“Racing is one thing, but getting up and walking, making myself independent again has been another thing I’ve been doing behind the scenes.”
Last weeks BRDC British F3 Media day was an opportunity for many young drivers to prove their abilities in front of fans and most importantly, the other drivers. But for one young competitor his return to Donington Park was probably more emotional.
Eleven months ago, Billy Monger’s life was forever changed when he was involved in a high-speed crash during the second F4 British Championship race of the weekend.
For many, this incident would have been career ending and even six months ago, a return to single-seater seemed like a pipe dream for the 18-year-old, but through testing and extreme determination, Monger was racing, on pace with the opposition.
At the end of a hectic test day, The Checkered Flag caught up with him to discuss the next chapter in his career and how it felt to be back in the driving seat.
“It was good,” he said, talking about his day on track. “That final session in the dry I think we ended up fifth or sixth. I didn’t quite string my best lap together, I did a few that were in a tenth of each other and another few tenths and we would have been second. All good really.
“I’m quite happy with how today’s gone. We’ve been inside the top six all day I think and it’s what I want to see.”
Monger was competing in a specially modified Tatuus-Cosworth, with the steering wheel acting as his accelerator and brake (along with its regular task,) that he’d developed with the Carlin team.
Despite his supposed limitations, he remained a front-runner throughout the mixed whether day, finishing sixth overall, under a second off pacesetter Kush Maini.
After racing in British F4 last season, many in the TOCA paddock would have loved to see him back, but Billy explained the jump to F3 was the right thing for his career.
“I was already on the pace in F4, and another year would have been a bit pointless really. So I was happy to move up and progress the same way I would have done so before.”
He noted that it has always been his intention to race full term and at the moment, a season long drive appears to be just on the horizon.
“I’m planning a full year, doing the same amount of testing as the other three. At first I’ve got to learn the controls in the car and make sure, like I say, that we’re on the pace.
“I think we’ve proved that today and that the testing’s paid off and we’re on the same pace as my teammate. So I’m quite confident for this year.”
Coming into the year, Billy got involved with Carlin, having been guided towards them by friend and fellow competitor, Jamie Caroline.
“[He] introduced them to me when he was competing with them in F4. I went down, had a look at the workshop and told them I planned on doing British F3 if I could.”
“They were quite helpful, they let me use their F3 sim and help me build my hand controls up and quite early on they said they’d like to be involved if we could get something together. At the minute we’re about 90% of the way there into securing a full season drive.”
2018 BRDC British F3 challenge
His introduction has not come without controversy though, as the team had already started negotiations with three other drivers, filling all their available seats. This ensures that he’s on course to pilot a fourth car, that the MSV has given permission to race.
As for Caroline, he faced an opposing problem, with no drive seemingly available for the 2018 season, a sabbatical was on the cards, though with a last-minute drive seeing him compete in USF2000, Billy was more than supportive.
“When Jamie put out the tweet saying that he wasn’t going to race, I wasn’t going to sit back and let one of my best mates not race, so I tried to help as much as I can.
“But now he’s got his move out to America, I was on FaceTime with him yesterday (last Wednesday) and he’s taking it all in. It’s a culture shock to anyone to go to another country and race but I think he’ll thrive out there.”
Should everything come together for him and his sponsors, Billy’s first competitive single-seater outing will come at Oulton Park during the Easter weekend. With sixteen drivers so far announced and at least another two expected before the opening round it will be a tough season should Billy be able to fight for the championship.
However, for many close to him, fighting for trophies is not the whole story, as Billy learns to adapt to life without his legs.
While it’s still been under a year since the accident, with his prosthetic legs, Monger is jubilant he’s almost back to self-sufficiency. With the season just around the corner, a new start is on the horizon for the teenager.
“[I’m] Trying to get everything back on track. … I feel like I’m 90% of the way there to being independent. I feel as if I can whack a pair of jeans on and you wouldn’t recognise that this had happened.”