Fittipaldi can race again

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Emerson Fittipaldi, the former Formula One world champion who underwent neck surgery after a horrific crash in Sunday's IndyCar Michigan 500, was told yesterday that he would be able to race again.

Doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami spent five hours on Monday night repairing a fractured cervical vertebra. The 49-year-old Brazilian broke the bone at the base of his neck in a crash after the first lap of the Marlboro 500 at Michigan International Speedway.

On Monday he was transferred to Florida by air ambulance and, following surgery, his doctors said he could be racing again by the autumn. "He had one severe injury. It's close to miraculous that he wasn't paralysed," said Barth Green, the neurosurgeon who led a team of specialists in the operation.

Green said Fittipaldi was "very lucky - I imagine he'll have just about complete use of his head and neck". Fittipaldi also suffered a partially collapsed lung and a blood clot in his back.

Fittipaldi clipped Greg Moore's car while trying to squeeze by the Canadian. His car smashed against the wall, spilling fuel and trailing flames for hundreds of feet. Rescuers took 15 minutes to extract Fittipaldi from the wreckage.