Born in Canada, Robert Wickens was lighting ’em up in Europe, winning an FIA F2 round from the pole and capturing a Formula Renault 3.5 championship before switching to IndyCar with an eye on Formula 1. Things were going great, as Wickens scored a pole and four podium finishes in 2018 as a rookie for then-Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, in addition to Rookie of the Year honors at that year’s Indianapolis 500. Then came the IndyCar round at Pocono. Wickens brushed wheels with Ryan Hunter-Reay and was launched skyward into the catch fencing at more than 200 MPH. The car disintegrated and left Wickens a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair. It took Wickens another 989 days of rehabilitation to get back behind the wheel of a racing car, but yesterday, he did it. Here’s how.
Wickens’ long list of injuries from the Pocono wreck included a thoracic spinal fracture, spinal cord injury, neck fracture, tibia and fibula fractures to both legs, fractures in both hands, a fractured right forearm, fractured elbow, a concussion, four fractured ribs and a pulmonary contusion. The journey of healing brought Wickens to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, where he lapped a hand-controlled Hyundai Veloster N TCR prepared by Bryan Herta Autosport, which prepares the factory cars that Hyundai races in IMSA competition. Herta’s team already has a driver, Michael Johnson, who is confined to a wheelchair and run the Veloster N TCR in IMSA. Johnson and Herta prepared a Hyundai for Wickens whose hand controls are operated by rods and cables attached to machined rings mounted ahead and behind the actual steering wheel, plus paddle shifters. By no means is the final stop for Wickens, whose return to the cockpit is being managed by Herta and Hyundai.