London (AFP) – Australian Grant Trask admits an arrogant streak has helped in confounding the doctors who said he would never walk again after having a leg amputated and now he is competing in the F1 powerboating world championship.
The 29-year-old is emblematic of the type of colourful character drawn to the dangerous sport with Norwegian Marit Stromoy another to have shown the headstrong qualities required in ignoring pre-conceived ideas by succeeding as a woman in a sport often dominated by men.
Not content with becoming the first woman to win an F1 World Championship GP in Sharjah, Stromoy has also forged a successful singing career back in Norway.
They will both line-up for Sunday’s Grand Prix of London — making a return to the capital city for the first time in 33 years — in a sport which requires courage and nerve in equal measure strapped into a cockpit of a machine that goes from 0-60 mph in two seconds and capable of reaching speeds of up to 140 mph.
Both Trask and Stromoy have grown up in the powerboating world.
Trask’s father and uncle competed against each other while Stromoy’s father combined being a jazz drummer with racing at the top level through the 1960s to the 1980s.
Stromoy was only four when she sat in her first engine-powered boat but Trask took longer after being hit by a car in Brisbane when he was five.
“I was hit by a drink driver and they had to amputate my right leg (above the knee),” he told AFP.
“It could have been worse — I could have been in a wheelchair.”
Trask, who won the Australian F3 title aged just 17 and went on to be crowned national F2 champion on two occasions, says it was at that point his character really shone through.
“I am very determined and was even arrogant as a kid,” he said.
“All the doctors told me I would never walk again as I broke my left leg and back as well.
“I wanted to prove them wrong and was out of there within three-and-a-half weeks and back at home in a cast.”
Trask, who is in his second year on the world championship circuit with added financial muscle having attracted a sponsor which is crucial as it costs around £500,000 ($665,000) to fund, wasn’t just content at settling for that and accepted a challenge from his father, Bob.
“Where we lived, the drive was about a kilometre long and dad said if you walk that I will buy you a motorbike and what kid doesn’t want one!” said Trask, whose father is his radio man on the circuit.
“I went out there after learning to walk again and walked it four or five times back and forth and got the bike!”
– ‘Still get goosebumps’ –
Not surprisingly given his history in setting his sights high, Trask’s goal is to win the world title, though, this year his more modest ambition is to finish in the top six and on the podium in at least one race.
Stromoy, 41, like Trask has also had to accept challenges laid down by her father — some more to her liking than others.
“He bought a piano when I was seven and I was told you and your sister must go to lessons,” she told AFP.
“I went once a week and I really dreaded it, I hated it every time I had to go there.”
However, despite her reluctance good came of it.
“Little by little I began to sing while playing and I got my first job as a piano player aged around 16 then I sang in a band and when I was 20 I became a full time musician.”
Stromoy, who for several years performed in Oslo and Copenhagen in a show she said was somewhere between a musical and Cirque de Soleil before quitting when racing became her career, says few things will rival the impact of her win in Sharjah.
“I still get goosebumps thinking of it now!” said Stromoy, who has been on the F1 circuit since 2007.
“I knew it was possible but lots of those round me didn’t think it was.”
She puts that down to a macho element.
“Believe me I know as I am married to an Italian!” she chuckled. “He is not that bad of course!”