sport

Davidson thrilled to be back

Anthony Davidson is relishing his return to motor racing as he stands on the brink of completing his comeback from a broken back.

Davidson finally stepped back into the cockpit of a sportscar earlier this month, seven months after a frightening accident in the Le Mans 24 Hours in which he suffered a compression of two vertebrae in his middle back.

It resulted in the 33-year-old Englishman spending six weeks in a solid brace, followed by another month and a half in a soft-shell casing.

It was only after encouragement from his doctors and physiotherapists that Davidson got behind the wheel of a go-kart three months ago.

Now Davidson is poised to compete in Daytona 24 on January 26-27 after coming through a test session at the Daytona International Speedway 10 days ago.

Davidson said: "It was a long road to recovery. Seven months without any driving was pretty hard to deal with.

"Stepping back into the driving seat and carrying an injury, you felt vulnerable, especially as it was a new track and new car combination.

"The best push I had was when the physio said it was time for me to drive a kart again.

"Mentally, I was up for it, but questioned what it was going to be like and how much pain I'd be in. Thankfully there was zero pain.

"When I trundled out of the pit lane I forgot all about it, and the feeling of driving was brilliant, thinking about lap time, where to place all four wheels on the track, it was mega.

"A huge hurdle was overcome, which was a good sign, so I followed up with a kart event late last year at Rye House, a real crash-and-bash circuit.

"I could feel it a bit, but it wasn't bad, so that gave me confidence for when I did jump in a car that it was going to be okay."

Davidson will drive for 8Star Motorsports at Daytona alongside Pedro Lamy, Stephane Sarrazin, Nicolas Minassian and Enzo Potolicchio, who owns and runs the team.

Approaching the test, though, there was understandable "apprehension" as he added: "That was because at that point I'd not driven anything with g-force, being under braking, and with the banking at the track.

"But because there were so many sensations of new car, new track and new environment, I forgot about it all when I went out there.

"It was only after a couple of laps I thought to myself 'Hang on, I've no pain whatsoever. This is awesome'.

"There was this elation of driving again and realising it didn't hurt. Something I'll never forget."

Davidson will follow Daytona with two test sessions with Toyota next month ahead of attempting Le Mans again with the Japanese marque in June.

Naturally, Davidson sees his debut at Daytona as the ideal way in which to blow away the cobwebs.

"It's good because after seven months away you do get rusty," added Davidson, who will again combine his driving duties this year with his presenting role on Sky Sports F1.

"So I'm glad I'll be doing the race. It's given me a chance to realise my back is now fit for the job.

"With Daytona, although I'm going there to win, I'm sure I'm going to be improving all week whilst I'm there, and during the race itself.

"Beyond that the rehabilitation will continue, and I don't know if it (his back) will ever be perfect in a way.

"At the end of the day there is a 30 per cent compression on two of my vertebrae, so it is never going to be the same again.

"Whether the pain level completely goes away in every manoeuvre you used to be able to do pain-free, I don't know.

"But it's improving, and that's a good thing, and the driving again is exciting. I'm loving being a racing driver again."