Former Macau Grand Prix champion Andre Couto airlifted to Hong Kong hospital after being seriously injured in Zhuhai crash

The first and only Macanese winner of the prestigious Formula Three Macau race is recovering in a Hong Kong hospital with a fractured vertebra after a horrendous front-end smash at the China GT Championship in Zhuhai

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 July, 2017, 5:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 July, 2017, 12:46am

Former Macau Grand Prix champion Andre Couto is recovering in a Hong Kong hospital after suffering a horrendous front-end impact at the China GT Championship in Zhuhai over the weekend.

Couto, the Lisbon-born Macanese driver, who became the first and only Macau Formula Three champion at the prestigious race in 2000, had to be airlifted by helicopter from Zhuhai to Hong Kong in the early hours on Sunday after suffering a fractured L1 (lumbar) vertebra following a crash in the third round of the China GT Championship at the Zhuhai International Circuit, across the border.

According to a press statement from organisers of the China GT Championship, Couto, 40, lost control of his Spirit Z Racing Nissan NISMO GT-R GT3, which resulted in the car skating across the gravel trap and making front-end impact into the tyre barrier.

The incident occurred in Saturday’s GT3 race on lap 15 at the high speed turn 6 kink in treacherous conditions in a race that was marred by multiple incidents triggering suspension of the race no fewer than three times.

Couto was conscious and transported to Sun Yat-sen University No 5 Hospital in Zhuhai where he underwent a CT scan that revealed a fracture to his L1 vertebra. Despite the pain sustained in the 160km/h impact, Couto was talking and in good spirits, surrounded by family and friends as well as personnel from the China GT Championship.

Couto’s father, Carlos, had earlier said that his son was not in a life-threatening situation and needed to be immobilised so that he could be transported to Hong Kong, where he is recovering at Canossa Hospital on The Peak.

“He is in stable and not in a critical life condition, but was seriously hurt. He is going to be transferred now to Hong Kong by helicopter for further surgery due to a broken vertebra,” said Carlos Couto on Saturday in his Facebook page.

“We will post further news as soon as we have them. May the force be with you!”

Andre Couto has experienced personal tragedy before when his young son, Afonso, died of leukaemia in 2010 despite finding a suitable bone marrow donor in Germany.

Hong Kong driver Adderly Fong Cheun-yue is also competing at the China GT Championship and heard news of the crash but was “sure” his friend would make a speedy recovery as he was “under good care”.

“He is a really strong driver and he will recover in no time. It’s very unfortunate that this has happened to Andre. He’s an extremely experienced and talented driver so it’s sad that a good friend [had hurt himself]. I have known him since I started my career, through my coach Michael Ho, both of whom are former Macanese drivers. We have a very close relationship. Just to see that happen to a friend is not nice to see.”

Meanwhile, Fong finished eighth in the third round of the China GT Championship after qualifying in pole position in the race but he had to retire his car in the fourth round on Sunday.

“It was a real messy weekend, We had the pace in practice. It was a great challenge in Zhuhai with the ever-changing weather conditions. It’s been intermittent showers every hour,” said Fong.

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“Unfortunately we had a bit of a mechanical failure with the suspension on right real [tyre] so that put us on the back foot because we didn’t get much time to practice and we went straight into qualifying.

“We started race two in second but already on the formation lap, my teammate [Thailand’s Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak] said there was a loss of power and after the car came back into the pits, the problem was getting worse and one of the turbos gave up on lap three. All in all, we had to DNF [retire] the car,” he said.