James Courtney will miss this weekend’s V8 Supercars round at Sydney Motorsport Park after breaking two ribs and injuring his lungs in a freak pitlane accident on Friday.
The Holden Racing Team driver was struck in the chest by debris blown over by a low-flying Navy helicopter during a military demonstration before the day’s second practice session.
The 2010 series champion had lifted his arms to try protect his face from the piece of hoarding outside the team’s garage, but instead was hit in the ribs.
Courtney was taken to the medical centre for checks, before being transported to Westmead Hospital for further assessment.
Scans revealed two fractured ribs and a pneumothorax – a pocket of air between the ribs and lungs.
“It creates pressure on the lungs and makes breathing difficult,” HRT said in a statement.
“Courtney will remain in hospital for a couple of days to receive treatment.”
The Royal Australian Navy and V8 Supercars have launched investigations into the incident.
Co-driver Jack Perkins took Courtney’s place in the No.22 Commodore for the day’s final session, and would do so for the rest of the weekend.
The 35-year-old earlier tweeted a photo of himself in the back of the ambulance wearing an oxygen mask and wires attached to his chest.
“Didn’t think this was going to happen today … Doc has me flying,” he posted.
Courtney sits fifth on the championship standings, 371 points behind Ford’s leader Mark Winterbottom.
Missing the round’s three sprint races – the last before the endurance series – will put a huge dent in his hopes of a second title.
The Sydney-born driver has had one victory and four other podiums so far this season.