'I can't breathe': The front row seat to Tassie terror

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 26/03/2021
  • By James Pavey

Will Davison has several positive memories of Symmons Plains, but one day in particular lives in infamy for the two-time Bathurst winner.

April 8, 2017. The day featured rain, with the third race of the season beginning just as the sun poked through the Tasmanian clouds.

As the field rounded Turn 3, all hell broke loose as Garth Tander was turned in front of the chasing pack.

Aboard his #19 Tekno Commodore, Davison, who started from the rear of the field, was one of the chasers blinded by the spray.


Unbeknownst to Davison, all hell was breaking loose, with 12 cars caught up in the dramatic melee.

The Woodstock-backed Tekno entry was one of them, Davison suffering the biggest impact of them all.

"It was a horrible shunt in treacherous conditions,” the Shell V-Power Racing Team driver told Supercars.com.

"I unfortunately started at the rear for that race because of a red flag in a wet qualifying session.

"I think everyone saw the outcome of a blocked track at 220km/h.

It was a war zone after the accident

"Driving into a blind wall of spray was a pretty horrifying thing to be faced with."

Davison careened into the side of Rick Kelly's Nissan Altima at high speed.

The impact was registered at a staggering 42G, with the Davison and Kelly cars mangled wrecks among the steaming dozen in front of stunned spectators.

As the spray settled, drivers slowly emerged from their damaged cars, with the red flag immediately waved.

For Davison, it wasn't so simple; he suffered a small break to a right sided transverse process, which is attached to a vertebrae.

Davison's car was wrecked

He also suffered concussion and general bruising, but the adrenalin coursing through his body initially saw his just try and get out of his car.

"I recall it all, I definitely didn't black out," he said.

"I remember the impact; I was pretty winded initially, and I heard the ringing in my head.

"In the seconds after, I felt the immediate pain in my back, and I began to panic.

"From my stomach down to my legs, I couldn't really feel that much for a while there.

The damaged Tekno Commodore

"There was that brief moment when all I wanted to do was jump out of the car.”

It would take until the early hours of Sunday morning at Launceston General Hospital before he was able to sleep due to the excruciating pain.

So severe was his pain, that he didn't fly back home until the Monday.

After the impact, he tried to walk to safety, but his legs began to give way, and the concussion and back pain set in.

"There was a distinct feeling of, 'I can't breathe', and I needed to get out," he said.

Kelly escaped with a minor ankle injury

"I jumped out as quickly as I could, just to make sure everything still worked.

"I took a few steps, and my legs started collapsing beneath me.

"When I sat on the grass verge, I started blacking out. I can't remember much from that point.

"Everything started to go white and faded; that wasn't a nice feeling.

"Not being able to feel much from the stomach down was the worst part."

Few were spared in the 12-car melee

A year earlier, Davison was the beneficiary of a late Shane van Gisbergen error to win his first race for Tekno, before going on to clinch a fairytale Bathurst win later in the year.

Fast forward to 2021, and Davison is trying to fast-track his return to Dick Johnson Racing, sitting sixth in the standings after the opening two rounds at Mount Panorama and Sandown.

While buoyed by his team's growing momentum despite a trying Sandown weekend, Davison was keen to return to a track he has had success at, even if it was the scene of his biggest accident.

"I've had a lot great moments in Tassie over the years, a lot of awesome memories," he said.

The race was brought to an immediate halt

"What happened in 2017 wasn't one of them, but I'm I'll go there with eyes completely open, with a great team and a great car.

"I know what it takes to be quick there, hopefully we can put it together and start stepping it up that little bit more."

The Repco Supercars Championship field will return to Symmons Plains for the Beaurepaires Tasmania SuperSprint across April 10-11. Tickets are on sale now.

The event will be broadcast live on Foxtel and will be streamed on Kayo.

Related Content
Stay In The Know
Sign up to the Repco Supercars Championship Newsletter