10 amazing motorcycle crash recoveries

It’s not the falling down but the getting back up...

10 amazing motorcycle crash recoveries

THERE’S a saying that it’s not the falling down but the getting back up that is the measure of character.

This lot should know a thing or two about that.

Riding bikes on the limit is tough. As our list of 10 amazing stories of crash recovery testifies, so are the people who do it...

1. Ian Hutchinson

A seemingly unstoppable Ian Hutchinson took victory in five solo categories the 2010 Isle of Man TT, setting lap records in the Superstock and Senior.

Three months later a devastating injury threatened to stop him ever riding again, much less race.

The Bingley Bullet crashed in the wet at a British Supersport round and was struck by another competitor, suffering compound fractures to the tibia and fibula in his left leg.

Surgeons favoured amputating the lower part of the leg but Hutchy resisted. In his own words, he said “F*** off; I need that.”

Through his determination and the surgeon’s efforts, he began a slow road to recovery, suffering a further setback when he injured the leg again riding off-road in 2012.

In 2015, after 30 operations, he made an incredible return to form at the 2015 TT, winning two Supersport races and the Superstock, and taking second place in the Superbike and third in the Senior.

This year one of the greatest comebacks in motorcycle sport continued as he again took first place in both Supersport and the Superstock races and second in the Superbike and Senior event. 

2. Guy Martin

The road racer who needs no introduction has twice broken his back in crashes.

In 2010 he lost the front in the Senior TT race and slid off at 170mph as his Honda Fireblade smashed into a stone wall and burst into flames.

The Grimsby born road racer later said in a Daily Telegraph interview: "So I glanced off a wall – which broke a few bits and bobs – and then flew back through the bike, which was exploding. But I was all right in the end."

Five years later, at the 2015 Ulster Grand Prix, the lorry mechanic and TV personality crashed again, pursued by Bruce Anstey in the Superbike race.

This time Martin broke five ribs, two metacarpals in his right hand, his sternum and five vertebrae, and had to have a steel rod inserted in his back.

He has yet to return to road racing but to the amazement of millions, in March this year he set the Guinness World Record for the fastest speed ever ridden on the Wall of Death, at 78.15mph, on live TV.

3. Barry Sheene

Britain’s last premier-class motorcycle Grand Prix world champion achieved two podium finishes – second and third – as well as a fourth place finish in his first year racing a Suzuki RG500, in 1974. Barry Sheene’s overall position at the end of his first 500cc world championship was sixth.

Then in 1975 he suffered career-threatening injuries in a crash at the Daytona 200, including a broke thigh, right arm, collarbone and two ribs.

Sheene, who died of cancer in 2002 aged 51, barely let the incident interrupt his season, racing – and winning – seven weeks later at the 500cc Dutch TT. He won again at the Swedish Grand Prix, took sixth overall that year and then went on to win the championship two years in a row in ’76 and ’77.

4. Evel Knievel

It’s almost a matter of ‘take your pick’ when it comes to Knievel’s crashes and recoveries. But perhaps the most spectacular came when he attempted to jump 43 metres over the fountain outside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 1967.

After reportedly gambling away his last $100 that morning, Knievel lost power on the take-off ramp. As a result his Triumph Bonneville T120 hit the landing ramp too early. Knievel lost his grip on the bars, somersaulted and landed hard on his head and back on the tarmac.

He crushed his pelvis and femur and broke his hip, wrist and both ankles, spending 29 days in hospital.

But many of his most famous jumps were yet to come. In 1975 he crashed again attempting to jump 13 buses in London’s Wembley Stadium. Again he came up short on landing and wiped out, breaking his pelvis and hand.

He walked off the pitch, saying "I came in walking, I went out walking," and told the 90,000-strong crowd: "Ladies and gentlemen of this wonderful country, I've got to tell you that you are the last people in the world who will ever see me jump. Because I will never, ever, ever jump again. I'm through."

Five months later he jumped 14 buses in Ohio, USA.

5. Mick Doohan

Rising 500cc Grand Prix star Mick Doohan looked set to take the 1992 world championship, with seven podium finishes including five wins, when he broke his right leg in a crash during practice at the Dutch TT.

Initially the injury did not appear to be career-threatening but medical complications caused the leg to deteriorate and at one stage there was risk of it requiring amputation.

But Doohan recovered, and quickly. After missing the next two rounds, he was back for the final two and finished second overall in that year's championship.

The Australian continued to struggle with the injury in 1993 but went on to win the championship five times in a row from 1994 to 1998.

6. Conor Cummins

Manxman Conor Cummins had set the fastest lap in 2010’s Isle of Man TT’s Superbike event, before being forced retire with mechanical problems near the end of the six-lap race.

Then he crashed at 150mph in that year’s Senior TT, suffering five broken vertebrae in his back, multiple fractures to his left arm and ligament damage to a knee.

During an 11-hour operation, surgeons saved Cummins from the threat of paralysis by inserting two 10-inch rods into his back to support the spine from either side.

A further two plates and screws were needed to support the fractures in his arm. 

Nevertheless Cummins was back for the 2011 TT, where he finished 12th in Superstock and sixth in Supersport race two.

7. Valentino Rossi

In June 2010 at Mugello, Italy, nine-time former world champion Valentino Rossi crashed at 120mph during practice, suffering a compound fracture to his right tibia.

The prognosis suggested he would miss most of the remaining 14 rounds but the Italian race legend announced he would be back after five.

Thirty-two days after the crash, on July 7, Rossi tested his fitness with 26 laps on a WSB-spec Yamaha R1 at Misano. Nine days after that he returned to racing to finish in fourth place at German GP, two rounds earlier than even he had predicted.

8. Stuart Easton

British Superbike contender and former British Supersport champion Stuart Easton crashed during practice for 2011’s North West 200, in a high-speed collision with team-mate Gary Mason.

Mason was unhurt but Easton broke his pelvis, coccyx, both femurs and some fingers, as well as rupturing his bowel and dislocating his hip. With his pelvis broken in five places, Easton’s recovery time was estimated at a year.

He was back racing in British Superbikes the following season, to finish 12th overall that year.

The year after that he returned to British Supersport to win the championship for the second time, and in 2014 he was back on the roads to take his fourth victory at the Macau Grand Prix.

9. Franco Uncini

After winning the 500cc Grand Prix world championship in 1982, Franco Uncini high-sided and crashed at the Ducth TT in 1983.

Uncini scrambled to dodge a field of oncoming bikes but was hit by Wayne Gardner’s Honda NS500. The impact was so hard that Uncini's helmet flew off.

The Italian was left in a coma, but at length recovered to return to race in 1984 and 1985.

Today he has the job of making MotoGP safer as the FIM Safety Officer.

Franco Uncini in 2015

10. Mike Booth

Doctors said Mike Booth might never walk again after he was hit by another bike in a crash in the 2009 British Superstock championship, shattering his pelvis away from his spine.

Booth, 25, spent two months in hospital and underwent intensive surgery to repair the nerve damage which threatened to leave him wheelchair bound.

Now he doesn't just walk but also races again. With two pins supporting his pelvis and spine, he made his TT debut this year, finishing 29th in the Senior race.