A lot of people get into racing because it's fun, or because they have the money behind them to do it, or simply because their parents did it. Not Rob Parsons. Paralyzed in a horrific accident two years ago, he's building a race car for a reason. He's not trying to repair his body. He's trying to repair the world.
On June 5th, 2011, Rob was involved in a dirtbike accident. He went off a jump, hit a crappy line, and his tail shot off the edge of a berm. He ditched his bike, and, thinking he was going to hit a fence, he tensed his body, ready for the impact. He landed stiff-legged on the ground, and the force went shooting all the way up through his body. He broke both legs instantly, including the tibias, fibulas, and femurs. But his spine completely sheared off, severing his spinal cord at the T9 level. One of his ribs also pierced his own lung.
He spent six months in the hospital.
Where he caught E. coli.
That almost killed him.
After getting out of the hospital, Rob tried all of the traditional wheelchair-related sports activities, like basketball and skiing. Unfortunately, he was always attracted to things which an engine, which basketballs and skis do not have. It's not like they're handing out adaptive race cars like hotcakes, though.
So he decided to build his own racer. He started with a Nissan 180SX, and has completely built it into a an adaptive Formula Drift car. Seriously, if you can't watch the video above and holy crap you should, Rob's done a lot of the building himself, legs be damned:
The cars hand controls are a bunch of products and ideas out together to make a cheap affordable system that others could possibly purchase. Basically the system has electronic gear shifter made by Mastershift and to actuate the clutch I designed a system that uses an electro hydraulic pump which moves the slave cylinder via a voltage signal voltage directly dictates how much pressure is supplied to the slave and in turn you have full range and full control of the clutch.
The accelerator is a redundant system with a ring around the middle of the steering wheel plus a hand control that you push down on and the brake is a mechanical system still which uses a rod from the hand control to the brake pedal and you basically push forward to stop.
So yeah, literally building the whole thing. As for the engine, he started with a GM LS1, then slapped on a Vortech supercharger, all sorts of racing lubrication and cooling goodies, and did a whole bunch of other things to make maximum power.
He's built the whole thing by himself with the help of a few friends and the support of a few sponsors, but this isn't one of those stories where some guy gets hurt and then he just goes back racing and he lives happily ever after, just having fun for its own sake.
Rob's not planning on taking the car into competition, but rather he's organizing an adaptive motorsports clinic for other people who have been similarly injured. He's giving hope to the auto enthusiasts who've felt like racing is a closed book, and making the world that much brighter.
We've seen racers, such as Alex Zanardi and Robert Kubica, who have suffered horrific injuries in the past, but this is the first time I've personally heard from a racer suffer a tragic setback and then use that as the sole starting off point for something even better, just to help other people. I met Rob in person when I was in Las Vegas, and I can personally assure you the guy is the real deal.
Rob and his team have been shooting a documentary from the very beginning, and are still looking for additional sponsorship. The car should be ready for its first shakedown at Willow Springs just after Christmas, with at least three adaptive motorsports clinics set for the 2014 season.
The documentary is still filming right now, but judging by the brief trailer they've released, it looks like it's going to be great. In more ways than one. After the events of the past 24 hours, we all need some good news.