Blind Doctor Drives Toyota GT86 on Test Track – Sets Fifth Fastest Lap Time

By Steve & Tamami Laser

As a first-response medic, Dr. Amit Patel knew how to drive fast in emergency situations. Yet he hasn’t been behind the wheel of a car for the last six years – due to sudden and complete blindness. He contacted Toyota GB last year with a request: “Help me drive again.”

To help Patel realize his dream, Toyota GB enlisted the help of performance driving instructor Mark Watkins. After practicing on a closed airstrip in a Yaris Hybrid, Patel graduated to a GT86 (above) with a manual gearbox. Patel and Watkins later reunited at a well-known venue to record lap times.

Watch Patel drive the GT86 on a closed-circuit test track in this video from the Toyota GB YouTube channel, and listen as Watkins guides him around the circuit from the passenger’s seat. (video: Toyota GB)

“…It’s funny how things come back to you – the sound of the engine, the gear changes, the clutch and brake,” said Patel. “But then driving, and not knowing where you’re driving, that’s the insane part.”

“Amit was immediately natural behind the wheel,” said Watkins (above left), who is experienced working with blind and partially sighted people on off-road test tracks. “What impressed me all the way through was how he was just so smooth.”

Dunsfold Aerodrome Track in Surrey has become famous following its use as a test-car circuit in episodes of a well-known TV car show. It can also be booked for driving experience and track day events.

This video shows how they did it: While Watkins gave Patel expert guidance regarding steering, braking, and acceleration, Patel had full responsibility for driving as the GT86 was not equipped with dual controls. (video: Toyota GB)

With two days to practice, and more than 40 laps completed, Patel and Watkins recorded their final, and best run of an amazing one minute 45.58 seconds. According to Toyota GB, that’s the fifth fastest recorded lap time at the circuit.

The above photo show Patel, Watkins, and the filming, logistics, and safety crew, following the fastest lap at Dunsfold.

“Blindness is always going to be in my life, but I don’t wake up in the morning and dwell on it, I just get on with it,” said Patel. “That’s easy to say now, but five years ago it wasn’t. I have a wonderful wife who helped me out when I needed it and gave me the motivation, and we have an amazing two-and-a-half-year-old son. In my head I can see a smile on his face and he’s proud of what his dad’s achieved.”

Toyota GB says that Patel’s determination to not let his blindness hold him back is a perfect expression of “Start Your Impossible.” Toyota’s global campaign encourages people to overcome their hurdles to mobility and personal achievement. “Start Your Impossible” reflects Toyota’s evolution from a vehicle manufacturer to a mobility provider and supports its eight-year partnership with the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees.

News source, photos and videos courtesy Toyota (GB) PLC

Story (text intro and commentary) © 2019