'Am I going to die, Dr John?"

"I'm a bit busy at the moment, mate, but I'll let you know shortly."

This was the dialogue between newly anointed New Zealand land speed record holder Owen Evans and Dr John Elliott on June 2, 1996 in a paddock off the arrow-straight Goudies Rd in Reporoa, as the physician put his Hippocratic Oath into top gear.

Earlier that day, Evans' Porsche clocked 216.385 miles per hour (348km/h) to break the national record by almost 20mph.


Despite travelling at enough velocity to disorientate a speed camera, Evans' ambition simmered.

He sought the world Porsche record at just over 220mph (354km/h). Then a rear tyre exploded.

"I could hear a noise in the rear which I thought was the turbo charge detonating, so I took my hand off the steering wheel to click in more fuel," Evans says. "It made more noise. I thought I'd abort because something might be wrong with the motor. I eased off the accelerator to stop and ... bang.

"I can just about remember every blade of grass. The whole situation slowed down. You're thinking survival. Images of my family flashed through my mind. I think I actually got up there [to heaven] but he said, 'you owe too much money so go back and pay a few more bills'. No one should have survived that."

Evans regained consciousness but was peering into a mortal abyss.

Dr Elliott, who was in attendance in case anything went wrong, worked to get oxygen to his punctured lungs and stabbed enough syringes of adrenaline into his heart to make a St John's ambulance officer faint at the scene. It wasn't like he could do much more damage.

Evans had bones poking out the legs of his overalls, a stellate fracture of the skull causing bleeding in the ears and there were concerns about his internal organs. He also took on what he describes as "enough morphine to kill an elephant".

"It was an unbelievable advertisement for safety standards," says Elliott, who witnesses claim leapt a deer fence like a pole vaulter to get to his friend. "That was more like an aviation accident than a car accident. Parts were strewn along the route until we eventually got to the shell of the car with Owen in it. Then ordinary people with a common love for motorsport started helping in an extraordinary situation. No one said, 'I can't do this'. They just helped as best they could."

Evans was told he would likely lose his left arm, which had almost been severed in the accident, but asked it remain in case he might drive again (he needed one to hold the wheel while the other changed gears).

He woke up in intensive care, stayed blind for about two weeks because of the impact of the G-forces and faced further operations and antibiotics to counter infection. Evans spent three months in hospital and years rehabilitating and now has limited use of the arm.

"It was the first time I'd ever broken a bone," Evans says. "The doctors said there was no guarantee I'd get back the use of my arm but it was worth a shot."

Evans has since passed on a key message to his racing driver sons Simon and Mitch.

"My boys were doing Formula Ford and their mate Michael McHugh got killed. I realised I needed to know they were doing it because they wanted to and not because their dad drove. They were determined to stick at it.

"Motorsport's dangerous, but so is driving home. I went back racing two years later [after my accident] because I love it. My [panel and paint] business and motor racing are my passions. If I keel over tomorrow, at least I enjoyed myself."