An 18-year-old who broke his back in a motocross jump that went wrong has signed as a driver for Team BRIT – a record-breaking team of all-disabled racing drivers.
Noah Cosby, from Heathencote in Towcester is part of the 2023 line up of the team, which is the only competitive team of all-disabled racing drivers in the world. He has joined as a rookie and will begin competing in the Citroen C1 series from this weekend, using the team’s innovative hand control technology which enables him to drive without the use of his legs.
Noah had his first taste of motorsport when he was just five. His dad had been a motocross free rider for years and soon introduced Noah to the sport. Noah was soon riding regularly, building jumps on his grandparents’ farm, and after years of riding, set his sights on moving to the USA after finishing his education to pursue a career as a professional freestyle motocross rider, competing in the X-Games.
Shortly after the second Covid lockdown, Noah took on a shorter than usual jump, having stopped riding for a couple of months due to the pandemic. He didn’t slow down enough for the shorter distance, overshot the jump and landed flat, breaking his back.
Noah explains, “When I landed I didn’t know how bad it was. My chest slammed onto the bike and I thought I was just really badly winded. Even when I tried to get up and my legs didn’t respond, I still thought I could be fixed. When the pain kicked in I started to think it was serious but never could have imagined being paralysed.”
Noah was taken to Stoke Mandeville Hospital by ambulance and was quickly transferred to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford when doctors realised the severity of his injuries. He was operated on for 6 hours, during which 2 metal bars and 9 screws were attached to his spine to hold it into place. The impact of the fall had broken his spine at T6 and caused his spinal cord to stretch.
He spent seven weeks in John Radcliffe before transferring to Stoke Mandeville where he was restricted from leaving the ward or having visitors because of Covid restrictions. Noah is now paralysed from his ribs down. He says: “When I came out of surgery I still hadn’t had anyone say to me that I wasn’t going to be able to walk again. I was 16 and just couldn’t imagine that. I genuinely thought I was going into surgery and they were going to fix me.
“It’s been really hard, especially being so young. I’ve seen my friends going on gap years and doing things I should have been doing. I felt quite isolated because of that and have probably grown up a lot as a result. I didn’t lose hope though. I’ve always felt that I could be in a worse situation – I could have been killed. I also believe there is a hope of me walking again. I do have some feeling returning, and the only thing stopping the signals getting from my brain to my legs is scar tissue as my injury is incomplete. With medical technology as incredible as it is, I won’t lose hope that my kind of injury could be further treated.”
He returned to school to finish his A-levels. An art scholar, Noah was awarded 100% for his art project, creating a life sized acrylic sculpture of his legs following his accident, depicting the ‘heaviness of paralysis’. The work has now been entered for consideration to be displayed in the Royal Academy of Art this summer.
Noah’s father Ben set up a ‘Go Fund Me’ page to raise money to support his rehabilitation. It became the most popular page on the site and led to high profile donors such as One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson making donations. Since finishing school, he has been supported by the Matt Hampson Foundation, where he has received physical and psychological therapy sessions and a dedicated personal trainer. It is there that he met Team BRIT GT4 driver Aaron Morgan, who has a similar injury, also sustained through motocross. Aaron introduced him to the team and arranged for him to visit the HQ in Surrey where he tried out the hand controls on a racing simulator and had a tour of the team’s racing fleet.
Noah said: “I’m really excited about the season ahead. I’ve always loved cars but with my passion for skateboarding then motocross, car racing was never part of my plan. I’ve already got back into sport since my injury and in November won a downhill mountain bike race on an adapted hand cycle. Even that felt so good – I enjoy being out of my comfort zone and pushing myself hard.
“The team hand controls are amazing, I wish I could put them in my road car. It makes so much sense using that technology to make driving simpler and easier for disabled people. I’m doing everything I can to get race ready. I’m setting up a sim rig at home and am working hard on my personal training. I want to be stronger than I was before my accident. I’m a real perfectionist – when I was skateboarding and riding, I would practice and practice to learn tricks, I’m going to be the same with driving.
“Being given this chance has given me lot of the confidence I had lost back. I’m not like I was before the accident. I was always proud of my physicality, my strength and my fitness. Not being able to do the things I loved with my friends has been really hard, but now knowing I can compete in this way makes me feel more whole again.”
Noah races for the first time at Silverstone on Sunday 19th March.