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Aitken: Driving “Not Painful” Upon Return From Spa Injuries

Jack Aitken describes his recovery from injuries sustained at Spa and his preparations for return….

Photo: Patrick Hecq/SRO

Jack Aitken says that driving a race car again is “not painful” and that he’s “happy to be back” in action this weekend after missing three Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS rounds due to his recovery from injuries sustained in an accident ten weeks ago.

After missing the GTWC Europe events at Brands Hatch, the Nürburgring and Valencia, Aitken has returned to Emil Frey Racing’s No. 114 Lamborghini lineup for the Endurance Cup season finale at Barcelona.

The 26-year-old suffered a broken left collarbone and a compression fracture to his L2 lower vertebra in a four-car accident at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa.

Aitken told Sportscar365 that despite some “aches and niggles” he is in good shape to take part in this weekend’s three-hour race with Konsta Lappalainen and Arthur Rougier.

“I’m happy to be back,” he said. “I went to Brands Hatch because it was my home race, to watch and see the team, but I haven’t driven anything since Spa.

“So it’s nice to be back in the paddock and see all the familiar faces, just doing the normal job again.

“It’s obviously a shame to have missed the races, especially Brands Hatch which I’ve only raced at once before. I was really looking forward to it.

“I always want to be racing, but if you have an injury there is nothing that can be done. I’m happy to be here, otherwise it would have been a very long winter.”

Aitken stayed in a Belgian hospital for a week after the accident at Spa, before being transferred back to the U.K. to continue his recovery.

Following two further weeks of rest, he received a plate insert to stabilize his broken left collarbone.

“It was quite a violent break and there were lots of pieces floating around, so natural healing wasn’t an option,” said Aitken.

“But it was good in a way, because a plate can speed up the recovery. I had that done, and then had a week resting from the surgery. And then from week five I started to do some rehab.

“I was still wearing the back brace until week seven or eight, and probably a week before I took off the brace I was still in a sling, doing light rehab.

“Because of both injuries being restrictive to your movement, there was very little I could do to stay active. It was basically just walking to the shops every day, but even that was exhausting for a while!”

Returning to exercise enabled Aitken to experience a much quicker rate of recovery during the last four weeks. He has recently taken part in sessions on board the Williams F1 simulator, which has aided his preparations for his return to a real-world car.

“As soon as I was able to start doing exercise again, even though it was quite light, the body just responds really quickly,” Aitken said.

“My bad arm can’t bear as much weight as my good arm still, but I have full mobility. I’m driving the car and it’s not painful, I just have a bit of stiffness.

“The back is still healing, in the sense that there is still new bone forming. It’s not at 100 percent strength yet, but it’s strong enough that I can be here and ride a bike gently and swim for my rehab. But it’ll be another month or two before everything is fully settled.”

First Laps Back During Friday Testing

Friday’s pair of paid test sessions enabled Aitken to turn his first laps in the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo since his accident.

He explained that the only pain to be felt from his collarbone injury was some friction with the seatbelts, while his back injury required a greater degree of monitoring.

“Today I’ve done quite a standard run plan for us, so we split the time fairly evenly,” he said. “It went as I expected, which is to say that I’m fine.

“It’s just there’s a few aches and niggles. They’re the kind of aches and niggles that for a five-lap run in practice there’s no problem at all, but it could be at the end of a one-hour stint.

“The collarbone has not been too bad, to be honest. The back is a bit more difficult because it’s still a bit sensitive.

“I have short legs so I’m already at the limit of reaching the pedals, and I’ve got padding stuffed in the seat to push me forward. If the brake pedal goes long at the end of a stint, I have to twist to reach it. But I can’t do that at the moment, because of my back.

“I’m going to play with the seat a bit tonight and try to make some modifications, but generally it’s not too bad.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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