Mildura Weekly : Friday July 24 Vol 9 No 37
08 NEWS MILDURA WEEKLY FRIDAY, JULY 24, 2015 JUST over a month ago, We- men top fuel drag racer Phil Lamattina was sitting in his race car at the start line of Queensland’s Willowbank Raceway, relaxed and happy in the knowledge that this would be one of the last times he’d race at the circuit. Phil and his close-knit team, which includes his wife Sarah and brothers An- gelo and John, had made the decision several weeks earlier to do just one more season before retiring from the sport after more than 10 years at the elite level. For Phil, it meant he could simply enjoy the expe- rience of racing at the biggest event on the national drag racing calendar, the Winter- nationals. But less than three sec- onds later, Phil and his fam- ily’s world was turned on its head, when for the sec- ond time in his career, his 8000-horsepower dragster snapped in half mid-track at more than 400km/h, sending him flying through the air be- fore crashing back to earth. In that first incident in 2007 at the same track, Phil escaped with just a cut to his little finger. This time he wasn’t so lucky, leaving him in hospital with shattered and fractured vertebrae. Speaking to the Mildura Weekly after undergoing back surgery and returning home, Phil says he remem- bers almost every second of the incident, including the minutes before and after the crash. “I remember beforehand being very relaxed, very comfortable knowing that the next ‘Winters’ was going tobemylastone,soIwas thinking, ‘let’s just enjoy ourselves’, the car’s good, we’re happy with the deci- sion we made, everything was good,” Phil said. “The car took off and it was a great start. I got to about half-track and I was thinking, ‘man this is going to be a great run’, and then ‘bang’, the car just went up. “I knew the car had gone into a wheel-stand, but how bad, I didn’t know. “I didn’t know I had left the ground to begin with, and I didn’t see the front fly off either, I just knew all the panels were flying off.” Phil explained that due to the extreme G-forces, he wasn’t able to keep his head up to look over the front of the car. “As the front of the car went up, and at that speed, your head is being forced for- ward, so I was basically look- ing at the steering wheel,” he said. Phil said that even once he realised he was airborne, he still wasn’t aware of just how high. “I didn’t realise I was re- ally up in the air and travel- ling at that point, but I knew I wasn’t on the ground, and I remember thinking to my- self, ‘Not again!’, because of what happened several years ago,” he said. “Then when it came down, landed and went into the wall, that’s when it broke my back and that’s when I got knocked out for a few seconds. “Then I came to, and I looked around and said, ‘oh s#@t,’ I did have an accident, and the car broke again. The front half is missing and I couldn’t believe it had hap- pened again. “Then I noticed the pain and my back started burning and that’s when I started to wonder what was happening to me. “I tried to move, but it was killing me, and I was still strapped in the car. “I just wanted to get out of there, so I undid my seat belts and tried to get out, but my back was killing me and I was struggling to breathe.” The race team were on the scene within seconds, including Phil’s brothers and his wife. Team crew chief Aaron Hambridge, and Phil’s younger brother, John, helped extricate the stricken driver under the supervision of ambulance paramedics. When Phil tried to stand he realised something was seriously wrong. “I had Aaron and John on either side of me and I needed their help just to stand up, as well as all the pain, so I knew it wasn’t good,” he said. Phil said that despite the pain, it was mixed with relief that he wasn’t paralysed. “They put me on a stretcher and the pain was enormous. They were telling me not to move anything, but I knew I could move my arms and legs, I had all my senses, so was thinking to Top fuel champ opens up BEHIND THE HEADLINE • FAMILY FOCUS: A recovering Phil Lamattina with his wife Sarah and youngest children Ariana and Luca and INSET: Phil Lamattina captured mid-flight at more than 400km/h during his spectacular crash. $299WITHFREE CARRY CASE BETTERFREEGEARBETTER MS 170 CHAINSAWS Assembled, fuelled & ready to go! FROM ONLY * * Stihl Shop Mildura 637 RSD 15th Street MILDURA 3500 Ph: 03 5022 2840 *Price and free carry case for MS 170 as shown valid 1/6/15 until 31/8/15 or while stocks last.
Friday July 17 Vol 9 No 36
Friday July 31 Vol 9 No 38