On the 1st February 2021, it was announced via Instagram that 21-year-old Ecuadorian-American racer Juan Manuel Correa will be making an inspirational and remarkable return to motorsport this year, less than two years after the shocking multiple-car crash at Spa-Francorchamps in 2019, which saw him sustain serious injuries to his legs and spine. The accident also tragically claimed the life of French driver Anthoine Hubert. Juan Manuel will join FIA Formula 3 for the 2021 season, racing for the French outfit ART Grand Prix.
Following the crash 16 months ago, he was placed in an induced coma for two weeks. He opted against amputation of his legs in favour of reconstructive surgery. Since, he has undergone 20 surgeries, and lived with a brace on his leg for over a year during a long rehabilitation period which he spent in Miami. His recovery progressed ahead of schedule – he was able to walk without crutches in May 2020, a year earlier than doctors predicted. He was also determined to similarly defy doctor’s estimations for when he would be able to return to racing.
It is fascinating to read these words spoken in May 2020, with the knowledge that he successfully accomplished this goal
“I was very blunt with [the doctors],” Juan Manuel said. “I said, When can I drive again if I want to drive?’ They said not before two years. This was in November . Looking at how it has all progressed up until now, I think I will not be driving this November , but probably sometime early next year  if everything goes well, so that’s still almost a year ahead of that prognostic the doctors told me.” It is fascinating to read these words spoken in May 2020, with the knowledge that he successfully accomplished this goal.
Throughout his recovery, Juan Manuel was supported by British racer Billy Monger, who had both legs amputated at only 17-years-old after a Formula 4 crash in 2017 at Donington Park. Billy has since returned to competitive racing with prosthetic legs. “[He] was very much behind me throughout the whole process. He came to visit in the hospital,” Juan Manuel said. “I felt with him we had a very strong connection because he knew what we both had been going through. He knew how it felt. He was a big inspiration because he’s actually racing again, so that’s my benchmark to say, ‘OK I can do this and I can come back.’ So that was very important.”
“First of all, I’m extremely happy to be back after what I’ve been through,” he said alongside the announcement of his comeback. “I am super thankful to ART Grand Prix; it means a lot to me that they’re believing in me and my comeback. F3 is a transition year, my dream is still to reach F1 and this is the first step in my comeback. My targets are a bit ahead of myself, because I still have to do a lot, I have not driven a car for a year and a half and there is a big learning curve ahead. I’m entering this season with an open mind, I won’t put pressure on myself, I will do my best, I will do what I love and that’s already a victory.”
His new Team Principal, Sebastien Philippe, added: “Since his horrendous accident in Spa, on August 30th 2019, Juan Manuel has been through a lot of phases, always fighting while keeping in mind that he did not want to give up on his dream to keep racing at the highest possible level. [He] is an example of bravery and tenacity and ART Grand Prix is proud to give him the opportunity to return to racing. [He] is extremely strong mentally, he is still fighting to be as fit as possible and he is hungry. Behind the wheel, his talent is immense, as shown by his achievements in go-karts and then his first few years in motorsport. We are keen to accompany Juan Manuel to resume his career and to help him climb the ladder once again. He will give the team the benefit of his talent and experience.”
[Juan Manuel] has admitted that his parent’s passion for the sport has unfortunately been diminished
Juan Manuel’s crash failed to deter his incredible passion for motor racing. However, he has admitted that his parent’s passion for the sport has unfortunately been diminished. “They’re very scared, and it’s very hard for them to know that I want to come back. I think they know how important this is for me, and they know they are not going to be able to keep me from it,” he explained. “When I want something in life, very few things are going to keep me from it. They’re more focused on supporting me coming back.”
The FIA Formula 3 championship will commence on the 7th -9th May, in Barcelona. Following races will take place at Le Castellet, Spielberg, Budapest, Zandvoort, and Austin. The season will also see Juan Manuel bravely return to race at Spa-Francorchamps, the track where his near-fatal accident took place in 2019. Hopefully, his combination of impressive talent and sheer determination will result in a successful comeback, and we will see him behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car in the future.
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