I have never broken a bone. Looking back, I don’t know how.
I was a bit of an out-of-control kid. There were always wheels beneath me. I just lived and breathed anything that had wheels. I used to be a terror on a pushbike, always trying to do stupid tricks.
When I was two, I smashed all my teeth out on a trike. I was flying down a hill barefoot and hit the kerb and knocked all my teeth out. That’s why I’ve got pretty crooked teeth and weird-looking fillings.
But obviously the crash I’m best known was last year at Sandown. You never want to be remembered for a crash. I don’t just want to be known as the guy who flipped in the air six times at Sandown.
It helps me sleep at night knowing that it really wasn’t my fault. It also helped winning last year’s Dunlop Super2 Series. It was good to achieve that, and to be lining up in the 2018 Supercar Championship driving for Matt Stone Racing.
But a lot of people have seen the crash and I can understand why they’re interested in it.
🚩 RED FLAG 🚩
Todd Hazelwood and Jonathon Webb have had a huge crash at the Esses.
— Supercars (@supercars) September 16, 2017
As soon as I hit the wall, the first thing I thought of – and you’re thinking all this pretty quickly – was ‘oh shit, this is going to be big’. I also remember thinking I didn’t want to break any bones because I was racing in half an hour’s time.
Going in backwards to that part of the fence, I knew I was either going to end up in the crowd or on my head. I’ve never felt anything like it.
All drivers who have raced at Sandown would have had a bit of a moment at turn six. It’s the fastest part of the track, the corner where you need the most commitment. Nine times out of ten, guys are pretty sensible there, but we’re all aware of the risks involved. It doesn’t take much to go wrong and she’s all over.
It felt like I was in the air for 10 seconds, like it was happening in slow motion. When I hit the wall, I felt like I was winded and the whole way through the roll I was holding onto my chest because I wasn’t sure if I’d broken a rib.
When the car came to a stop, I was like ‘oh shit, what have I done?’
The first thing I did was undo my belt, not realising the car was on its side because I had my glasses on and they were covered in mud. I half fell out the car. It was all a bit messy.
Then when I undid the belts, I was literally just punching my chest to see if I had a broken rib and to make sure I was all intact. I knew I was very lucky to be OK.
The medical staff checked right over me afterwards, from my mental state to my physical state. They were really good. At first they weren’t going to let me race but I was pretty firm with them that it was definitely happening. I felt physically fine.
So I guess my main emotion was relief, but there was also disappointment at the same time, knowing that the car was completely totalled. Brad Jones Racing had already had a tremendously tough year, and that was my first race with them. To have that happen was just absolutely gut-wrenching and not something I want to go through any time soon.
But that’s all part of our sport. And as they say, you’ve got to have one big one. Craig Lowndes actually pulled me aside afterwards and said ‘we’ve all been there, what matters is how you bounce back’. So onwards and upwards from here. Sometimes you’ve just got to look back and laugh and move on.
GETTING IN THE ZONE
I’m really excited about racing in my home town of Adelaide this weekend. We’ve been so busy in the lead-up, been working day and night as a team just to make the event. It’s been a massive workload since the last round of the Super2 Series in Newcastle last year.
To finally be here at the event is a weight off the shoulders, a real relief. I’m feeling quite relaxed, but no doubt, on Saturday and Sunday the nerves will start to creep up, and sitting there on the start line I’ll probably be nervous as hell.
My mind wanders all over the place before a race. I think the worst part is when you’re sitting out there on the grid so long, especially in Adelaide where you’ve got that big grandstand on the left hand side, then all the people in corporate on the right hand side hanging off the fence. It’s quite a surreal feeling when you think about what you’re signing yourself up for.
But once you get the helmet on, you do switch off from all that. It might sound clichéd, but once the motor’s running, you’re just looking at that start light trying to get the best start you can.
Racing a Supercar is a feeling like nothing I’ve been able to replicate in life. You can’t match it. The noise and atmosphere around you, the speed that you feel, the adrenaline that you get from doing it lap after lap is like nothing else.
It’s quite strange. At the start of the race the blood’s pumping and you’re thinking at a million miles an hour. But you’ve actually got to get yourself out of that zone and almost let the car just do its thing.
I know that sounds a bit weird, but you’re almost driving subconsciously. The car’s just doing everything you want it to, and you’re just letting instinct take over until everything becomes, not easy, but you get into a rhythm where lap after lap, you’re almost not thinking about what you’re doing.
If you can get into that state of mind, it certainly helps you get consistent results and keep the car on the track, especially at an event like Adelaide where it’s 250 kays long both Saturday and Sunday. It’s pretty tough mentally.
But I think the biggest buzz that we get out of our sport is the feeling of success. You put so much hard work in, whether it’s mental training, physical training or the work at the workshop. To get a result out of that, there’s no reward like it. That’s what all of us drivers strive for, that feeling of success.
A PUNT ON AN UNKNOWN YOUNGSTER
Matt Stone’s a great guy. I’ve known him since 2014. He is the son of Stone Brothers Racing co-owner Jim, and obviously I was well aware who the Stone brothers were growing up as a kid, because I was a one-eyed Ford supporter and followed them very closely.
But Matt didn’t know me from a bar of soap and I didn’t know him that well either when we first met when I was 17. He said I looked like a 12-year-old. There’s always been a bit of fun banter between us about that.
I think he saw a bit of potential in me after I won the third season of the Shannon’s Supercar Showdown, which was a reality TV show. He actually called South Australian businessman and former team owner James Rosenberg and said, ‘what do you think of this young South Australian? I don’t know much about him’.
James put a good word in for me, which I wasn’t aware of at the time because I wasn’t associated with James either. It’s funny how the worlds have all aligned and now we’re in partnership together in 2018.
As they say, you’ve got to have one big one crash.
Matt’s a tremendously hardworking guy. He’s actually been sleeping at the workshop the past week in the lead-up to this week’s first round in Adelaide, because he’s been working there day and night.
I think that gives you an appreciation of how hard this guy works. They’ve only got a small team, but from what we’ve built together over the last year and how far he’s come since 2014, it’s quite remarkable.
It’s fantastic to have Jimmy there too, but it is very much Matt’s team and I’m hoping that Matt will get the recognition he deserves because he’s put a lot of hard work into getting where he is today. He’s super smart, he’s a mechanic, an electrician, and also runs the team successfully.
He’s also really easygoing. For instance, we haven’t had a contract for four years now, which gives you an appreciation of how much trust there is between the two of us.
THE MAKINGS OF A SIZZLING CAREER
Mum and dad always said I used to be the weirdest kid in the world. I used to get up early in the morning before kindy and school and watch Bathurst and race weekend replays, and any motor sport I could watch on a DVD or the old VHS we used to have.
I think I was probably slightly obsessed but you need that passion and drive when you’re at this level of the sport, and I think that’s helped me become the person I am today.
We wouldn’t be racing today if it wasn’t for what mum and dad have done behind the scenes. Sponsorship is a tough game, and when I was in junior categories stepping up, we certainly didn’t have any money from sponsorship.
So I was selling fundraiser chocolates at school, and selling snags on weekends and just trying to do anything to try to get a few bob together to try and put it towards the racing.
I know how to cook a snag, put it that way.
2017 – The year of my dreams becoming true! 🏁 Massive thank you to all the people who made it a year I will never forget. So fortunate to have so many amazing people in my life assisting me with my dreams. As a team, we achieved so much more in 2017 than I could ever imagined! Honestly it's hard to believe what was achieved. To end 2017 as a champion in Super2 is everything I wanted to achieve this year. Super special and will never forget this season. For me, there is nothing more rewarding in life than working hard, dreaming big and achieving. As one chapter closes in 2017, a whole new challenge arises in 2018. I cannot wait for the new year and what lies ahead. I hope everyone enjoys the last moments of 2017 and I wish you all the best to everyone in 2018! 💪🏼#dreambig
Mum and dad worked fulltime and still do, so for them to squeeze in time helping me with fundraising on weekends when dad was working night shift and whatnot, it was tough. When I moved to Queensland a couple of years ago, the hardest thing was knowing that I wouldn’t be able to do the fundraiser BBQs with them.
People used to say, ‘What do you get out of selling sausages, that only puts a few litres in the car?’. But by the time you sell 20 or 30 kilos by the end of a weekend, it starts to add up. Lucky they taste good!
Looking back now, I’m very fortunate to have had the support of my parents and a close network of people who have helped me achieved what we did last year, which was a dream come true. I can’t wait for what comes next.
Todd Hazelwood - Contributor