In 2017 Billy Monger was involved in a collision during a Formula Four race. As a result, both his legs were amputated but he has continued to compete in the Formula 3 based Euroformula Open championship in adapted cars. We recently caught up with the racing driver and broadcaster to discuss motorsport, Paralympics and the benefits of moving out of your comfort zone.
Four years on from your accident, have your views on it and your recovery changed? You were very young at the time and approached your recovery in
quite a public way…
My recovery was public, it wasn’t something that I’d ever planned for.
I woke up from an induced coma and because it was on TV a lot of people had an interest in my recovery.
I had good support from the motorsport community which was fundamentally a nice thing to have. As much as other people came on this journey with me, it was always me kind of trying to lead the way in terms of how I’ve approached it and wanted to do but there was definitely a little bit of pressure there.
What are the obstacles in terms of making motorsport more inclusive?
I’m fortunate this year to be part of the W Series which is an all-women’s racing series that follows the F1 calendar. But I think in general, motorsport is an expensive sport, and in terms of being inclusive to everyone, until the cost for people to be able to compete in it gets lower, it’s not going to be inclusive, due to the financial elements more than anything.
My involvement in racing, in terms of developing hand controls that I’ve used in the race car, obviously that has some opportunity to benefit people outside of motorsport but I’d say in general, it’s all down to sponsorship. If the costs were lower, I’m sure there would be more incentive for people to improve the technology that people are using.
Can you tell us more about the Channel 4 project, Changing Gears?
I’d done some work with Channel 4 on Formula One and the Paralympics was meant to go ahead last year. I had some commitments which would have meant I wasn’t able to go out there, to Tokyo.
Channel 4 were keen to have me involved in some way and I’ve met a few Paralympians during my recovery, so it was basically me meeting Paralympic athletes and throwing myself into their sports – and getting blown out of the water!
I wanted to highlight how incredible Paralympic athletes are and that they’re not just ‘Paralympic’ athletes, they’re athletes fundamentally; they do exactly the same training and hours as any Olympian would.
Paralympians maybe don’t get their fair share of credit that their hard work deserves; the documentary is about highlighting them. Usain Bolt does 100m in nine and a half seconds, but it’s hard to look at a Paralympian running it in 12 seconds and understand how impressive that is. I basically said to myself in this kind of documentary you’re going to be playing the role of being the average Joe who’s not anywhere as fit as a Paralympian. People at home can watch it and understand how impressive what these guys and girls do.
Even so, ‘Billy’s Big Challenge’ for Comic Relief was 140 miles walking, kayaking and cycling…
I had a window at the start of this year. I started training for it on Boxing Day, so it basically ran from the end of December all the way through to the end of February. It was a huge challenge, and I think in some ways that really helps the documentary that we’ve done for the Paralympics. When I was filming some of the stuff for them it was after I’d just done the biggest challenge of my life and I was in the best shape I’ve ever been in.
I’m still going up against Paralympians. They’re next level so I’m glad I was in the shape I was in because the challenges I took on, in terms of adapting to new sports and going up against the best in the business, wasn’t easy.
You appear to take on change and new challenges with ease…
It’s been absolutely hectic and never in a million years would I think I’d be leading documentaries with Paralympians and involved in racing broadcasts for Channel 4, so lots of stuff that I’ve done, is out of my comfort zone and I’ve had to throw myself in at the deep end.
I like doing new things, I like to try my hand at different sorts of things but I think underneath, motorsport is still my real passion. I’ve loved it since I was a kid, so I think there’s always going to be some element of me, no matter how far in the future, where I want to be a racing driver, because that’s what I grew up wanting to be but I think I’m at a stage where as much as it would be nice to have one direction, one thing to follow, it’s also quite exciting to try all these different things and see if I can find anything that I’d love to do even more.
Do you think Jonnie Peacock would like to try motorsports?
During the documentary when I was with Jonnie and he was teaching me to run on the blades, we kind of went through that experience; a bit of driving on the racetrack so there’s a bit of that in there.
Would you recommend that disabled people consider leaving their comfort zone more often, as you seem to?
Yes, I think so. I’ve learned a lot more from trying stuff and failing at it than I have from not trying it at all. Even the stuff where it’s not gone well, I’ve still been able to take stuff away from it, and it’s put me in the right direction overall. That’s been my attitude with it really. If I don’t try these things I won’t know, so why not have a go at it?