Three years ago, following a severe crash in a Formula Renault 2.0 car, Alfonso “Picho” Toledano was faced with the prospect of losing both his legs. He was told that amputation was imminent and he would never race again. Difficult words for anyone to grasp, but even more difficult for a 17-year-old kid whose dream – for the past 13 years – was to become a professional racecar driver. The outlook was so disheartening and dreadful that Toledano refused to accept it.
The accident happened in 2007, at the Ponce Circuit in Puerto Rico. Toledano came through a blind corner and lost his brakes before impacting another car which had come to a halt due to a previous incident. Both of Toledano’s legs sustained multiple fractures in the crash. While laying in a Puerto Rican hospital bed, it was suggested, by the FIA, that he be flown to Indianapolis, Indiana for a comprehensive examination by OrthoIndy. Toledano wasn’t about to argue. The doctors in Indianapolis – who had experience working with the IRL – were a bit more familiar with this type of injury and suggested immediate surgery. Not that there was any other option at that point, but they remained relatively sanguine about saving his legs. The first surgery, on his right leg, lasted eight hours. The very next week, he underwent surgery on his left leg. All together he had 18 surgeries.
After spending nearly ten months immobile, Toledano began looking at the “Road to Recovery” with hopes of getting back into a car. In the fall of 2008, he jumped back into a Formula BMW car without the slightest hint of reticence. He ran four races in the Formula BMW-Americas series and two races in the Formula BMW-Pacific series in order to prepare for the 2008 World Final – which was being held in his home country – at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico. He finished 16th in the World Final, but knew he had more. “I think maybe something inside me changed after my accident,” Toledano said. “I knew I had to push myself to do better. I had mixed feelings following the race in Mexico. The results didn’t stand out on paper, but, all things considered, running that close to the front-runners was actually pretty good.”
When asked if he had any difficulty getting back in the car he responded, “Absolutely not!” His emphatic response is quite telling, actually. By all reports, Toledano’s attitude and work ethic are second to none. He took the 2009-10 race seasons off, in order to adequately heal, work on fitness, and to develop relationships with sponsors. He spent the last month training at PitFit in Indianapolis in order to make sure he wasn’t limiting himself physically.
“He’s a great kid,” said Jim Leo, President of PitFit Training, Inc. “He works harder than anyone I’ve ever trained. From the moment we finished his initial assessment, Picho basically never stopped in his pursuit of optimal fitness. He obviously is a very focused young man who has a clear vision of where he has been, and where he wants to be.”
According to Leo, Toledano’s fitness was very average at first. He weighed in at 157-lbs. with 17.64% body fat. Toledano doesn’t like the word average. After one month, he lost nearly four pounds, reducing his body fat percentage by 15.25%. His reaction time was better (twenty percent better to be exact), and his flexibility was increased by an astonishing 50%. I managed to get his full assessment from PitFit – you can view it here.
Despite the severity of his accident very few modifications were made to his training regimen. “We were made very aware of Picho’s accident in the months prior to him coming to see us,” said Leo “and we conferred with Dr. Trammels nurse Denise Titus to get specifics on the injuries. We didn’t baby him. He suffered with the other drivers. It was amazing to see his transformation,” continued Leo, “and heartwarming to see his effect on our other drivers. He certainly has made a name amongst our elite crew of drivers and we can’t wait to get him back to Indianapolis and see him in a car for 2011.”
Toledano remains focused on finding a full-time open-wheel ride in 2011, preferably in Star Mazda or Indy Lights. But, his ultimate goal is to race, and win, in IndyCar and the Indy 500. But that’s not all, he has other aspirations as well. “I’ve always wanted to be a guy that inspired people, a good guy that motivates others,” said Toledano, in a phone conversation just before heading back home to Mexico. “That’s what I want.”
It’s safe to say he’s already an inspirational figure to those involved in motorsports.