Robert Wickens will return to professional racing in 2022, as the Canadian takes part in the IMSA Michelin PIlot Challenge.
Wickens will be sharing a Bryan Herta-entered Hyundai Elantra N TCR with compatriot Mark Wilkins.
Wickens was left paralysed below the waist in a horrific IndyCar crash in 2018, when his car went up into the catch fencing at Pocono Raceway.
The years since have seen Wickens win the hearts of millions around the world as he posted video after video, and picture after picture of his ongoing rehabiliation.
Displaying his never-give-up attitude, Wickens has regained some strength and mobility in his legs.
This allowed him to take part in a test at Mid-Ohio in 2021, where he drove a Hyundai Veloster N TCR equipped with brake and throttle hand controls. This convinced Herta that Wickens could return to racing, resulting in the offer for 2022.
Adapting the car for Wickens
The team already field another driver, Michael Johnson, who lost the use of his legs through a motorbike accident.
As a result, Herta’s operation were able to call upon that existing knowledge to tweak another one of their cars to suit Wickens’ requirements.
“The No. 33 Hyundai Elantra N TCR has been fitted with a custom hand-control system designed by BHA Technical Director David Brown and Development Technician Jonathan Gormley,” the team explained.
“The system features a custom metal ring connected to the brake pedal by a series of rods specifically tailored to the Elantra. The ring is attached behind the steering wheel that is pulled with fingers to activate the brake.
“Two linked throttle paddles and shift paddles, all attached behind the steering wheel, allow the driver to accelerate, shift and make steering inputs.
“The system also features a switch for Mark Wilkins when he takes over the cockpit in pit-stops that deactivates the hand throttle. The Elantra will accelerate and brake using the traditional foot pedals when Wilkins is driving.”
“I’ve dreamt of this moment”
Wickens has stated that, unsurprisingly, returning to racing a big moment for him.
“I’ve spent a lot of nights thinking and dreaming of this moment, and with the support from Bryan Herta and Hyundai it is all becoming a reality,” Wickens said.
“I am hungrier now than I was before my accident to compete for wins again.
“I’m really looking forward to incorporating myself with the entire Bryan Herta Autosport team and finally get my first taste of the Hyundai Elantra N TCR.”
“Today is a monumental day for us as a team and as fans of Robert Wickens,” Herta added.
“We have followed along with Robert’s rehabilitation and marvelled at his determination and dedication, along with his many, many fans.
“To now announce that he will be making his professional motorsports return in one of our Hyundai Elantra N TCR cars is truly incredible.
“We thank Hyundai for their amazing support and helping us build a path for Robert to get back to where he belongs.”
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