In February 1990, Michel Trolle found himself in London for additional treatment to his ankles and kness which had been smashed to pieces so badly during Free Practice for the Brands F3000 race, some 18 months previously. It had taken nine months for Trolle to take his first steps after reconstructive surgery and over a dozen operations were carried out on his broken joints and limbs.
“I had to go back to the circuit see where it all happened,” he says, 25 years on from the day his career and life changed forever. “I drove on to the circuit, it was a weekday and there was no-one around. I went to Dingle Dell in my hire car, stopped at the point where I crashed and just stared at the tyre wall in a kind of trance. A lot of people criticised the corner (which had been re-profiled ahead of the F3000 race weekend) but it was just the lack of run-off that really hurt me, not the corner or circuit itself. There were only a few metres from the kerb to the wall. No time to even prepare for an impact.”
As Trolle stared at the tyre-wall attempting to lay some of his demons to rest, an official circuit car stopped at the scene and asked Trolle to move on.
“This guy told me I was trespassing and told me to leave. I just looked at him blankly not saying a word and I got back in my car and left. It was quite an emotional moment for me but it had to be done. I had to see where everything changed for me.”
Acknowledged as one of the very best of a bright crop of French drivers, Trolle was in discussions with both Larrousse and Tyrrell for an F1 seat in 1989 and was due to sign a provisional agreement with the latter at the Belgian Grand Prix, the weekend after Brands.
He was unconscious for much of the aftermath of his accident, but was not alone during the initial phase of treatment, as Johnny Herbert remembers.
“I was sedated a lot of the time but I have a vague memory of Trolle opposite me on the ward we were in,” he says. “He obviously had a bit more morphine than me as he was completely out of it. I remember trying to whistle at him to get his attention but I couldn’t do it properly. It must have been quite a comic scene for the nurses!”