the driving academy at Lotus, and ex-F1 driver for the team. Picture: Lotus

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A Norfolk-based ex-Formula One driver could lose his leg following a freak moped accident.

Martin Donnelly is recovering in hospital after breaking his leg. Picture: Jonathan LewisMartin Donnelly is recovering in hospital after breaking his leg. Picture: Jonathan Lewis

Martin Donnelly faces a difficult recovery after he broke his leg while taking part in a charity bike ride across his home country in Ireland to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

While travelling at 20mph he came off his bike and his left leg was struck by one of the 16 riders following him. It is the same leg that was badly hurt and he nearly lost 30 years ago in a career-ending smash.

The 55-year-old raced in Formula One for Arrows and Lotus in 1989 and 1990 respectively. But in September of the 1990 season during a practice session in Jerez, Spain, he crashed into a guard rail at 160mph and was thrown out of the car.

He broke both legs, fractured his skull, broke his nose, cheek bone, collar bone and punctured a lung.

Martin Donnelly is recovering in hospital after breaking his leg. Picture: Jonathan LewisMartin Donnelly is recovering in hospital after breaking his leg. Picture: Jonathan Lewis

Now living in Besthorpe, near Attleborough, he works as an academy driving instructor at the Lotus factory in Hethel. But due to his most recent crash he will be unable to return to work for some time.

Friend and manger of the Snetterton Speed Shop Racing Team, Jonathan Lewis, has started a crowd-funding page to help raise money for Mr Donnelly's family as he focuses on recovery.

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Mr Lewis, 58, said: "He has never claimed benefits and has always worked even after his F1 accident, he is that sort of bloke.

"Because of the new break he is at risk of an infection which means he would lose his leg which he has worked so hard to keep after his crash.

"He will be out of work for two to three months which means no finances coming in, and he has a wife, family and home to support."

Despite his short stint in Formula One, Mr Lewis said Mr Donnelly was racing for a smaller team and did not earn much money.

Mr Donnelly has raised more than £21,000 for charity by taking part in similar rides, including one around the Isle of Wight.

"We were able to get him back to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and one of the former F1 drivers' medical staff was able to arrange for a specialist doctor to meet him," Mr Lewis added.

"They put a metal structure in his leg, which makes it like Meccano, but what the new specialist couldn't see was that under his cast his leg is like Parma Ham, there is no meat left on the bone.

"There is no happy ending but hopefully he will be able to keep his leg."

To donate go to www.gofundme.com and search for Martin Donnelly.

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