Spencer Kelly from the BBC took a ride in a modified Chevrolet Corvette C8 Stringray with Sam Schmidt - at Goodwood Circuit no less!
Sam is a Nebraska born Indy Racing League Driver - but an extremely severe accident on a testing lap in Florida in 2000 left him paralysed from the neck down. He is currently an IndyCar series and Indy Lights series team owner.
The docs told him that he will never drive again - fortunately doctors can be wrong. Five years ago we saw Sam cruising through Las Vegas in his road legal and mind blowingly adapted Corvette. Thanks to Arrow Electronics - the car can accelerate and brake through the use of air pressure coming from the mouth - and steer using sensitive infrared and motion capture points on a pair of sunglasses.
Thanks to continued development - the car has transitioned from road legal, to race legal. Sam has taken the Stingray over 200mph without the use of his arms or legs - which is simply stunning.
Sam himself said:
“Where I also see this technology being very beneficial is in the workplace - industrial applications; forklifts; harvesters; trains… I would really like to see disabled veterans and people of all disabilities have an opportunity to go back to work. Many of them just want to be a productive member of society - and haven’t been given the opportunity or the technology to do it.”
Sam Schmidt is an absolute role model - and approaches his career and technology development with so much energy. He even insisted that Spencer swap places with him and drive the car using the assistive technology. Spencer hesitantly agreed.
“ok - I’m happy to do that - but not at that speed”.
After the testing - the stakes were raised even higher - with Sam vs Spencer at Goodwood. Who will be able to do the fastest lap? Money is on Schmidt of course.
Spencer is familiar with the circuit - he’s already done some testing - and of course he has been driving using conventional controls his entire life. He finished with a respectable 1:50 timestamp. Sam obviously had to knock five seconds off that - with a finishing time of 1:45.
The day was rounded up by Spencer asking Sam what we all wanted to know - how does he feel?
“The best way to describe it is freedom - I’m in total control and there’s very little things in my life that I have total control over.”
As if these ground breaking leaps forward weren’t enough - Arrow Electronics are also working with Sam in designing a suit that will allow him - and eventually others - to stand and walk.
TrackDays couldn’t agree more with what the legendary Sam Schmidt has said - of course TD is a team of passionate motorsports lovers so the ability for drivers experiencing any kind of physical disability to be in control and feel the same exhilaration is simply incredible. However - like with our rapidly advancing clean fuel; EV; and autonomous technology - these steps all take us towards a cleaner and more inclusive planet where boundaries don’t exist anymore. That’s exactly how it should be. This is a truly inspiring tale from an inspiring man - who has fought back against adversity and given many thousands of people hope.