From Amputee to Le Mans Racer: The Remarkable Story of Frederic Sausset

Discussion in 'Motorsports' started by Jack Hunsley, Jun 15, 2016.

  1. Jack Hunsley

    Jack Hunsley

    Since the introduction of Garage 56 in the 2012 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans the project has seen many gripping stories and dramas.

    The project designed to allow the promotion of new and innovative technologies was first endowed to Nissan, who gave Garage 56 widespread notoriety in the form of the Deltawing. Right out of the blocks the project proved a huge success, especially in the form of capturing the wider racing community's support and unified heartbreak.

    After colliding with Kazui Nakajima's Toyota just five hours into the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans, Satoshi Motoyama spent the next two hours of the race valiantly attempting, along with assistance from his engineers who were trapped behind a chain link fence, to mend the broken suspension on his car. Ultimately his attempts proved fruitless. But the debut of the Deltawing gave the new era of the Garage 56 entry the recognition it so richly deserved.

    Since then only Nissan has occupied the 56th slot on the Le Mans entry list. But, after a year's absence, it's once again time for the return of Garage 56.

    In July 2012 Frederic Sassuet, a few weeks after attending the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a spectator, suffered a small scratch whilst on holiday in the south-west of France. A few hours later his scratch became infected, and a condition known as Purpura Fulminans set in.

    Purpura Fulminans, also known as Purpura Gangrenosa, is a particularly nasty infection which in many cases is unfortunately very often fatal. After falling into a coma at a hospital in Bayonne, Sausset was transferred to a specialist unit in Tours where doctors where eventually forced to make the incredibly difficult decision to amputate both Frederic's hands and both his legs from just above his knees. After the operation Frederic spent the next few weeks, by his own admission, on the brink of death before thankfully waking from his month long coma in late August.

    However, not only did the procedure save Frederic's life it also left the Frenchmen with an incredible new found determination which this year has come to fruition. This weekend Frederic will lineup as a professional racing driver on the grid for the world's most famous endurance race.

    Despite having no professional racing experience prior to his infection Sausset became determined to achieve his goal at competing at Le Mans almost immediately after leaving hospital. Since his recovery Sausset took to working out relentlessly, swimming an hour and a half each day alongside rigorous physiotherapy and muscle training which by now allow him to comfortably complete hour long stints in his racing car.


    Driving-wise, after initially testing an Audi controlled using a joystick, Sausset instead opted to develop his own system, an evolution of which will allow him to drive his Morgan LMP2 car in the race this weekend.

    A prosthetic limb attached to his right arm, combined with a brake and an acceleration pedal placed underneath his thighs, has allowed Sausset to regain much of the same sensation of driving which was taken away him following the infection. Meanwhile the assistance and guidance from fellow Le Mans team mate Christophe Tienseau has allowed Sausset to race competitively, having already taken part in the ELMS event at Silverstone whilst he continues to compete in the French VdeV endurance racing championship. For Le Mans, Sausset has been given special compensation to use an automatic gearbox and an ABS braking system which can be disabled when his team mate's take their turn at the wheel.


    At the risk of descending in to realms of hyperbole Sausset goes down in history as a unique pioneer in the wonderful new age of technology.

    Whilst others such Clay Regazzoni and Alessandro Zanardi have continued to compete after either being left paralysed or with amputated limbs, it is a definitive fact that never before has a quadruple amputee competed at such a high level of motorsport. Furthermore, there are currently no records to show that an amputee with Sausset's level of injuries has ever competed in any form of motorsport in history, never mind one who prior to his injuries had never competed in a professional race.

    Regardless of where Frederic Sausset and his fellow SRT team mates finish in this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, the fact that he will start the race on Saturday is an unheralded and unparalleled achievement of what the human mind is capable of if we simply put our minds to it.

    If you are not cheering on the #84 on Saturday, I'm afraid you are no friend of mine.

    Images courtesy of
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  2. ThatRacingGuy

    I drove 88 MPH last night... weird stuff happened

    Absolutely fantastic!
    Deep Respect for Mr. Sausset!
    Hopefully the car will finish the race!
    If it does then i am going to eat 10 cakes :)
    Really awesome!
  3. fortyfivekev


    Fantastic effort. Good luck to him and his team.
  4. Helmut Skrdla

    Helmut Skrdla

    Thanks for bringing this to attention, i now have my favorite for Saturday/Sunday.
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  5. alexSchmurtz

    SpeedyMite Racing Staff Premium

    Yep, thanks for pointing out this heroic attempt, I will follow for sure how he is doing! :thumbsup:
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  6. Andrew Harper

    Andrew Harper

    Good luck to the team, I'll be wishing them a finish at the end of the 24Hours :)

    I don't think it's mentioned in the article but in case some of you are wondering how he gets out in a hurry, the seat has a compressed air system underneath it. He pushes a button, and the seat rises level with the sills, and he rolls over the sill and away from the car. Quite brilliant!

    The tech involved in these systems is very clever, what an amazing story.

    All the best to Ferederic and his team mates :thumbsup:
  7. mopro


    Fantastic story. I hope they have thoroughly inspect and simulate the safety procedure during the worst accident possible that may happen during the race.
  8. Bram Hengeveld

    Bram Hengeveld
    RaceDepartment Founder Staff Premium

    Looks like Frédéric is going to make it. What an awesome performance :thumbsup:
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  9. fortyfivekev


    Well done Fred for making the finish a real good news story
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  10. red bullet

    red bullet

    It may be a late answer but they had special procedures for him. There was even a fighter-like ejection seat in case of fire (it lifted his seat so he could drop himself out of the car). But to use this he first had to undo his seatbelt. If the lift was used before undoing the seatbelt, he would be crushed in his seat. So it was in no way perfect but most scenarios were taken care of.
    I admire Fred for his effort and it makes you humble.
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