Bartosz Ostalowski feels the need for speed so not even losing limbs was going to stand in the way of his dream of becoming a professional racing driver.
When Bartosz lost his arms in a motorcycle accident at the age of 19 he simply adapted to his new reality so he could pursue his passion.
Bartosz (34) from Poland burns up racetracks around Europe using one foot to steer and the other for the pedals and uses his shoulders to operate the gear selector.
He’s the only professional sports driver in the world who has no arms and who drives with his feet. He has an international FIA racing licence and competes regularly in the Drift Polish Championships and European leagues.
His love for cars began at an early age and he first got behind the wheel as a child.
“When my father came back from work, he let me drive the last 20 metres from home. As child I felt that it was something amazing. I started driving a car when I was 18 and started thinking of becoming a racing driver,” Bartosz said in an interview with Drive Tribe.
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It was just after his first rally competition that his world fell apart after he lost both arms above the elbows in August 2006.
“All my life, I had done everything to become a professional driver. My studies were supposed to help me.
“I wanted to gain knowledge and experience in car construction. Suddenly everything lost its sense,” said Bartosz, in an interview with Polish newspaper Wirtualna Polska.
Inspired by a video of another armless driver in an automatic car, Bartosz regained his self-confidence and returned to his first love: racing.
In 2010, he joined the motorsport club Rzemieslink and earned his racing licence.
Soon after, he was approached by Krzysztof Oleksowicz - the founder of Inter Cars SA, who wanted to create a drift car team as drifting was increasingly popular in Poland.
Drifting is a driving technique where the driver intentionally oversteers, causing a loss of traction, while maintaining control and navigating the car through a corner.
“I agreed because drifting was growing rapidly. It is a spectacular sport and a great show. Huge engine power, smoke and speed - that's something I love.”
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Driven by his desire to prove people wrong, he started drifting professionally in 2012, at the age of 26.
“Many people said I couldn't do it. However, I didn't give up. It was my passion and my goal. I wanted to prove to people who doubted me that I was ready to compete with other drivers. I did it!
“Drifting gives me freedom because when I enter the track there is only me and my car. I am one of the drivers who compete for victory and my problems disappear.
“I am glad that I can compete with other able-bodied drivers on an equal footing. I don't have a reduced fare. When we fight on the track, each of us wants to be the best.
“The left foot is on the steering wheel, while the right handles the gas, brake, and handbrake, which is mounted as an additional pedal over the gas pedal,” said Bartosz, describing his technique to The First News.
Bartosz debuted in the Polish Drifting Championship (DMP) in 2015, and in its European equivalent a year later.
In 2017, he was featured in the famous Grand Tour TV motoring series, soundly beating fearless former Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond in a drifting challenge.
He is well on his way of achieving his goal of winning against the best drivers in the world and since his debut, has won the Automotive Influencer of the Year award.
“I am the first driver to start riding with my foot on the steering wheel and I hope that my efforts will be appreciated and remembered."
Sources: drivetribe.com, dailymail.co.uk, thefirstnews.com