Loss of leg only makes him faster
Kurt Kossmann only has one leg, but it
hasn't stopped him from being
competitive.

  
BUDDY SHACKLETTE - STAFF WRITER
January 26, 2008; Page 02D


DAYTONA BEACH -- DAYTONA BEACH - Kurt Kossmann made his
second start Friday at Daytona International Speedway, but his
first on four wheels.

The fact Kossmann raced in the BMW Boxer Cup motorcycle race
here five years ago and drove in the KONI Challenge's Fresh From
Florida 200 on Friday might seem commonplace if it wasn't for one
thing - he did both with just one leg.


The 36-year old, who had his left leg amputated above the knee 20
years ago, drives with a prosthesis he designed to enable him to
compress and depress the clutch while shifting and racing.

"I designed it and went and talked to a group in New Hampshire
and we sat down and did it together. They did the final assembly
and all of that. I used part of a socket from my original leg and we
came up with some other interesting designs more specific to the
race car as far as safety," Kossmann said. "I've used it since 1989
and never had an issue with it at all."

Koffmann was in the lead for the championship in Formula 2000
cars in Canada in 1988 when the 16-year old realized he had a
lump in his left leg.

It was diagnosed as an osterosarcoma, one of the most-aggressive
forms of bone cancer.

Without treatment he was given six weeks to three months to live.
Even with amputation and treatment, Kossmann was given just a
30 percent chance to live.

"It's indescribable how you feel. It just takes the wind right out of
you. I had such aspirations to do this professionally and be an
IndyCar driver and all that sort of thing," Kossmann said. "It was a
huge hit on multiple fronts. I'm losing the leg, I'm probably not
going to live and I don't get to do really what I love to do. The
racing thing at the time was one of the things that kept me going."

Kossmann underwent 13 months of chemotherapy and in 1989 he
entered a Porsche Turbo Cup Series race at Mont Tremblant
Raceway.

Before he was allowed back on the track he was tested to see how
quickly he could exit the car and be extracted from it. On both
occasions he was twice as fast.

"When I was getting my licensing back I went through some of the
toughest sanctioning bodies specifically so I knew I wouldn't be
turned down once I got this approval," Kossmann said.

Over the years he's competed in the Barber Saab Pro Series,
Formula 2000, Honda Michelin Challenge and now he's a full-time
driver in the No. 11 GS Mustang, which finished 21st in Friday's
93-car KONI Challenge Series event.

"He is better than me and I still wonder how he does it," said Steve
Kent, co-driver of the No. 11 Emerald Hill Motorsports entry. "I'm
running first (in the race) because the fastest guy always goes
last."

It takes just 32 seconds for Kossmann and Kent to do a driver
change and though he walks with a small limp, the situation hasn't
slowed Kossman down.

He is an FAA-licensed pilot with a seaplane rating and is also a
USCG-licensed captain with a 100-ton masters endorsement.

He also owns a water sports company on Cape Cod.

"It's interesting that I can continue on undaunted by it. I think a lot
of it is just staying focused and being positive and a lot of it is just
not thinking about the tragic aspect of it and trying to take a
positive view," Kossmann said. "It's hard to do some days. I'd like
to be able to run around like everybody else, but I can't complain
because I survived the thing."
Cutline: Kurt Kossmann prepares to compete in the KONI
Challenge on Friday at Daytona International Speedway.
Kossman's team finished 21st in the event.


News-Journal/ NIGEL COOK