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12. Nigel Mansell

Injury Sustained: Broken neck, broken vertebrae
Raced In: Formula One, CART, 24 Hours of Le Mans
Complex Says: Nigel Mansell's career was fraught with peril from the start. Unlike a lot of racers who have supportive family, Mansell financed a lot of it himself. Eventually, he started doing well in Formula Ford--so well that when he broke his neck during practice at the Brands Hatch round in 1977, he still went on to win that year's British Formula Ford championship. Doctors told him he'd never race again, but he moved on to Formula Three (a feeder series for F1).

During an F3 race, he broke some vertebrae in another crash but secured a test drive offer from Lotus F1 team owner Colin Chapman. Mansell wanted it so bad, he took a load of painkillers and managed to successfully land a test driver role for the Lotus team. And the rest, as they say, is history.