Returning Label volunteer, Bella Butler, brings you our latest sports piece on F3 driver, Billy Monger.
Billy Monger is a remarkable young man with an incredible story. After being involved in a horrific racing car crash when he was 17 years old, he became a double amputee. Yet this didn’t deter Billy in his love of motor racing.
Billy started car racing when he was just 6 years old; by the age of 10, he was a British Champion. In April 2017, Billy was top of his game having podiumed frequently; his results being his best to date. At the 3rdleague championships, he was expected to win yet again. However, in an effort to regain positioning after a bad start, Billy crashed into a stationary car, which he could not see, at 121mph and lost both of his legs.
Billy is a fighter though, and a heroic one at that; “always smiling and making jokes” his doctors and nurses recalled. He said himself, “I don’t tend to get upset about it… the way I see it, it has already happened and sitting here getting upset about it won’t get me back in a racing car”. His determination to race again and “get back the feeling of speed which I love so much” is inspirational. He and his family struggled initially, as any would. Rob Monger, Billy’s dad, says he “blames himself”, although Billy constantly reminds him that he would have raced anyway.
Individually, Billy found it difficult, both mentally and physically, to maintain his independence whilst being in a wheelchair. His prosthetic legs have helped him to walk again, but the rehabilitation clinic will never discharge a patient. The permanent damage will always be a challenge for Billy, but “not something that I will let take over my life,” he said.
Although Billy tried to keep his life as normal as possible, it was difficult to do so in many ways. His hero, Lewis Hamilton, dedicated his British Grand Prix win to Billy after inviting him to come and watch. Billy also went to watch many races that he would have taken part in, but noticed the new attention brought to him, “I hadn’t changed but people’s perceptions of me had”. As a disabled teenager, Billy felt himself become more self-conscious, and pushed his need to race again, stating that it “gives me purpose in life”.
However, despite the many physical and mental challenges Billy had to face, he was also unable to compete due to the prevention of disabled drivers racing in single seated cars. Yet Billy appealed this rule and was invited to Paris to meet with the Motor Sports Governing Body, who lifted the ban; an extraordinary act that has given another opportunity for disabled people within sports. This and the amazing efforts Billy made to race again has led to him being awarded BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award 2018 for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity.
From this new ruling, Billy had a modified F3 car made by Carlin, modifications included moving the brake pedal upwards so that he can brake using one of his leg stumps, and replacing the throttle pedal with a lever mounted on the steering wheel. Just 9 months after his crash, Billy tested the car and completed rapid times to everyone’s surprise. The car is so impressive that Hamilton again came to see Billy and his new car.
Only 11 months after his crash, Billy raced again at Oulton Park and finished in an outstanding 3rdplace. Not only was this an amazing achievement to Billy, but to the disabled sporting world as well. Billy is an inspirational young man who fought to achieve his dreams. As he said in an interview after his race, “Billy the Whizz is back”.
Billy’s documentary Driven: The Billy Monger Story is available on BBC iPlayer.
Featured image by: Amie Woodyatt