Ex-F1 driver says pain after freak moped accident is same as 176mph horror crash

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

Martin Donnelly is recovering in hospital after breaking his leg. Picture: Jonathan Lewis - Credit: Archant

Former Formula One driver Martin Donnelly has said the pain from a 30mph moped crash is the same as when he woke up after a seven-week induced coma following his 176mph crash in a race car.

Martin Donnelly in a Mazda race car at Comtec Racing, Picture: Simon Finlay

Martin Donnelly in a Mazda race car at Comtec Racing, Picture: Simon Finlay - Credit: Archant © 2006

Mr Donnelly is recovering in hospital from the moped crash and may lose his left leg.

On September 28, 1990 he smashed into a barrier after his Camel-Lotus Formula One car suffered a suspension failure in a practice session in Jerez, Spain. He suffered multiple injuries and would never race in the premier class again.

The 55-year-old said: "I have had two accidents at completely different ends of the scale. One at 176mph and the other at 30mph. But the worst thing is the amount of pain.

MORE: Norfolk based ex-Formula One driver Martin Donnelly's career and the 176mph crash that ended it

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

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

"I can remember coming round from my Jerez crash, I had to be put into a seven-week coma and the amount of pain I feel is the same as then.

"It goes to show that the small accidents can still have the same consequences as the biggest."


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In 1990 doctors worked to save Mr Donnelly's legs but it left him with little tissue surrounding his bone and his veins had to be re-routed.

"After the crash in Jerez my leg is just bone," he added, "it is very brittle. When the bike went over it, the rider was about 20 stone which put all the weight on my femur."

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

Martin Donnelly is recovering in hospital after breaking his leg. Picture: Jonathan Lewis - Credit: Archant

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Mr Donnelly, who now lives in Besthorpe, near Attleborough, was taken to hospital where they were able to put his leg in a cast. But he was told he would not be able to receive the specialist treatment needed to repair his leg.

He was taken in the back of his friend's car on a ferry, across the Irish Sea, back to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to see a team of specialists.

But after surgery to repair the break, just above his left knee, it became infected and Mr Donnelly could lose it.

The driving academy teacher will not be able to return to work for at least two months while he recovers.

Martin Donnelly in the assembly area before a race at Snetterton .Photo: Bill Smith

Martin Donnelly in the assembly area before a race at Snetterton .Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: EDP pics © 2003

Friend Jonathan Lewis set-up a fundraising page to help support Mr Donnelly's family.

"It goes to show the amount of generosity that we have in the motorsport and sporting community," Mr Donnelly added, "Seeing people donate £200 at a time and more, it is just amazing."

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

Racing drivers and team managers have donated to help support Martin Donnelly's family as he recovers from breaking his leg.

F1 driver Martin Donnelly with a Vauxhall Lotus, undated. Picture: Archant Library

F1 driver Martin Donnelly with a Vauxhall Lotus, undated. Picture: Archant Library - Credit: Archant Library

Racers Donate

A fundraising page, set-up by friend Jonathan Lewis, has raised more than £20,000 in just one day and is fast approaching the £25,000 goal.

Canadian-Italian Formula 3 driver Devlin DeFrancesco has donated £1,500 to the cause along with Trevor Carlin, who is a British motorsport team manager and owner, matching the donation.

Business owner and racing driver Alan Minshaw has donated £1,000 along with Luciano Burti.

F1 driver Martin Donnelly, February 1990. Picture: Archant Library

F1 driver Martin Donnelly, February 1990. Picture: Archant Library - Credit: Archant Library

Mr Burti is a Brazilian commentator and racing driver who had a brief stint in Formula One. He also suffered a career ending crash in 2001 at the Belgian Grand Prix crashing at 190mph into a tyre barrier. The impact forced the barrier into the air, hitting him on the head, knocking him unconscious.

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