Beating the odds: Quad amputee to race in 24 Hours of Le Mans
Quadruple amputee Frederic Sausset will take part in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans as a Garage 56 entrant, with his "SRT 41" program having been formally launched this week in France.
Sausset, who lost all four limbs following a bacterial infection in 2012, will team with Christophe Tinseau and a third, yet-to-be-confirmed driver in a specially adapted Morgan LMP2 car that’s received the backing of a number of influential players in the sport.
"It’s been a long road since July 2012," Sausset told Endurance-Info. "The accident was a traumatic experience for me, my family and relatives. We had to take on all of that.
"I imagined this project alone in the corner of my hospital bed. I knew I could have been taken for a fool. But the project has advanced daily and it’s quickly turned into [something achievable]."
The 46-year-old Frenchman has made a successful transition to racing, having driven in this year’s VdV endurance series in a Ligier CN car as a buildup to his debut in the around-the-clock endurance classic.
"I had to find a meaning and future to this life," he said. "I spoke to my wife, who I must admit did not quite understand all of the intricacies of this race.
"Then I went to see Christophe [Tinseau], which allowed me to meet Vincent Beaumesnil, the ACO Sporting Director. This was certainly the most important meeting.
"If Vincent had not listened to me, we would not be here to unveil the Morgan LMP2. He had an open mind and took a risk. My way to say thank you is to be on the grid at Le Mans in 2016."
Sausset will use special controls under his thighs to operate the accelerator and brake pedals, while steering with a prosthetic limb attached to his right arm.
He will become the second disabled driver to take part in a major endurance race in the past year, following Alex Zanardi’s debut in the 24 Hours of Spa last July at the wheel of a BMW Z4 GT3.
"Le Mans is an international showcase," Sausset said. "The ACO has authorized something that’s insane [in theory]. The organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans are launching a new card for [those] with disabilities."
The project has also received the backing of the FIA, with President Jean Todt sharing his personal support.
"Helping people in the field of mobility is something important to me," Todt said. "Everyone knows the importance that I give to road safety.
"Fred’s commitment and will is admirable. This project is [challenging] and ambitious. It’s essential for him to have a future, and Fred will win this challenge by being on track.
"He has an incredible will, despite the obstacles… and he has all of my confidence."
Sausset’s Garage 56 entry, reserved for experimental projects, follows the two Nissan-backed efforts that raced unclassified at Le Mans in 2012 and 2014. A bio-methane-powered prototype from WR has already been confirmed as the 2017 entry.