Frédéric Sausset is a quadruple amputee, but that won’t stop him from racing in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Here’s how he’ll pull it off.
While on vacation in southwestern France in 2012, Frédéric Sausset, a 47 year-old French businessman, sustained a scratch on his hand, which developed into a potentially deadly infection called purpura fulminans. After battling the infection, Sausset fell into a coma and later awoke with his arms amputated at the fore-arms, and his legs cut off just above the knees.
Luckily, Sausset survived the endeavor, but struggled psychologically in the months following his operating. That’s when, according to Autoweek, he decided upon a new goal to “give [his] new life a purpose.” That new goal was to race at Le Mans.
It wasn’t going to be easy, as Sausset could no longer use conventional car controls, so his vehicle, a Morgan LMP2, would need modifications that would require bending some rules. Lucky for Sausset, he met Vincent Beaumesnil, an organizer for LeMans, who was moved by Sausset’s ambition.
Autoweek says Sausset’s partner and driving coach Christophe Tinseau recalled the meeting with Beaumensil, saying: “There were tears in Vincent’s eyes when Sausset explained what he wanted to do...He couldn’t have been more helpful.”
Moved by Sausset, Beaumsensil offered up Garage 56 to the quadruple amputee, a spot on the grid at Le Mans normally reserved for cars “displaying innovative technology” (like the Nissan DeltaWing, which filled the spot in 2012).
And in a way, Sausset’s team does display innovative tech, especially if you look at how his team, SRT41, has modified the car to work for not only Sausset, but also his two teammates, Tinseau and Jean-Bernard Bouvet.
Sausset steers via a prosthetic, which links the remainder of his right arm to the steering wheel. As for the brake and gas pedal, Sausset activates those via paddles on the seat, which he presses with his thighs. Those paddles then apply the gas and brake pedal via removable linkages.
Sausset’s car also gets ABS, a fully automatic gearbox, and, arstechnica says, an ejector seat to overcome the rule requiring drivers to unbelt and exit the car in under seven seconds.
The remarkable thing isn’t just that SRT41 has developed this method to allow Sausset to drive a race car, but that they developed a good method—one that apparently allows Sausset to truly compete. Arstechnica says the race-car driver told dailysportscar how good the system is, saying “We have reached a point now where my driving sensations are as good as those I had before my medical problem.”
That’s impressive. And what’s just as impressive is the fact that all of the tech needed to allow Sausset to drive this race car does not impede the other two drivers. The levers for the gas and brake pedal can be removed, as can Sausset’s special steering wheel. Not to mention, the fully automatic mode in the transmission can be turned off for the other drivers. Here’s a video showing the tech in action:
My hat’s off to the SRT41 team and to Mr. Sausset, a man whose ambition drove him to achieve his dream against all odds.