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Sunday, February 8, 2009

12-inch metal rods holding leg together

FORMULA One star Mark Webber lay in agony on the road, glanced at the shattered shinbone protruding through his bloody flesh and casually asked paramedics: “When can I drive again?”

The Red Bull racer suffered a career-threatening compound fracture of his right leg in a 50mph head-on collision with a 4x4 car during his own charity bicycle race in Tasmania.

But, in an exclusive interview, Webber insists he will be fit to test Red Bull’s new F1 car in Jerez on Tuesday — just two months after the accident.

BROKEN HERO - Mark Webber lies injured and surrounded by medics after his bike crash

Webber has had a 12-inch titanium rod inserted in his leg to hold together his smashed tibia and fibula. The scars are clearly visible above.

The 32-year-old Aussie still needs crutches to walk. But he has been spending up to three minutes in a cryogenic chamber in temperatures of MINUS 135 degrees to speed his recovery.

And, speaking about the crash for the first time, he admits he is lucky just to be alive. “The big bloke upstairs was looking down on me on that stretch of road,” he confessed.

“It would have been unrealistic to come away with nothing seriously wrong from a collision with a car. But it could have been a lot worse. I was flying along the road at the time. I dived with my head and chest to the side, but my legs didn’t make it.

“I’ve had big crashes in a car in the past but you have absolutely no protection on a bike. I was in a lot of pain. Both my tibia and fibula were broken but the compound fracture was of the tibia and the bone was exposed.


“Afterwards the paramedics told me I just kept asking them: ‘How long will it take to fix me up so I can start driving again?’ It’s a remote area and it was hard to get a helicopter there but the paramedics did a great job.”

Webber was air-lifted to the Royal Hobart Hospital, where he underwent a two-hour operation. He spent a week there before being transferred by air ambulance to a private hospital in Melbourne, where the new 2009 F1 season will start next month.

He returned to his home in England before Christmas. Since having the plaster removed, he has been swimming and lifting weights — plus undergoing intense cryo treatment.

Webber explained: “I’ve been doing it for three weeks. I go from room temperature into a chamber of -50°C for about 30 seconds and then for another three minutes at -130°C.”


But Webber is adamant his injuries will not affect his ability to drive his 200mph F1 car. He said: “The surgeons told me the injuries should take six months to heal. But, as I’m fit, that comes down to three months. Because of the risk of infection I wasn’t allowed to do too much for the first few weeks.

“But I have been doing training on my upper body to make sure my neck and arm muscles are still strong. And my target has always been to get back for the first test of the new car in Jerez.

“The rod has to stay in my leg for 18 months and I am now trying to build up my leg muscles. Some days the muscles tell you you’ve done enough and that can be very frustrating.

“By the opening race in Melbourne on March 29 my right leg should be about 80 per cent of the strength of my left — and that’s enough to drive a car.”

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