More than three years after his devastating crash in IndyCar, Robert Wickens will return to competition with Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA) and Hyundai Motor North America in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge (IMPC).
Robert Wickens has been in rehabilitation since his violent accident during the IndyCar race at Pocono in August 2018, in which he suffered a broken thoracic spine, spinal cord injury, broken neck, fractures of the tibia and fibula to both legs, fractures to both hands, a fracture to the right forearm, a fractured elbow, a concussion, four fractured ribs and a pulmonary contusion.
Nearly 1,000 days later, in May of last year in Mid-Ohio, Wickens tested one of Bryan Herta Autosport’s Hyundai Velosters that had been fitted with manual controls.
Now he will form an all-Canadian team with touring car specialist Mark Wilkins in BHA’s #33 Elantra N TCR, and will make his debut in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge 4 Hours race at Daytona on the 28th January.
« I’ve spent many nights thinking and dreaming about this moment, and with the support of Bryan Herta and Hyundai, it’s all coming true. », said Wickens, who had achieved four podiums and a pole position in his first 12 IndyCar races before the life-changing accident. « I want to fight to win even more than before my accident! I’m really looking forward to joining the whole Bryan Herta Autosport team and finally being able to taste the Hyundai Elantra N TCR. »
Bryan Herta, who saw his team win three IMPC titles, said: « Today is a momentous day for us as a team and as fans of Robert Wickens. We have followed Robert’s rehabilitation and have been amazed by his determination and dedication, as have his very many fans. «
“To announce now that he will be returning to professional motorsport in one of our Hyundai Elantra N TCRs is truly incredible. We thank Hyundai for their incredible support and for helping us chart the course that will allow Robert to back to where he belongs. »
The Elantra N #33 was fitted with a custom hand-control system designed by BHA Technical Director David Brown and Development Technician Jonathan Gormley. The system includes a metal ring, located behind the steering wheel, which is connected to the brake pedal by a series of rods and which is pulled with the fingers to activate the brake. Two throttle paddles and paddle shifters, also mounted behind the steering wheel, allow the driver to accelerate, shift gears and make directional changes.
Robert Wickens steering wheel
Wilkins has a switch to disable the hand throttle when he takes over from Wickens, and the Elantra accelerates and brakes using traditional pedals when behind the wheel.
A statement from Hyundai explains that since the accident, « Wickens’ perseverance and stubbornness have led to dramatic breakthroughs in his physical rehabilitation and therapy that continue daily. Wickens and his team of therapists and trainers have become pioneers in the development of technologies and innovative treatment methods for the spinal cord injury community ».
All six BHA team cars will be testing at Daytona Jan. 21-23, when IMPC drivers will have time on the track between the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship « Roar Before the 24 » sessions.
The four-hour IMPC race will take place on Friday, January 28.