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VIDEO: Veteran racer Rod Birley in 130mph crash at Brands Hatch

By Dan Wright

A veteran racing driver says he is lucky to be alive after a terrifying 130mph crash at Brands Hatch.

West Kingsdown's Rod Birley, 62, was competing in a Quaife Modified Saloon Car Championship race at the British Truck Racing event on Sunday.

The Ford Escort driver, who lives just a stone's throw away from the circuit, collided heavily with the pit wall following contact with BMW driver Graham Crowhurst.

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Birley makes impact with the pit wall. Picture: Digitex Television

"Luckily the head and neck support (HANS) device saved me because without it I would have broken my neck for sure," Birley said.

"The doctor said it would have been a totally different story if it wasn't for the HANS, which is a bit worrying but also reassuring at the same time.

"The impact broke my helmet as the straps pulled with so much force when hitting the wall. I also had really bad vision for a while - my eye ball had actually moved forward with the force."

Birley's car crossed the finish line. Picture: Digitex Television
Rescue crews rush to Birley's aid. Picture: Digitex Television

Birley, who has won an incredible 624 races in his glittering career, crossed the finish line backwards in the accident, which happened on the last lap.

The mighty impact, which ripped the exhaust off the Escort and caused extensive front-end damage, was recorded at a staggering 6G.

"It was a 130mph crash and it was the biggest one of my career," Birley added.

Birley has won more than 600 races. Picture: MSV

"I had a few big ones when I was racing hot rods, but they were between 70mph or 80mph.

"I only remember seeing the wall coming at an alarming rate - I was slightly out of it after that, but was aware what was going on."

Birley, who was rushed to hospital in Farnborough, was tested for internal bleeding but suffered only bruising to his spleen and ribs.

He was released from hospital on Sunday evening.

VIDEO: Veteran racer in 130mph crash at Brands Hatch. Credit: Digitex Television

"My Escort is a bit of a mess at the moment," Birley added.

"It is difficult to say what will happen with the car - I couldn't face looking at it when I got home from hospital because of the damage.

"But I am built of strong stuff and I will be back out racing as soon as I can be."

Birley in action before the accident. Picture: Simon Hildrew
Rescue crews help Birley out of the car following the crash. Picture: Simon Hildrew

Crowhurst had crossed the line first following the contact with Birley, but was later handed a five-second penalty for 'driving in a manner incompatible with general safety'.

The penalty handed Birley - who started racing in 1973 - his 624th career victory, edging him closer towards Gerry Marshall’s 625 triumphs, which is the most in British motor racing history.

Marshall's victory tally is disputed, however, with some publications reporting he won 623 times, meaning Birley may have already broken the record.

Sellindge racer Andy Banham won the second Quaife Modified Saloon Car Championship race on Sunday in his Subaru Impreza, beating Crowhurst and Matthew Turner to the flag.

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