FROM a horror crash which left him with 64 broken bones and 30 facial fractures to making national and state finals the following year - that is the remarkable journey of Sean Griffiths.
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The Bathurst sidecar racer was left with horrific injuries after hitting the wall at the Kings and Queens Of Canberra dirt track meeting in 2021.
But, nine surgeries later, his passion for the sport still burned deeply.
When the Bathurst Long Track Masters was staged in the city for the first time in seven years in March, Griffiths was back racing.
He went on to place fourth at both the Australian Senior Track Championships and the Victorian Dirt Track Championships in 2022.
So why return to racing sidecars when an error in the sport left him lucky to even be able to sit on a bike again?
Griffiths said: "Why not?"
"It's my time away from everything I don't have to think about anything, I can relax."
Griffiths' passion for racing certainly runs deep. In 2017 he once drove 10,000 kilometres in five weeks to attend sidecar meetings across Australia.
He'd raced not only at Bathurst and Cowra, but tackled tracks in places such as Mildura, Bega, Wagga Wagga, Tamworth, Brisbane and Griffith.
But it was racing at Canberra in 2021 that left him broken, bloodied and bruised.
"The King and Queens is a pretty big event once a year, it's run over a weekend," he said.
"We were sitting pretty, we were sitting in third spot in this particular race and third overall for the weekend, it looked like we were going to get a good run.
"There's one corner which is known to be the dangerous corner, you either overrun it and go straight into the wall or when you're coming out of it, it will sweep you off the track into the wall.
"The only way to do it is to come in, cut your corner and then give it everything it's got, because you will slide.
"But the wider I got, the more traction I got, so by the third lap my passenger was signing out to me 'Go wide, go wide' and I did. But over the course of the day there was a wind road right on the edge and I got up on top of that and as I was straightening up out of the corner and ready to dial it on, it slid off and put me into the wall."
Griffiths said "I don't know how my leg didn't get squashed" as he hit a point in the plywood barrier supported steal post at around 140km/hr.
The post snapped and the bike stopped. It threw him back onto the track.
While he said initially he felt okay and not in pain, things then went black.
"I couldn't work out what the black was because I didn't pass out. It was the bike behind me, it run me over full on," he said.
"We've only got 60 mil clearance and he was full noise. Even then, when I stopped rolling, I didn't feel too bad considering."
But Griffiths' injuries were extensive.
Medics rushed to his aid and he was taken to hospital in Canberra to undergo an MRI and series of x-rays.
The immediate concern was the possibility of his lungs collapsing and while Griffiths avoided that scenario, the crash still took a heavy toll.
He was left with 64 broken bones, including three in his neck, both shoulders and collarbones and every rib.
Griffiths also had up to 30 facial fractures.
After a week spent in hospital in Canberra, Griffiths' wife Lisa was able to bring him back to Bathurst.
Some eight weeks later he underwent the first of what would be nine surgeries to help repair his broken body.
"That first one was on my collarbone, I've got a titanium plate now about five inches long with 25 screws in it and they're not taking them out," he said.
"I had one shoulder done then the other shoulder done by a surgeon from Sydney who came down to Bathurst. He said to me 'Look I can't fix it, but I can clean it up so you have no pain and full movement until you're about 60 and we'll do a full replacement.' I thought that was good."
Those shoulder operations involved cutting his bicep tendons, the medial tendons and having his rotator cuffs taken out.
It was a process that eliminated any shoulder pain he had and restored movement. Though he was lacking in strength, Griffiths was determined to return to racing.
His wife was not so sure that was a good idea.
"Lisa give me the big 'I think you should quit' and I said 'Look I'll compromise, I'll back off, I won't chase the titles'," Griffiths said.
"If there's one close and I go to it and I get the opportunity I'll give it a go, otherwise I'm just going to do laps and have fun.
"She was alright with that, but she worries."
Griffiths entered the Bathurst Long Track Masters, but he still needed a passenger for his sidecar.
He found a willing participant in the crowd, nicknamed 'Ruby'. She'd never been involved in sidecar racing before, but she enjoyed her debut.
With Ruby keen to get more experience and Griffiths' having had more time to heal, in September they headed to Forbes' Daroobalgie race track for the Australian Senior Track Championships.
They were there to "fill numbers only", but they found themselves in the final.
It was a high speed finale and there were some nervous moments.
"We jumped well out the gate in second and held our place until I missed a gear," Griffiths said.
"I was stuck in first [gear] for two laps and we dropped to last. With two laps to go I got third gear and we made our way back to fourth.
"There was once on each of the last two laps where I though we were into the wall, there was nothing I could do because we were already three-quarters of the way across the track.
"I just had to hold it, but at the last second I felt Ruby move and when she moved and the weight changed, it just gripped, stood up on it's back wheel and away we went."
Though happy with the result, the effort it took Griffiths to hold on the the bike showed. He was exhausted.
"I was just spent, we were doing some big laps. In comparison we've done the same sized track in the final before, four laps, three and a half minutes, at Forbes we were doing it in under two, we did 23 second laps," he said.
"That's about 185-190 kay all the way around."
After that, in early December the duo decided to head to the Dirt Track Championships in Broadford.
"We went all the way to just outside Melbourne for the state titles," Griffiths said.
"Again it was a very successful weekend, we finished fourth again.
"So to end the year with top four in state and national titles was pretty good."
Pretty good indeed given what Griffiths had overcome to get back on a bike.
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