Chelsea Herbert on the road to recovery after back-breaking crash
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Auckland-based race driver Chelsea Herbert is optimistic and fighting fit, having spent most of 2020 battling to recover from a frightening crash in her Castrol Toyota Racing Series debut season.
Herbert was rushed to hospital in late January after crashing at the second round of the TRS season, held at Teretonga in Invercargill. The series confirmed the following day that she had suffered stable fractures in her T11 and T12 vertebrae — subsequently sidelining her for the rest of the championship.
"The accident was unfortunate but it has had an overall positive impact on me as a driver. I am even more driven to prove to myself that I can do better and that I can come back stronger. Breaking my back was only a hurdle, not a road block," said Herbert.
After relentless training, Herbert is said to have healed to 95 per cent fitness, with the help of motorsport specialist trainer Alistair Wootten, and comprehensive physiotherapy.
"The lockdown actually came as a blessing to my recovery as it allowed me to train at my own pace and not pressure myself to train as hard as the crew at the gym. I had lots of physio exercises which were based around strengthening up my core to help take care of my back.
"I’m still working away with rehab and building my training up at a safe and consistent pace. I currently feel as though I’m sitting at 95% and it’s only been five months since the injury including two wearing the back brace."
The 21-year-old now finds herself gearing up for a return to the track as New Zealand's various racing series' regroup off the back of the Covid-19 pandemic. Herbert hopes to return to the Toyota Racing Series fold for 2021.
"2020 has been a year that has cemented the idea of ‘everything happens for a reason’ in my head, that’s been the biggest thing. Although it’s definitely a year that we can all reflect on and learn lots from, it’s also a period that has reminded me to not take even the smallest things for granted."
"I'm totally focussed on being on the TRS grid when it forms up again, hopefully in early 2021 as normal. I am also unsure on how we will get on with funding through sponsorship but hopefully the NZ economy will continue to pick up and we will be able to approach companies which are able to get behind and support NZ drivers again.
"It’s very important for me to publicly thank all of those who have helped me through this. My family and friends, my physical coach Alistair [Wootten] and my mental skills coach Kate from KFitness NZ.
"When it came to the less desirable moments, my dad and particularly my mum and my partner Matt were there with me every step of the way. Overall I want to say thanks to everyone who in some big or small way has helped me over the past few months including my MTF Finance family for continuing to support me. And all at Toyota NZ, they truly went out of their way to help myself and my family after the crash.
"Right now, I just want to get out and race."