Franchitti writes for

Dario Franchitti starts the 2000 ChampCar series as one of the title favourites. An accident at Spring Training in early February set his programme back, but now he has passed his medical test, and is working hard on his fitness as he prepares for the first race at Miami on March 26. Dario, McLaren Autosport BRDC winner in 1992, will be reporting for after every race this year. Here is the first of his columns

Franchitti writes for

Firstly I must say a big thank you to everyone who sent me get well messages after my accident at Spring Training. It's been great, flowers, messages, e-mails, chocolates. It's nice when you see that kind of support, when everybody wants you to get better. I've had loads of messages from other drivers as well. Max Papis said "Hurry up and get better so I can kick your ass!" So I sent one back saying: "Yeah right, dream on buster...!"

But seriously, it was an unbelievable amount of messages. The most amazing thing was that I got one from former World Motorcycle Champion Mick Doohan the other day. That was cool. He'd been at dinner with a friend of mine and he asked about me. My friend told me about it and gave me his e-mail address, so I sent Mick a quick message saying thanks for your thoughts. There I am sitting back thinking about what I've got wrong with me, and Mick sends me a message back telling me his things and what he's going through, and I'm thinking... "Hmmm... I'm a lucky boy!"

I had Ford Rally driver Colin McRae, Robert Reid, who is Richard Burns' co-driver and McLaren Formula 1driver David Coulthard on the phone as well. They all made the effort to call and say hope you're feeling OK. And Paul Stewart, Andrew Kircaldy, all the guys from Mercedes in Germany, a lot of the drivers from ChampCar and of course everyone at Honda, Team KOOL Green, Brown & Williamson and Klein Tools.

I had a fax from one guy, David Cawthorne, who's another Scot that grew up with David Coulthard. He'd obviously had great difficulty getting the fax number at the hospital. So when he finally succeeded in persuading one of the night duty nurses to give him the number, he waited until the next day, and sent his fax which opened with a very uncomplimentary joke about the attitudes of the day staff at the hospital! The nurse who passed the fax to me was not amused... She'd obviously read the start of it! His message went on from there, with the style of humour that only Cawthorne can manage. It was unbelievable. I laughed so much that I had to stop reading it, it was hurting.
It's great that they are taking an interest and that they care. It feels like everyone I've ever been in touch with throughout my whole career has been on the phone, which has been lovely.

While we are on the subject of get well messages, I must send my best wishes to my engineer Steve Challis. Steve had a stroke in December, but he's getting better every day. He was at Homestead for Spring Training, and he's been back again testing with Team KOOL Green with my team mate Paul Tracy. He's still not 100% but he's improving every day. The guy's amazing. When you think of the stuff that's happened to him in the last few months - he was Greg Moore's engineer for so long, so he had Greg's accident, then his stroke, and then my accident -- and the guy's still upbeat, still pushing. I saw him the first day after his stroke where he could basically hardly move and then all of a sudden he's back with us at Spring Training. I remember I was talking with Tino Belli, the engineer who's running my car at the moment, and the three of us were conferencing. Steve would be there agreeing with what we thought, and Tino and I would put our bits in. We were getting on really well like that. I guess we're kind of the 'disabled team' at the moment!

I really miss the driving a lot, but it's amazing how much time just getting better takes up. This week they let me off my crutches for the first time, which was a bit of a result. I'd been walking for a little bit without crutches anyway, so the Doctor said: "OK, you can go without them." He reckons I'm about two weeks ahead of where I should be with an injury like I had. So that's quite good. I was quite happy with that.

I'm not allowed to drive on the road yet, so I haven't driven for a month. I'm well out of practice! Hopefully they're going to clear me in the medical later this week.

At the moment I'm in physiotherapy five days a week. And when I'm not I'm training for two hours every day. It's only been upper bodywork so far, but now I can begin work my legs. My friends joked that with me working on my upper body only that I'd end up with arms like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Well, I'm working on it!

The only thing I haven't managed to work on is my neck. I was a bit worried about doing that with the head injury and stuff, so I'm allowed to start that now too, and it's good that I can work on that as well.

My right leg's fine, it was OK after the crash. But because the fractures were the left side of the pelvis I haven't been able to use my left leg. One of the fractures was right where the pelvis joins the ball from the leg, so I have to be careful not to bust that up.
On Saturday and Sunday, when I'm not in physio, I'm in the gym. It's focused me a lot more, but mentally I feel great. I wake up in the morning and I feel fine. Then I would see the crutches and remember I have to walk around with them. So it's nice to finally discard those and walk normally. My head's been fine really, I had a few headaches early on, but since then nothing.

More than anything it's been frustrating. That's been the worst thing, I hadn't done much testing over the winter and the test at Sebring had gone reasonably well. Homestead was shaping up to be really good. Well, actually I don't remember much about it! But looking at the times and stuff, reading the test report and talking to the engineers afterwards we were reasonably on the pace straight away, and I hadn't driven on an oval for over two months. So we were pretty happy, then all of a sudden that happens.

Everybody always complains about not getting any time off, being busy all the time. Well, I had November and most of December off, and then a lot of January as well. I had it all planned and then this happened. I've certainly had enough time off now! I've been reading all the news websites, seeing what's going on.

I've been building a radio-controlled aeroplane which I got for Christmas and I'm just putting the finishing touches to that. I think I've made a really good job of building it, and I'm going to take it out and fly it for the first time soon. I've heard it's pretty difficult so I fully expect to be rebuilding it in the near future! Should be fun.

But my only real focus is getting my championship challenge on the move. Now that I've been cleared to drive in the first race, I really feel raring to go -- my motivation is sky high. I don't think I've ever been as determined and focused. Hopefully we'll have good news to report next time.

Meanwhile, it's back to physio and the gym for me.

Franchitti cleared to race in Miami

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