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

PUBLISHED: 12:45 10 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:21 10 July 2019

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

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

Archant Library

As Martin Donnelly recovers in hospital after breaking his leg in a freak moped accident, reporter MARC BETTS takes a look back at his career and the Formula One crash that ended it.

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

Martin Donnelly, 55, is a former Formula One driver known in the sport for surviving one of the most horrific crashes in racing history.

During his early racing career he had made a name for himself as a race winner in Formula One feeder series Formula 3 and Formula 3000.

He made his debut in Formula One at the French Grand Prix racing for Arrows. He was then signed by Camel Team Lotus for the 1990 season on a three year contract.

But on September 28, 1990, whilst taking part in a practice session at the Jerez circuit in Spain his Lamborghini V-12 powered Lotus suffered a suspension failure hurling him into a barrier at 176mph.

Coverage of Martin Donnelly's F1 crash in the Eastern Daily Press' sports pages on September 29, 1990 (the day after the crash). Photo: Archant LibraryCoverage of Martin Donnelly's F1 crash in the Eastern Daily Press' sports pages on September 29, 1990 (the day after the crash). Photo: Archant Library

The force of the impact ripped him from the car, leaving him in the middle of the track still strapped to his race-seat.

Miraculously he survived despite breaking both his legs, his nose, cheek bone, collar bone, fracturing his skull and puncturing a lung.

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The crash had a large impact on the sport with tests for roll bars, seatbelts and survival cells introduced the following year.

It may have ended his career in Formula One but Mr Donnelly kept racing close to his heart, competing in club events and managing a Formula Vauxhall team.

Northern-Irish-born Donnelly has also been invited back to the premium class in the role of a driver representative on the stewards panel - most recently at the Canadian Grand Prix in 2013.

In 2004 his racing career was thrown into dispute after he was forced to file for bankruptcy due to failing to pay taxes and legal disputes over driver contracts.

Two years later Mr Donnelly, who now lives in Besthorpe, near Attleborough, re-joined Lotus as a driver for a sponsored track day and has gone on to race the Lotus Evora and Elise around the world.

He made a brief debut in the British Tour Car Championship in 2015 driving for Infiniti-Support Our Paras Racing.

In July 2019 on a moped tour of Ireland raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust he fell of a moped in a freak accident at 30mph and another rider rode over his left leg.

Due to the internals of his leg being destroyed in his previous Formula One crash the moped injury has caused complications to his recovery and he could lose his leg due to infection.

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