Wow, what a couple of weeks it has been!  It has certainly changed the way I approach safety and rallying (motorsport). But firstly, before I continue, I would like to thank all the support through cards, emails, phone calls and messages. I am sorry that I didn’t get back to you all but they certainly were received and very much appreciated.

We hit a stump… hard… flat-out 5th gear without time to hit the brakes hard!!

The incident happened on Saturday night during round 2 of the VRC, the East Gippsland Stages. We came wide around a right hand corner on the second last night stage, my head was looking down at the notes when we hit a large stump at speed (5th gear). It was a very heavy impact, and definitely the worst rally crash I have ever had. I didn’t seem to feel any pain straight away and hopped out of the car and walked around to assess the damage - I was more concerned with Nat (driver, Nat Presutto) and his sore foot as he seemed to not be walking properly.

A fire broke out in the engine bay after a minute or so, from what turned out to be the plastic of the radiator fans touching the hot exhaust. It wasn’t so easy to put out and we had to borrow extinguishers from our following competitors to put out the fire (a big thanks to the Rex and Sandra in the 260Z for their extinguisher, and the closest road closure team).  The stage was closed for a short time and the FIV arrived and checked us out, passing on their concerns with our health and situation. Our service crew came to collect the car and we went back to rally HQ to be signed off. It was not an easy or comfortable sleep that night.

We headed back to Melbourne on Sunday mid-morning. The only complaint that I had was a sore back and when I breathed in and out (deeply) it felt like I had some internal bruising. I thought that if I was still sore on Monday I would get it checked out, and I also had a call saying that CAMS required a medical certificate either way.

Monday morning I woke up very sore internally and with a sore back and saw the local GP. I advised him of the incident and he asked how my neck was? I could turn it to 90 degrees but it was tender and I thought nothing of it. Having x-ray’s at the medical centre they noticed an abnormality with my neck, quickly fitted a neck brace and sent me to the Austin Hospital Emergency department for specialist checks.

I was told after the specialists reviewed my scans that I required a fusion and this would happen on Tuesday morning. Due to usual hospital restraints I didn’t go under the knife until Thursday afternoon. I have had a plate and three screws installed in my neck replacing the damaged vertebrae. The surgery went well and after some physio, I was sent home on the following Monday.

Unfortunately I felt the wound had opened and I was re-admitted to hospital on Friday and was put back under for them to re-stitch and clean it out to ensure that any infection I had didn’t get worse. I was sent home on Tuesday of that following week.

I am really writing this for the following reason: I want to ensure that after any incident (within reason) that you get checked out no matter how small you think your injury is.  I have been told so many times how lucky I am to be walking and having no tingling in any part of the body, and that if I had had an accident or fallen over on Sunday when I did not know the damage I did, I could easily have been a quadriplegic. I understand that safety equipment for head restraints are very expensive but if I knew that I would have an incident of this nature, I would have bought that HANS device that I had considered at the start of the year.    

I would also really like to thank the organising committee of the event for all for the support and the running of another great event and I look forward to seeing everyone back in the forest shortly.

Marcus Richards

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