Wickens has been rehabilitating since his brutal accident in IndyCar’s race at Pocono in August 2018, in which he suffered 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.
Almost 1000 days later, in May last year at Mid-Ohio, Wickens evaluated one of Bryan Herta Autosport’s Hyundai Velosters that had been equipped with hand controls.
Now he will form an all-Canadian line-up with touring car ace Mark Wilkins in BHA’s #33 Elantra N TCR racecar, and will make his debut in the four-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge endurance race at Daytona on Jan. 28.
“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,” said Wickens who had scored four podiums and a pole position in his first 12 IndyCar races before his life-changing crash. “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.”
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Bryan Herta, who has seen his Hyundai team win three IMPC titles, said: “Today is a monumental day for us as a team and as fans of Robert Wickens. We have followed along with Robert’s rehabilitation and marveled 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.”
The #33 Elantra N has been fitted with a custom hand-control system designed by BHA technical director David Brown and development technician Jonathan Gormley. The system features a metal ring, located behind the steering wheel, that is connected to the brake pedal by a series of rods and is pulled with fingers to activate the brake. Two linked throttle paddles and shift paddles, also attached behind the steering wheel, allow the driver to accelerate, shift and make steering inputs.
Steering wheel for Robert Wickens
Photo by: IMSA
Wilkins has a switch to deactivate the hand throttle when he takes over from Wickens, and the Elantra will accelerate and brake using traditional foot pedals when he is driving.
A statement form Hyundai stated that since the accident, “Wickens’ perseverance and persistence has led to triumphant breakthroughs in his relentless regimes of physical rehabilitation and therapy that continues daily. Wickens and his team of therapists and trainers have become trailblazers in developing innovative technology and treatment methods for the spinal cord injury community.”
BHA’s six-car line-up will test at Daytona Jan. 21-23, when the IMPC field gets track time in between the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s ‘Roar Before the 24’ sessions.
The four-hour IMPC race will be held on Friday, Jan. 28, at 1.35pm ET.
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#33 Bryan Herta Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N in action at Laguna Seca last August.
Photo by: Art Fleischmann