Frederic Sausset, 46, lost all four of his limbs to a bacterial infection in 2012. In the hospital bed, trying to come to terms with the grief and how vastly his world had changed, Sausset imagined competing in the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. It was a dream he knew sounded foolish, and while those around him likely didn’t admit it, they probably thought it foolish too.
And yet here we are, three years later. Sausset has since rolled his wheelchair onto the podium numerous times in the VdV endurance series, and now, after his announcement in France last week, is set to run in next year’s iconic marathon at Le Mans in a specially adapted Morgan LMP2 prototype, hitting speeds of around 200 mph down the famed Mulsanne Straight.
“I had to find a meaning and future to this life,” he said. “I spoke to my wife, who I must admit did not quite understand all of the intricacies of this race.”
As FoxSports reports, Sausset will use controls under each thigh to operate the gas and brake pedal. A prosthetic limb on his right arm will be attached to the steering wheel, allowing the Frenchman to turn. He’ll share driving duties with two others in the round-the-clock event, including his friend and mentor Christophe Tinseau.
It was Tinseau who helped make this dream a reality. The French race car driver introduced Sausset to key people within the racing world, helping not only with the car’s adaption into something Sausset could drive but with the series officials to feel comfortable allowing an amputee to compete behind the wheel of such a fast machine.
Sausset proved his worth this season, and while next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will undoubtably be a huge step up—both in terms of distance and performance of his new, faster race car—he’s up for the challenge. His SRT 41 race program will operate out of the experimental “Garage 56″ in a class of its own—much like the radical DeltaWing did along with Nissan’s electric ZEOD RC.
Legendary racer Alex Zanardi, who lost both his legs in an IndyCar crash in 2001, has proven that disability should not prevent someone from living their dreams. Since his accident, Zanardi has continued to race professionally in an adapted car with hand controls, and has won gold at the Paralympic Games in London aboard his wheelchair as well as completing the grueling Ironman World Championship triathlon in Hawaii for the past two years.
Zanardi remains an inspiration to many, proving anything is possible with determination and a positive outlook. Now, the world has another hero to inspire—a gritty Frenchman with a heart more powerful than limbs.