Blind drivers get behind the wheel on F1 track

Blind drivers get behind the wheel on F1 track
A blind man at the racetrack during the event in Jarama. Photo: Dani Pozo / AFP
Scores of blind and partially-sighted people got behind the wheel Thursday and sped around a former Formula One racetrack in what organisers said was the first such rally in Spain.

“It was a terrific experience. We got up to 92 kilometres (57 miles) per hour,” said Jorge Macauda, 53, after taking a spin, accompanied by an instructor, on the Jarama racetrack near Madrid.

Macauda is totally blind having gradually lost his sight as an adult.

The rally was organised by ONCE, a big and influential Spanish charity for the blind, along with carmaker Seat and the Spanish Royal Automobile Club.

They said it was the first such activity for the blind held in Spain.Similar drives have been held elsewhere, including ones in the United States with cars developed by Google.

“We are not telling the blind that they are going to start driving again,” an ONCE spokesman said.

“What we are doing is trying to integrate them as much as possible in society, to help them feel independent.”

About 60 blind drivers did two laps each of the circuit in cars equipped with emergency automatic braking and speed-control systems, with professional copilots telling them when to steer.

“You really have to concentrate. The copilot talks you through it and tells you when there's a sharp bend,” Macauda, who works for ONCE, told AFP.

“I cried. I hadn't driven a car for 30 years.”

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