Billy Monger is ‘changing gear’ once again

Saturday:Billy Monger: Changing Gear; (Channel 4, 8pm)

Friday, 20th August 2021, 5:00 pm

Chances are, if you’re not a karting nut or heavily into Formula car racing, then you probably don’t know much about Billy Monger – affectionately known as BillyWhizz.

He was a baby-faced star on the UK karting circuit, much like adored Formula One champions Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, and graduated in 2016 to the F4 competition, taking an impressive three podiums and a pole position in his first season, and finishing 12th overall.

However, just one year later Billy’s life would be changed forever.

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On April 16 at the Donington Park track, Billy smashed into a stationary, unsighted car at 120 miles per hour, a crash described as one of the most horrific in British motorsport. After being trapped in his car for over 90 minutes, he was airlifted to hospital in Nottingham where, despite doctors’ best efforts, his lower legs could not be saved and were amputated.

You might think the story ends there, but Billy is nothing if not determined.

Just months later he walked a part of the Donington track, before announcing he would return to racing, this time in the Formula 3 competition, renowned for producing legends including Aryton Senna, Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo.

In March 2018, he took part in the British F3 Championship, driving a car specially modified by Carlin. Billy started in fifth position and finished in third – and walked onto the podium.

This incredible young man said: “All the support just makes me more determined to get back in the car and win again. That’s my goal.”

That would be enough of an achievement, considering the enormous life change he has faced and overcome, but Billy is a long way from done.

This powerful documentary follows him as he immerses himself in the world of Paralympic sport. This involves taking on one of the biggest challenges of his life: learning to run again.

As the Tokyo Paralympics get under way this week, giving us the opportunity to watch athletes who have overcome amazing odds to make it to Japan, cameras follow Billy as he trains alongside some of Britain’s biggest Paralympic stars and gains an understanding of what it takes to become an elite Paralympic athlete.

Billy swims in open water with Alice Tai and canoes with Charlotte Henshaw. He is also fitted with his very first running blades and, under the guidance of Paralympic legend Jonnie Peacock, attempts to sprint for the very first time.

In this powerful, insightful and often amusing film, Billy throws himself wholeheartedly into the sports, ending with an emotional run at Donington, taking him back to the place where his life was changed irrevocably.

You don’t have to know anything about Billy Monger’s incredible reserves of courage and determination before you tune in to the documentary, but we can guarantee this young man will have inspired anyone watching before the credits roll, and his amazing story will stay with you for a long time afterward.

That’s our kind of superstar.

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