After my rally car accident in 2011, I was told I would never race a car or ski again. To be back doing the sports I love has not been easy. Whilst I still love rallying, right now my focus is all on skiing and competing for ParalympicsGB at the Winter Paralympic games next month.
It was a pleasure speaking with Motorsport News about my story, with the full interview below.
How Lloyd is Back on the Stage and Slopes
“I wouldn’t drive a rally car or ski again, those words stuck in my head, and I wanted to prove them all wrong.”
That’s Chris Lloyd, like many of you reading this feature, he’s a rally competitor and a rally fan. But his life changed forever in 2011.
“It was at Caerwent [Patriot Stages Rally], it was a round of the MSA Asphalt Championship,” he adds. “I can remember coming up to a corner flat out…and it wasn’t a flat-out corner…
“The car left the road and I remember holding on to the steering wheel. The car flipped for a distance that equated to about a rugby pitch and a half. When we were in the air we hit a tree, which caved the roof forcing it downward into my head, which broke my back and damaged my spinal cord.”
Three-and-a-half months in hospital followed for the 43-year-old from Pontypridd in South Wales, where he was told he probably wouldn’t rally or ski again. He’d be lucky just to walk.
But, almost seven years on, it’s a different Chris Lloyd on the phone. He’s battle scarred but has come through with incredible modesty, as he chats to MNfrom Switzerland about his first love of skiing.
The injury caused a loss of use in his limbs, and he’s had to work hard and train hard to regain usage.
What you probably don’t know yet, is the timeline of his injury to present day ends with him being in next month’s Winter Paralympics, representing Great Britain. He competes in Giant Slalom, Super Combined, Super-G and Downhill.
“Nothing was natural,” says Lloyd. None of what he says comes across as a plea for pity. It’s the most matter-of fact manner of delivery.
“I was paralysed from the neck down after the accident, I had to learn to do everything again –to use my hands, my legs. Everything was new again to me.
“A year after being out of hospital I strapped some skis to my legs. I had Lloyd competed on Nicky Grist to learn to do that again as well. My muscles were a lot different and I had to start from scratch.
“I’ve been aiming for the Paralympics for a while. I went to Sochi in 2014 as part of a programme of people who were expected to make [the event in] 2018. It was the beginning of last year before I had any [sporting] injuries, the ligaments in my knee. But I had some good results and I was able to qualify.”
Lloyd is driven by competition. It’s what he loved about getting started and competing in rallying, and it’s what drove him to prove the consultant wrong seven years before. They thought he would struggle to do all the things he did before the crash. But he treated that as a challenge.
“It’s an amazing feeling to represent my country and to do my family proud,” says Lloyd. “It’s a privilege. There’s been a lot of work to get from leaving hospital to get to where we are now, but it’s all worth it. My family have been incredible, and I’ve had support from friends.”
OK, that’s enough about skiing. What about the rallying?
“I had a friend who was into rallying and I went to a few events with him and took an interest in it,” he adds. “I bought an old Escort Mk2 and did some forest events, I caught the bug from there.
Probably the highlight of my career was my first closed-road event in Jersey.
“I think we started at car 60-odd and by the end of the first day we were fourth. That was probably one of the best memories I have as I didn’t expect to be that close on my first ever closed-road event.”
Despite the seismic shift in his life since his crash, Lloyd has always wanted to get back in the rally seat. And you’ll be pleased to know he has. He returned in 2014, and while it took a while to get back to it, he’s competed ever since.
Psychologically, it was scary getting back in a car,” continues Lloyd. “After the first two or three events your love for the sport overcomes the fear you have. The adrenaline comes back. The nerves have gone once you get going.
“It’s the buzz, trying to go as fast as you possibly can, whatever you’re doing, it’s a great feeling. “I operate the car as normal. If you saw me now you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with me.
I’ve gained back 50 per cent of the power back in my legs now, so it’s not too difficult to operate.”
Lloyd has always driven Melvyn Evans Motorsport Ford Escort Mk2s, and continues to do so, with a bright yellow model getting a run out on the Nicky Grist Stages back in July. But there’s been a hiatus from rallying while his assault on the Winter Paralympics takes shape.
“I won’t do any rallying for a while, the focus is on the Paralympics in March,” Lloyd concludes. “I still want to compete afterwards and that hasn’t changed.”
As a rally fan, and if you needed any incentive to keep an eye on the Brits at the Winter Paralympics, there really should be one man you’re supporting above the rest.