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Auer returns to Austria after surgery for broken vertebrae

Factory Mercedes GT driver Lucas Auer has returned to his native home of Austria after undergoing a successful surgery for fractured vertebrae in the United States.

Lucas Auer, Mercedes-AMG Team WINWARD

Auer was involved in a violent crash in the opening practice for January’s Daytona 24 Hours, the 28-year-old smashing head-on into a concrete wall at Turn 1 in his #53 Winward Mercedes-AMG GT3 car.

He had to be transported to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach where the full extent of his injuries were revealed, and he was subsequently operated upon in the same facility.

The original plan had been for Auer to complete rehabilitation in the US, but with the surgery being completed without any complications, he was able to fly back to Austria earlier than previously expected to continue his recovery.

"I’m finally back home,” said Auer, who finished runner-up in the DTM standings last year. "That was a very moving moment when I found out that everything went well.

"Home is home. On top of that, I've been feeling better day by day. That was not so foreseeable after the first few days. Hence my decision to make the long flight."

#57 Winward Racing Mercedes AMG GT3: Russell Ward, Philip Ellis, Lucas Auer, Indy Dontje

#57 Winward Racing Mercedes AMG GT3: Russell Ward, Philip Ellis, Lucas Auer, Indy Dontje

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

Auer’s injury has naturally impacted his racing programme for 2023 so far, with the 28-year-old missing both the Daytona IMSA event as well as February’s Bathurst 12 Hour, which he was due to contest with the Craft-Bamboo team.

However, Winward is providing full support to Auer while he completes a full recovery and expects the Austrian driver to be fit for the 2023 DTM season, which will begin later-than-usual in May following the series’ takeover by the ADAC.

"As of today, we are planning [the season] 100 per cent with Luggi Auer and are fully behind him," Winward team boss Christian Hohenadel told Autosport's sister title Motorsport-Total.com.

"Of course, we have to wait for the rehab, but we assume that he will be recovered by the start of the season.

"We have discussed the entry with the ADAC, but we don't want to talk about driver names or the number of cars in public.

"He has worked with us for two years now and is going into his third year. He's like a team member for us, because since he's been back at Mercedes he's been driving for us.

"If he is fit and the healing process is accordingly successful, we will plan with him, especially since the season starts late.”

Hohenadal described Auer as a “fighter”, adding: “One day after the operation he was already up again. 

“He is highly motivated and has said to me that he will come back even stronger when he has survived this. 

“He said that had not only to do with the accident, but also with the circumstances: He was badly injured, in a foreign country and so on."

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