Mitch Gilbert Blog: “I Was Going 235KPH When Suddenly, BANG!”


What a first weekend in GP3… it had so much promise but ended early and in a disastrous way! I’d like to thank the very Italian Trident racing for making me feel so welcome and so supportive throughout the weekend. :)

First of all, it was always going to be tough. I was in a new team, new car and critically, this new Pirelli tyre. There was even some small things like the clutch was now being controlled and not my foot. I looked like an absolute idiot pulling away every time haha, but I did manage to not stall! It was a good experience and though it ended badly, I got the wow factor out of the way and most of the surprises are gone.

One thing about being on a Formula 1 weekends, is you have to fit around them. Free practice was at 6pm on Friday evening, we spent most of the day just preparing. Lets be honest, there’s only so much preparing you can do! A lot of the day is spent hanging around, chatting, and more importantly, just getting tired. This was something new to me. With our practice being so late, our qualifying was then at 8.10 in the morning on Saturday!! Hard to get your body clock right for that. A “difficulty” drivers have to be face (it’s not really that hard, I know…).

Let me explain about this Pirelli tyre a bit first. Or as much as I’ve learnt anyway… Basically, the tyre is the same tyre as they use in Formula 1 and has been designed to not last, to increase entertainment. All sounds great, until you arrive on a weekend and have to learn everything in two laps.

Basically, you can only push to the absolute maximum for two laps on a set of tyres, if you’re lucky, after an extremely slow “cool down” lap, you might get a third lap in. So when I put the new set of hard tyres on that we used in free practice, I got two laps to learn everything. I ended p19, one second off my team mate in p10.

I was extremely disappointed at first, but when I thought about it, I did do a good job. In qualifying I would have got another two sets of tyres and to be perfectly honest, I would have been easily able to go p10, maybe better (not to blow my own horn). Just thought I’d add this was all in the dry on the dry weather tyre. Qualifying on saturday morning was a completely different story.

So I was up at the crack of dawn, for my first GP3 qualifying and it was cold and more importantly… WET! This was another spanner thrown in the works of my rookie weekend. Every wet tyre you drive in different forms of racing is different and gives you different feedback through the wheel and through your bum (you’d be surprised how much feeling we get through our arse!). I didn’t have long to sort it out!

Anyway, as I pulled out the pits, I felt awesome. The tyre was unbelievable, the car felt great (thanks Trident racing), and you can just tell instantly, when you’re going to be quick… I could tell! Anyway, I got about halfway through the lap, still feel incredible, when I was going down the straight at 235KPH when suddenly, BANG.

Before I talk about what happened next, I just like to throw out there than in a race car, we don’t have brake lights, there’s A LOT more spray than on the road and basically, you can’t see much, particularly on the straight… You’ll see why I’m clearing this up.

The Wet Qualifying Proved Disastrous For Gilbert - Credit: Adam Warner/GP3 Series Media Service
The Wet Qualifying Proved Disastrous For Mitch – Credit: Adam Warner/GP3 Series Media Service

So about half a second before the bang, I saw another race car doing about 30KPH on the straight. In this half a second, you don’t have any time to do anything. Then, BANG. I hit this car at 235kph and time just stops… I was going up in the air and at this point you lose absolutely all reference of where you are on track, and what’s going on. You don’t have any time to think about the consequences (thankfully).

So after going up for what felt like about a month, another BANG. I landed upside down, and unfortunately, my roll hoop broke. The roll hoop is designed to keep your head and neck from taking any impact at all. Thankfully, it took away most of the initial impact, but my head was then dragging on the floor for about 200 metres. Believe it or not though, when I landed, and I was still conscious, I did tell myself I would be alright.

I did think to see if I could see where I was headed, because then I would know for sure if I would be ok. I saw I wasn’t heading towards any wall, and at this point decided I would be alright. (This is all upside down, doing a hundred and plenty with my head dragging on the floor). At this point when I decided I was going to be alright, my steering wheel caught the ground (it shouldn’t, but did due to the roll hoop failure) and ripped out. My hand then dropped on the floor and was dragging a long the floor for quite a while.

I then went in the car, touched the gravel and rolled back over on to all four wheels (three as one had ripped off on initial impact) and within a second I was already getting out. I was completely fine. I looked down and one of my hands was completely covered in blood, but that was it. I’d take that any day of the week. I was then put in the ambulance and driven away. Everyone from the marshalls, to paramedics were really friendly. It’s nice that everyone is trying to keep you calm and talking.

I was then dropped off at the medical centre, which is actually like the best hospital in the world, so well done Silverstone for that! At this point, as my Mum was there, I was more worried about what state she was in, as if she had seen the crash, I think she might have had a heart attack. Thankfully, there was absolutely no footage of it!

I went in the medical centre, they did standard checks and I was fine. They then had a plastic surgeon stitch my hand back up, he did offer a boob job and a face lift at the same time! It needed about 8 or 10 stitches, so in the end, not that bad. My mum eventually came in, not knowing too much which is good. All the staff at the medical centre were super friendly and helped both my Mum and I get through it.

At the end of the day, the car was completely destroyed… ready for the bin, and I wasn’t cleared to race anyway as I couldn’t close my hand. You realise how tight of a community racing is, when everyone asks if you are alright and what happened etc. Everyone at the team was fine, despite me wrecking the car as it’s one of those freak things that happens. Basically, my weekend was over and I didn’t do much at all! I’m gutted for me and the team! Also, because I KNOW I would have been fast.

I’m not going to put the blame on anyone (basically it was the other guys fault haha) but I can see how he would think it was not his fault.

Anyway, I thank God that I’m still alive, as it could have gone either way. I will be back in Hockenheim and I will get my stalling career back on track. Just everyone wait and see…

Until then, I’m still breathing and no one will stop me achieving what I want to achieve.

Mitch