Horror crash racer Franck Petricola is back for North West 200
Fearless French road racer Franck Petricola has told why he is returning to ride again in the high speed Ulster race that almost claimed his life a year ago.
Petricola (31) was not expected to survive, let alone race again, when he suffered his horrific injuries in practice for the North West 200, near Portrush.
The 80mph smash on the coast road section of the circuit left Petricola in a coma.
He also suffered multiple injuries in his collision with a lamp post, breaking two vertebrae, his left arm, his right elbow and right leg, several ribs and perforating his lungs, but the most serious injury was to his head.
But now, after a miracle recovery, he is back racing and preparing to ride again at next month's North West.
The Superbike rider revealed he took into account the concern of his family and friends as he lay in a coma in Belfast hospital.
But he insisted: "I am ready for it. I am a big boy. When you ride in a road race you know it is possible to have a hard crash like this. It is not a problem.
"For me there was a bit of pain, yes, but for my family and friends it was a very hard experience when I was in the coma."
Petricola has no memory of the crash but he even joked: "It was the day after my birthday and I got a lot of broken bones as a present."
The English-based Ice Valley BMW team rider, from the small town of Longwy on the Belgian border, survived the huge impact thanks to prompt medical attention at the scene by the race medical team who then transferred him by helicopter to the Royal Victoria Hospital.
In a coma, his life hung in the balance for several days before he eventually regained consciousness.
"I hit my head and there was bleeding on my brain because of the trauma," he recalls.
"At first I had no memory at all. I didn't even know that I was at the North West when I woke up, I just saw all my family there at the bedside."
Fellow riders were astonished to see Petricola make his racing return in his first roads event since the crash at Scarborough last weekend, and he says he can't wait to get back to Portrush.
"This year I want to have a lot of fun at the North West," he said.
"I would love to be the fastest newcomer but I know my place, my level, because there are very fast riders from England and Ireland there." Incredibly, it is the sheer speed of the North West that still attracts Petricola so much.
"When I saw a map of the North West course before I came, I thought it is fast but not really amazing," he said.
"But on my first lap I thought it was incredible. It was so fast and bumpy, especially the bit in the town, under the railway bridge. I love this track."
Petricola admits he was nervous going back onto the grid at Scarborough but insisted: "There was no fear. I am happy now, it is OK."
North West 200 event director Mervyn Whyte said he will be delighted to see Petricola back racing at Portrush.
"Franck has made a great recovery and we will welcome him back to the paddock in May," he said.
"There are always risks in road racing but the North West organisers work tirelessly year after year to try to minimise the dangers and make the race as safe as possible for the competitors.
"The medical facilities we have in place at road races in Ireland provide the fastest response times for any motorsport event in the world.
"Franck owes his life to the men and women who provide that service and we are all very grateful to them for the brilliant work that they do."