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Robert Wickens Just Drove a Race Car for the First Time Since 2018

Road & Track logo Road & Track 5/4/2021 Chris Perkins
diagram: At a rain-soaked Mid-Ohio, the Canadian racer drove a Hyundai Veloster N TCR prepped with hand controls. © Michael L. Levitt At a rain-soaked Mid-Ohio, the Canadian racer drove a Hyundai Veloster N TCR prepped with hand controls.

The story of Robert Wickens's recovery after a horrific IndyCar crash at Pocono in 2018 is one of remarkable determination. After the accident, it was unclear if he'd ever regain usage of his legs, but today, he got back in a race car for the first time in nearly three years.

Wickens drove a Hyundai Veloster N TCR specially prepared for Michael Johnson, a former motorcycle racer who became paralyzed from the mid-chest down after a crash, and has since taken up touring-car racing. Bryan Herta, strategist for his IndyCar racing son Colton, also runs the Hyundai TCR program and co-owns an IndyCar team with George Steinbrenner IV. Via Steinbrenner and Herta, and thanks to the generosity of Johnson, Wickens was able to test the Veloster N TCR at Mid-Ohio alongside other Hyundai racers.

a close up of a motorcycle: 54 robert wickens, bryan herta autosport, universal coating, hyundai veloster n tcr © Michael L. Levitt 54 robert wickens, bryan herta autosport, universal coating, hyundai veloster n tcr

The car itself has metal rings on the front and back of the steering wheel to operate the throttle and brakes, while the clutch—which is used only for starting—resembles a handbrake mounted to the driver's left side. Shifting is done by conventional paddles on the wheel. After a careful out lap, IMSA says that Wickens was running full throttle down the straight in his first flyer and gradually increasing speed over the course of 12 laps.

54 robert wickens, bryan herta autosport, universal coating, hyundai veloster n tcr © Michael L. Levitt 54 robert wickens, bryan herta autosport, universal coating, hyundai veloster n tcr

"The car's still in one piece," Wickens said in a statement."But it felt good. There's a lot going on: first time with hand controls, first time with this car and on a damp track. It gave me a much greater appreciation for what Michael Johnson has been able to achieve...I tried not to be a hero, hard as that was! But it felt good to be back in a race car."

Wickens has stated publicly that he wishes to return to professional racing, so today's test was an important milestone. Hopefully he'll be able to go wheel-to-wheel soon.


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