What do former Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi, Drift Racer Mark Harris, and Targa Tasmania competitor Alan Bloore all have in common?
Aside from a love of racing various types of cars, all three had an accident leaving them unable to use their legs but have continued to race with an advanced hand control from Italy now widely available to use on ‘normal’ roads in Australia and New Zealand.
The Three Racers
Australian Alan Bloore, a former professional athlete, was paralysed from the chest down after a boating accident in 2006.
After recovery, Alan’s competitive streak emerged stronger than ever. He set himself the goal of finishing the Targa Tasmania car rally, something he’d dreamt about driving in long before his accident.
Australian Mark Harris was injured in a motorbike accident just over 10 years ago and sustained a spinal injury resulting in paraplegia.
However, he never gave up his love of motorsport. He discovered a passion for Drift Racing after he recovered sufficiently to start driving again.
Italian Alex Zanardi incurred a double leg amputation in a track accident in 2001.
The two-time CART champion (the US competition similar to Formula 1) returned to racing less than two years later, competing in the European Touring Car Championship in 2003–2004 and then in the World Touring Car Championship between 2005 and 2009, scoring four wins.
The advanced technology that enabled the three men to compete again is the Fadiel Italiana Satellite Accelerator, exclusively distributed by Total Ability in Australasia.
The Satellite Accelerator is a hand control worn like a glove that allows drivers to accelerate whilst keeping both hands on the wheel of their car.
To understand the significance of this technology, backtrack to the original driving equipment that was previously available for people with disability, and that many still use today.
The Old Equipment
The ‘Push-Pull’ accelerator is often mechanical rather than electronic and requires significant effort to use.
One hand has to be dedicated to use it, so drivers usually steer with the other hand using a spinner knob on the steering wheel.
This traditional set-up is tiring to use, wearing on the joints, especially the shoulders, and is a functional solution.
Using the Fadiel Satellite Accelerator is relatively easy, safer (having two hands on the wheel most of the time) and has put the love back into driving for those who use it.
For Alan Bloore, safety was paramount during the Targa Tasmania as his navigator was his teenage son.
As Alan explains, “My wife said if you don’t bring him back exactly as he left, don’t come home ever! If it wasn’t for the Satellite Accelerator, I wouldn’t have attempted the Targa, simple as that. I trusted it with my life and most importantly, my son’s.”
For Mark Harris, the Satellite Accelerator was the second device he had tried on his drift racing car, and it immediately solved a major problem:
“The accelerator I had used wasn’t consistently delivering power to the engine. With drift racing, having precise control over your throttle is one of the most important factors in allowing you to enter and maintain a drift. Without that, the danger is you’ll spin.”
“Off the track, you also want an accelerator that is precise and responsive when you have other vehicles and pedestrians around you.”
“I was already using Fadiel’s duck clutch, and Paul (Paul Crake, owner of Total Ability) suggested I try the Satellite Accelerator. Once installed, I haven’t looked back. It instantly made a huge difference”.
Mark also mentions that the Satellite Accelerator had other important features for ensuring safety: The cut-out mechanism eliminates acceleration on start-up, and when you apply the brake the accelerator is cancelled.
Alan remarks on how adjustable the unit is. He was able to change the settings as he became more accustomed to using his thumb to accelerate.
“I’m down to 4mm ‘travel’ that equates to the difference between 0 and 9000 RPM. I started with 12mm. I don’t think I’ll be lowering it to 3mm! The main thing is that you can start with a very safe and easy setting until you gain confidence.”
The Love of Driving
Above all, Mark and Alan both talk about how the Satellite Accelerator has reignited their love of driving.
Mark credits the Satellite Accelerator for putting him on a level playing field with other drivers in drift racing. “I’m not racing in competition, but I do feel like I’m no longer disadvantaged, and at the end of the day, I’m just having a whole lot of fun.”
Alan reflects that when he gets behind the wheel, he feels he is viewed just the same as any other driver: “I love the fact that no-one knows my car is being driven by someone with a disability and I also love the fact I’m not focused on that either: I’m in the moment, loving to drive.”