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Saturday, October 20, 2012
Burton upbeat during recovery

By Jim Wilkie
ESPN.com

Global RallyCross driver Richard Burton is keeping a positive outlook while he recovers from severe back injuries he suffered in a crash off the jump ramp Sept. 29 during a Round five heat at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After fracturing his back and displacing a vertebrae and spending four days in hospital in Las Vegas, Burton has returned home to Toronto where he will be in a back brace for five more weeks before he can begin "tons of physio [therapy]."

"The good news is that vertebrae has moved slightly back towards its natural position, which is good because it's away from the spine, the spinal column," Burton said Tuesday in a phone interview. "So that's when the decision was made that everything's good, it's stable, we can just brace this and then we'll assess it in five to six weeks. So I mean, honestly it's the best possible outcome."

Burton was also glad he didn't need surgery to install a metal plate to prevent the vertebrae from moving closer to the spinal chord, though "the first 10 days kinda sucked" because of the pain and a lack of mobility that had him needing a walker and wheelchair.

"A no surgery scenario is the best possible scenario," Burton said.

Richard Burton
Richard Burton's car crashes during Heat 1 of the Global RallyCross Round 5 in Las Vegas.

Recalling the race, Burton said he hit the brakes on his Subaru WRX STi before reaching the jump because he realized he'd be at least 5 mph short of the minimum speed to clear the 70-foot gap.

"When I realized that I managed to get the car slowed down to pretty frigging slow, actually, but when it touched the ramp it just became essentially a curling stone," Burton said with a laugh. "That's why I pitched the car sideways because initially when I came up to the ramp, I didn't even think I was going to go a car length up the ramp. But when it touched that ramp, that was it. It almost felt like the car sped up, which is why I pitched the car sideways because I realized the car was going to go over and I didn't want to have a head-on crash [into the jump landing].

"If I had continued on I would have been short of the minimum speed, which would have been a much worse crash. So all said and done, this is the best that could have come out of it. That's why I'm pretty positive."

He said his muscles tensed up during the slide and 10-foot drop to the concrete track. "And it felt like you would think it would feel. It definitely wasn't like landing on a set of big pillow of feathers," Burton said.

Besides having to skip the final round of the Global RallyCross season Oct. 30 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Burton will miss out on the opportunity to meet with potential sponsors at the Specialty Equipment Market Association [SEMA] Show that is taking place at the same time. A privateer without the financial support that the bigger teams have, Burton said he and his group had been trying to establish a program for next year, but "now everything is up in the air."

"Obviously not being able to do this SEMA finale is a bit of a setback for us, for the team, but we're certainly going to continue to try and get sponsorship and funding for next year," Burton said.

Though he's been more focused on his recovery and finding a title sponsor for 2013, Burton said a lot of the drive train is salvageable.

"Actually the car was running when it came to a stop," he said. "And then it was shut off and then obviously there was a fire. So I haven't had a chance to kind of assess that. But we'll see. And it's unfortunate because we had had some issues at previous rounds. And those issues had all been resolved. … A substantial amount of work went in to make sure that would not happen again."