Jason Watt

Just 11 months after a motorbike accident which left him paralysed from the chest down, former F3000 frontrunner Jason Watt returned to international competition in the eighth round of the Sports Racing World Cup, at the Nürburgring, scene of his final F3000 win.

Jason Watt

Part of the all-Danish Den Bla Avis team, he started the two-and-a-half hour race at the wheel of a specially-adapted Panoz Spyder using hand controls for the throttle and brakes.

"I hadn't had much practice, so I was a bit nervous, and took it easy," a smiling Jason said after the Den Bla Avis car he shared with fellow Danes Karsten Ree and Jasper Carlsen finished 10th. "Once a dry line started to appear, I was able to get used to the car, which was good. I could see John Nielsen in the other car, and I was actually quicker than him. It's important to show that I can still race, still be competitive. After all, 11 months ago I was in hospital, and they were telling my family that they didn't think I'd live."

Jason's weekend started on the Friday, when, with the agreement of the rest of the SRWC field, he did six laps of the Nurburgring before the official practice sessions started.

"By the third lap, I'd got to grips with it," he said. The special hand controls, adapted from those he uses to control his Peugeot in the Danish Touring Car Championship, include mechanical devices for the brakes and clutch, and F1-style devices behind the steering wheel for the accelerator. "It's most difficult in sharp turns," he explained. "And it's quite difficult to control 600 bhp with your fingertips."

The Panoz might not have been an obvious choice for a first-ever sportscar experience, but Jason was very pleased to be able to race. "I'm so happy to be here, and it's fantastic that Karsten Ree and Den Bla Avis, for whom I raced in F3000, have given me this opportunity." He joined a strong contingent of his former F3000 opponents on the SRWC grid, including Soheil Ayari, David Terrien, Werner Lupberger and Dino Morelli.

Qualifying, however, did not go quite to plan. "I was really enjoying it, until the second lap in qualifying, when I forgot to adjust the brakes to the rear, and went off in the Veedol chicane, hitting a lump of plastic. It wasn't that hard, but I damaged the front, taking some of the carbon off the monocoque," Jason said.

"It's 11 months since the accident, and I've definitely surprised a few people," Jason continued. "When I started racing in the Danish Touring Car Championship, everyone said how nice it was to have me back. But they were unsure as to how close I was to my old self. Now, I think I'm back to 95% of what I was before - and this is only the early stages. It's important for me to impress people."

Now Jason is beginning to widen his horizons, in terms of further competition. He had to do an extraction test, which took him around seven seconds. "Karsten Ree said he couldn't get out that quickly !" he joked. "I now have a licence which allows me to do anything apart from F1 and F3000.

"Realistically, anything is possible. Obviously, the DTM is high on my priority list," the former ITC Alfa Romeo driver continued. "Either something like that, or sportscars. I still have a lot to prove. This might be good PR, but it's a gamble for a team to take on a driver like me. But Den Bla Avis were willing to take that gamble - and it might have raised a few eyebrows."

Jason will be back in action in the 9th round of the SRWC, at Magny Cours, on October 1.

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