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Habsburg ‘Feeling Really Strong’ Ahead of Alpine Return

Ferdinand Habsburg details recovery process after suffering back injury in Alpine testing crash…

Photo: MPS Agency

Ferdinand Habsburg “pushed a lot” to be able to make his racing return with Alpine at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after a back injury sustained in a testing crash sidelined him for several months.

The Austrian driver will return to the cockpit of the No. 35 Alpine A424 at the French endurance classic, teaming with Paul-Loup Chatin and Charles Milesi.

It is set to be Habsburg’s first race since he was sidelined with a back injury sustained in a crash during a test at Motorland Aragon at the end of March.

He was replaced by Alpine reserve driver Jules Gounon at the second and third FIA World Endurance Championship rounds at Imola and Spa, respectively.

Recalling the incident, Habsburg detailed the moment he went off at Aragon’s Turn 7 as “the worst crash of my career so far.”

“You don’t really know what’s going on,” he said.

“You’re in the wall and you don’t know why. I knew I was not able to get myself out of the car, so I needed the assistance of the team.

“They reacted so quickly and brought the ambulance and took really good care of me.”

After he was transported to a hospital, the 26-year-old was determined to have suffered two fractured lumbar vertebrae in the crash, sidelining him for some time.

“Not what you want to hear at the start of your season,” Habsburg said.

“But in most aspects I was feeling genuinely really, really grateful that it didn’t happen at a different place in the track.

“I was going was you know around 200 kilometers per hour, but in Aragon you go over 300 in places.

“So I was like, ‘[If] this happened half a kilometer later… I was more scared of that and I was just so happy that there was the safety of the track and safety of the car that just kept me so well together.

“As soon as I crashed I was like, ‘Well you gotta check your legs, if you can feel them.’ I was moving my legs perfectly and I was feeling fine, actually just pain my back.

“From that side I was just really grateful that it’s very minor, the injury that I had. Yeah, it took two months to recover but I had the best support. I had a good team.”

As he worked through his recovery process, Habsburg remained convinced that he would be able to rejoin Alpine’s Hypercar lineup in time for the French brand’s return to top class competition at Le Mans.

“I was really pushing to come back for Spa, to be honest,” Habsburg said.

“We took the decision not to go, even though from a vertebrae standpoint, I was healed. It was just the muscles that were weak laying in bed for so long.

“So we decided as a team to not participate because I would have probably struggled but then it was clear for me.

“I trained a lot, I pushed a lot and and I now I feel really strong.”

Habsburg, who returned to the cockpit of the A424 in a recent pre-Le Mans test at Circuit Paul Ricard, notes that he is “not perfect yet,” but feels ready to return to racing.

“I did a test day in Ricard, I did two days in the sim, I did the rollout, I did a lot of training,” Habsburg said.

“The reality is: I’m not perfect yet. I still have a lot of flexibility to gain. I’m not going to be doing backflips, but I can race a car and I can race it fast.”

He added that, from a mental standpoint, he felt fortunate to have the opportunity to drive the A424 before joining the team at Le Mans.

“To get the trauma out of the body was one thing, but to get it out of the mind, you needed a bit of cleansing,” Habsburg said.

“The first three or four laps, you’re like, ‘Wow this car broke me two months ago,’ but now I was getting in it.

“Literally three laps in I was looking at my delta lap time, where I was missing to my teammate and all I could think about was: how can I improve?”

Davey Euwema is Sportscar365's European Editor. Based in The Netherlands, Euwema covers the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, among other series.

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