Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Blind man, 79, drives sports car at 110mph

A BLIND pensioner from Henley drove a £130,000 sports car around a race track at speeds of up to 110mph.

A BLIND pensioner from Henley drove a £130,000 sports car around a race track at speeds of up to 110mph.

Brian Head, 79, of West Street, completed 10 laps at Heyford Park, near Bicester, in a Ferrari F360.

The retired marketing manager and City stockbroker was accompanied by a sighted instructor who gave him directions.

It was the first time Mr Head had driven since losing his sight four years ago. He went blind overnight following emergency surgery to remove a tumour on his pituitary gland.

Mr Head had to complete one lap of the course driving a slower car to prove his capability.

The track is 1.5 miles and consists of two long straight sections connected by two chicanes and a right-hand bend.

The Ferrari had a 3.6-litre V8 engine with a top speed of 186mph and was capable of reaching 60mph in just over four seconds.

Mr Head was allowed to drive at full throttle on the straights. After completing his 10 laps, he was given a certificate.

He said: “I hadn’t driven in eight years but it all came back to me. I was fine as soon as the car started to move.

“The instructor was just giving simple commands like ‘brake’ or ‘hard left’ and then he’d tell me to ‘give it the guns’ on the straights.

“It was absolutely incredible — a really thrilling experience. I went downhill skiing for the first time in my life last year but this was like all the thrill of that compacted into an hour-and-a-half.

“A lot of people were horrified when I told them what I did. They’ve said, ‘you’re crazy’ but the instructor knew what he was doing so it was fine as far as I was concerned.”

The day was organised by iCan, a company that arranges adventure days for people with disabilities. It contacted Mr Head through Henley Blind Club.

Since losing his sight, Mr Head has embarked on a series of challenges to prove blind people need not be held back by their condition.

Last year, he and his friend Richard Butler-Creagh cycled 35km on a tandem bike and raised £4,860 for the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed.

The charity cared for his 46-year-old son Anthony in the months before his death in November 2011.

Mr Head also plays golf and is a member of the Reading Rambling Club, with whom he walks up to 10 miles regularly.

Last week, he and a partially-sighted friend tackled the first 1,000 feet of Ben Vorlich, a Munro above Loch Earn in Scotland.

Later this month, he will take part in Royal Southampton Yacht Club’s blind sailing week as part of a crew of five.

The team, two of whom are blind, will cruise around the Solent and visit other ports along the south coast.

Mr Head said: “I enjoy a challenge — that’s why I do all these things.

“Going blind overnight is something you don’t expect but when I awoke in intensive care after the operation I realised I was just lucky to be alive.

“I live on my own and keep my house clean, cook for myself, do my own laundry and dress myself rather smartly, I hope.

“I want to show that blind people can do things that other people wouldn’t expect them to do. They’re quite normal, in other words.”

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