15 February 2011
By Cheryl Tay
HE SUFFERED two major car crashes during his fast and furious days, and is paying the price for it a decade later.
Mr Lawrence Lee was an avid track enthusiast who often drove up Malaysia’s North-South Expressway to get his regular need for speed at the Sepang International Circuit.
However, he has stopped doing so, owing to the physical injuries and mental stress he suffered from such hard driving.
“The real pain came only much later in life,” Mr Lee said. “I experienced a lot of pain even though I had not injured myself or done anything strenuous. It’s a relapse of my past injuries, which I didn’t expect.
“My whole lifestyle changed drastically as I had to cut down on physical activity and practise yoga daily to heal my body.”
Nowadays, the 31-year-old managing director of local workshop Fong Mui Garage R focuses on developing a winning race team – HKS Garage R Racing – and actively promotes driver safety in motor sports by relating his own experiences.
Last year, he took on an exclusive dealership for French racewear manufacturer Stand21 after experiencing how its products greatly improve the safety of race drivers.
Stand21 created the world’s first “breathable” racing suit, which is made with fabric that allows sweat to evaporate. It is also one of only two global licensees for producing the Head and Neck Support (Hans) device.
Mr Yves Morizot, founder and president of Stand21, started his business after watching his friend’s race car catch fire.
“After seeing what happened to my friend, I decided to pursue a cause dedicated to safety,” said the 64-year-old Frenchman.
“So, I saved up for three years, then set up my own shop at the age of 22. It wasn’t easy; I was running a one-man operation and I had to wash the windows of other shops to pay the bills.”
Embracing the principle of protecting a driver from head to toe, Stand21 prides itself on making made-to-measure safety gear for racing drivers, instead of massproduced standard sizes sold off the shelves.
For example, a racing suit can be fully customised, from body-fitting measurements right down to suit design, and even stitch colour.
Stand21′s products are also backed by advanced safety technologies such as Heat Stress Control, a medical-research programme that resulted in innovations such as breathable, stretchable and fireproof fabric.
After using Stand21 products, Mr Lee realised the significance of safety gear and how it could save lives and help drivers achieve peak performance.
He said: “Back in the days when I was still tracking, driver-safety equipment like the Hans device was not common. The impact of crashes was greatest on my neck, shoulders and back.”
Mr Lee hopes to educate today’s drivers about the importance of safety gear to prevent others from going through the same torture and immense pain that he did.
In motor racing, where there is hardly any room for error, as a mistake can be fatal, such safety apparel and devices go a long way towards prolonging a race driver’s career.