She’d collided with the car driven by Japan’s Sho Tsuboi and soared over the safety barriers before crashing with a sickening thud.

Floersch was just 17 at the time, and as the crowd gasped in horror, the immediate reaction of observers was to question how anyone could survive such a crash.

Somehow Floersch did survive, though she fractured her spine.

Following a week in hospital in Macau — during which she underwent an 11-hour operation to repair the fracture and remove a bone splinter that was dangerously close to her spinal cord — Floersch returned home and remarkably, just four months after her horrifying crash, was back in the driver’s seat.

Looking back on the incident — which she doesn’t tend to do “apart from in interviews” — it feels like it happened to someone else, according to Floersch.

“If I watched the video, I still don’t believe it’s me flying there just because it didn’t feel like this when I was in a car,” Floersch told CNN Sport.

“Of course, I’ve committed crashes already, a long time ago. Apart from interviews, I don’t really think or talk about it anymore because it feels like ages ago.”

The road back

Floersch received an outpouring of support after the video of her crash in Macau went viral on the internet.

During her rehab after surgery, she lost seven kilograms of muscle mass and felt like “a grandma” in the gym, but never felt like she wouldn’t return to racing.

“It was always clear to come back, to drive again, to race again and to fight for my dream,” said Floersch, who was honored for her determination with the World Comeback of the Year award at the 2020 Laureus World Sports Awards.

“I was sure to come back and I knew that the quicker I’m going to have my muscles back again, the quicker the rehab is going to be and I’m able to be in the car again. That was actually what kept me going and what kept me pushing each day even harder.”

Floersch’s Wolverine-like recovery had her back in the car in just a few months, and rather than denting her confidence, the crash and her recovery seems to have had the reverse effect.

“I think I even had more confidence. In this time when I was not allowed to drive, I saw everyone driving somewhere else because they had winter tests going on.

“It was actually probably the hardest time knowing that I’m not able to drive and that made me realize even more how important the sport is to me and kind of grew my confidence. If I’m in the car now, I enjoy it more and I’m more thankful for what I’m able to do.”

Floersch credits "several people" for helping her make such a swift comeback from her crash.

‘Women still have to prove ourselves’

Last year, Floersch raced in the inaugural season of the Formula Regional European Championship, finishing seventh overall.

Before motorsport was put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, it had been announced she would become the first woman to race in the new F3 series — following the merger of the GP3 series and European F3 in 2019 — after signing with Campos Racing for the 2020 season.

She also was part of the first all-female Le Mans team (alongside Katherine Legge and Tatiana Calderon) to sign up for the 24-hour race since 1991.

And although being teammates with Legge and Calderon is a “huge honor” for Floersch, she was quick to point out being an all-female team shouldn’t be such a big deal because, in driving, gender shouldn’t affect speed.

“It’s not about having more muscles or so. There’s more factors which are playing in. I think women can do the same and women can drive a car as quickly as a man and drive it on the limit the same,” said Floersch, who has been using a racing simulator to keep sharp with no actual racing happening.

“There was never a really successful woman in the class of motorsport, but it is for sure possible.

“A lot of things have changed during the past years. I think for sure change is going on in the business. But in the end, I think women still have to prove ourselves; we still have to prove it and win championships and against men and not against other women.”

Floersch rides in a simulator during her home training, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

Trailblazing

Motorsport is in Floersch’s blood. Her father drove karts and she got her first taste of being behind the wheel when she was just four years old.

It was just a “hobby” for Floersch at first, but as she started to race more, and motivated by the success of her German compatriot, four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel, conjured up dreams of winning a championship herself.

“I always watched his races and I was always like: ‘I want to be there once.’ So of course, you dream of it. But you’re small and so, so far away, especially when you’re in karting.”

Floersch’s rise through the racing ranks has been impressive. As she progressed through the racing formats, she regularly set records for being both the youngest driver and the first female driver.

For Floersch, "there was no mental struggle" during her recovery from her crash because her to return to the track was clear for her.

Being the first female came with its challenges, though, in particular finding people “who believe in you.”

“There are people who say: ‘You’re a woman, you’re not going to make it,'” Floersch explains. “But in the end, this just motivates myself even more.

“I think as a woman, a struggle you have is to find people to give you money for it. Everyone knows that the sport is really expensive and you can spend a lot of money just for going testing during [the] winter period or so.

“And that’s kind of the struggle you have as a woman, to find companies who believe in you, who trust you to beat the man and to get the same chances and possibilities.”



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