Andy Wallace has done some wild things in his life, like jumping a Bugatti Chiron at 447km/h. But one of the craziest has to be the time he broke his ribs by taking a corner flat-out in a Le Mans race car.
Breaking bones in a race car isn’t completely unusual, but it traditionally comes as a result of a massive shunt – just ask Chaz Mostert.
What makes Wallace’s story so unique is that he was driving normally when he cracked a pair of ribs while in the hot seat.
Wheels got the opportunity to sit down with Andy Wallace at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and we just had to ask him about the infamous bone-breaking incident.
“The video on YouTube is mega, if you haven’t seen it, you have to watch it,” he enthuses the moment we raise the topic. We’ve put a link to said video up top if you want to watch – make sure to turn your volume up to hear the glorious 3.5-litre V10 soundtrack.
“That Toyota, still to this day, is one of the best race cars I ever drove – it was amazing. It’s just unfortunate that Peugeot went and built one that was slightly better.”
Andy had been recruited as a factory driver for Toyota following four years with Jaguar, which included winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans on debut in ’88.
“We were testing for Le Mans and trying to decide where we could go,” he explains. “It was in February 1992 and Australia isn’t that far from Japan, so we camped out at Eastern Creek and did a nine day consecutive test.
“Every day from eight in the morning until six at night – we couldn’t run through the night as we weren’t allowed due to the noise – one car was doing development work with speed testing, and the other one was the endurance car.
“I drew the short straw and got in the endurance car, so we were doing two hours each, constantly, every day for nine days.
“It was the last day, and I went out in the morning. To set the scene the track has a long straight past the pits, into turn one which is a 310km/h left-hand corner, and right in the middle is a big bump. It is taken at absolutely wide-open throttle.
“I had two or three laps to go before the end of my first hour, and then I needed another hour’s worth of fuel to be put in the car.
went through the corner and just felt this massive crack, and two ribs were broken instantly from just driving the car.
“As I came into the pits I knew how much trouble we were in, because we had been doing this for so long. If I had just bailed out of the car then it puts the whole mess onto someone else, so I came into the pits and they started refuelling. I tried to put myself into a different place in the seat so it wouldn’t hurt so much, and then I started my second hour.
“But I never made it through the second hour, I got out and said ‘I’m sorry but I am done’. So they put the next guy in, Hitoshi Ogawa, a really talented guy.
“He drove, and then just near the end of his hour the exact same thing happened. We had done the same amount of running and then pop, he broke his ribs.
“All the Japanese engineers were very happy; they said ‘the car is stronger than the driver’.”
While an epic story on its own, that’s not where Andy’s experience ends. The British driver was competing in the American IMSA series for the All American Racers squad. The factory-supported American team was fielding Eagle MKIII cars in the GTP class, which were powered by turbocharged 2.1-litre Toyota engines.
It is one of the most dominant racing cars of all time, winning 21 of the 27 races it entered, and all but killing the GTP category through its crushing performance.
Andy had been recruited to drive for the squad as the factory hot shoe from Toyota.
“The broken ribs happened on February 29, and the Sebring 12 Hour was March 21. It’s not long,” he continues.
“I knew that if I told the team what I had done, they would find a replacement for me – so I didn’t tell them.
I visited a few doctors, got a few things for the pain, and then went to Florida.
“Now, Sebring is the bumpiest race track on the planet, and we did the 12 hour race with just two drivers – Jan Manuel Fangio II and myself – and we won somehow. It hurt like hell.”
We don’t doubt that at all, Andy.