The Drive: Pietro Fittipaldi Gets Behind the Wheel of an IndyCar Two Months After Gruesome CrashSource: The Drive
ietro Fittipaldi, the grandson of Formula 1 world champion and two-time Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, completed a staggering 100-lap test at Mid-Ohio ahead of this weekend’s return to IndyCar with the Dale Coyne Racing team.
Tuesday’s road course test marked the first time the young driver climbed behind the wheel of a race car in more than two months, where he completed a full testing program that included cockpit acclimatization and tire and aero performance. Fittipaldi has spent most of his time since his April crash in Indianapolis, where he’s worked with IndyCar doctor Terry Trammell to develop a road to recovery that fits his medical chart and work commitments alike.
IndyCar Fittipaldi tests at Mid-Ohio on Tuesday.
“It was amazing, man, I’m so happy to be back,” Fittipaldi told Motorsport.com. “The past two months after my accident, I’ve been working really hard with the great people around me working on getting back to driving.”
“It was a full test, we did around 100 laps, which was a lot, but that was our plan to get as many laps as I could and wear me out a little bit because we’re racing next weekend,” he added. “We used the morning to get comfortable and see what we had to do with the pedal [adjustments] and everything felt fine right off the bat. As soon as I was comfortable we worked on the test plan.
Another key figure in Fittipaldi’s recovery is Alex Wanee from PitFit Training, who helped the young Brazilian-American racer get his mobility back to 100 percent, and make sure his muscles are up to the task of manhandling an 800-horsepower IndyCar. PitFit training is a physical training facility that works with North America’s top racing drivers such as Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan among other dragster and open-wheel racers.
“We had a limited range of things we could do given the condition of his [Fittipaldi’s] lower body, so there was a lot of communicating back and forth with the doctors and physical therapists to get his legs back up to speed while maintaining his upper body strength,” Wanee told The Drive. “We worked with very minute levels of resistance to keep his leg muscles active despite his condition. I’d place my hands on his legs and apply slight pressure against the areas where he wasn’t affected, and that’s how we progressed through his recovery program.”
“Personally, within a minute of having met him, I knew we would exceed on all fronts due to his optimism and enthusiasm. It’s normal to expect someone in his position to feel bummed for missing the [Indy] 500 and what not, but from day one he did as much as he could to get back in the car as quickly as possible,” Wanee added.
Fittipaldi was piloting a DragonSpeed LMP1 race car at Spa Francorchamps in April of this year when he lost control of his vehicle at Eau Rouge and crashed into the tire barriers at more than 160 miles per hour. He had to be airlifted to the nearest hospital where doctors diagnosed him with non-life-threatening injuries, however, both of his legs had been fractured due to the force of the impact. As a result, Fittipaldi had to cancel his plans to race in the FIA World Endurance Championship and, eventually, the Indy 500.