After a horrific incident at Teretonga Park in only her second Toyota Racing Series event, Chelsea Herbert says she is itching to get back behind the wheel and is targeting a return to the single-seater category next year.
The 21-year-old was left with compression fractures to her T11 and T12 vertebrae following her accident while exiting the pitlane of the Invercargill circuit and was consequently ruled out of the remainder of the season.
But after a lengthy recovery period and strenuous training sessions under the guidance of NZ TRANZAM racer Alistair Wootten, Herbert is ahead of schedule on her recovery and is gearing up for a return to racing.
“The accident was unfortunate but it has had an overall positive impact on me as a driver,” she said.
“I am even more driven to prove to myself that I can do better and that I can come back stronger. Breaking my back was only a hurdle, not a roadblock.”
Herbert admits the recent COVID-19 lockdown period was a blessing in disguise as it allowed her to train at her own speed rather than commit to the pressures of a gym environment.
“The lockdown actually came as a blessing to my recovery as it allowed me to train at my own pace and not pressure myself to train as hard as the crew at the gym,” she added.
“I had lots of physio exercises which were based around strengthening up my core to help take care of my back. I’m still working away with rehab and building my training up at a safe and consistent pace. I currently feel as though I’m sitting at 95% and it’s only been five months since the injury including two wearing the back brace.”
With a full recovery on the horizon and the welcome news of New Zealand motorsport revving back into action over the coming months, Herbert is excited to put her ill-fated 2020 season behind her and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.
“2020 for me, has been a year that has cemented the idea of ‘everything happens for a reason’ in my head, that’s been the biggest thing,” she explained. “Although it’s definitely a year that we can all reflect on and learn lots from, it’s also a period that has reminded me to not take even the smallest things for granted.
“I’m totally focussed on being on the TRS grid when it forms up again, hopefully in early 2021 as normal. I am also unsure on how we will get on with funding through sponsorship but hopefully the NZ economy will continue to pick up and we will be able to approach companies which are able to get behind and support NZ drivers again.”
Herbert also added her praise to the myriad of supporters she had supporting her through her recovery despite the disturbance of the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
“It’s very important for me to publicly thank all of those who have helped me through this,” she concluded. “My family and friends, my physical coach Al and my mental skills coach Kate from KFitness NZ.
“When it came to the less desirable moments, my dad and particularly my mum and my partner Matt were there with me every step of the way. Overall, I want to say thanks to everyone who in some big or small way has helped me over the past few months including my MTF Finance family for continuing to support me, they have been a huge part of my motorsport journey to date. And all at Toyota NZ, they truly went out of their way to help myself and my family after the crash.
“Right now, I just want to get out and race.”
Main Image: Bruce Jenkins