When Robert Wickens was paralyzed in an IndyCar crash in 2018 many figured his racing career was over, but this weekend he’ll be climbing back into the cockpit. Joining fellow Canadian Mark Wilkins in a special Hyundai Elantra N TCR racer, Wickens will participate in Friday’s four-hour BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona event.
Sharing driving duties, Wilkins and Wickens will be driving the same car, but in two very different ways. Thanks to some incredible engineering by the Bryan Herta Autosport team, and presumably with some input by Hyundai’s own engineers, the car is set up to drive with traditional pedals or with hand controls when Wickens is on board. It’s a pretty trick setup, and thanks to the car getting its braking and throttle signals electronically, it can change where it’s getting that signal at the flip of a switch.
During Thursday’s qualifying session the pair managed to log a respectable time, despite the wet and nasty weather, settling in the mid-pack at 7th in a class of 16. Considering this is Wickens’ first time back in pro-level competition, there is surely going to be a learning curve, and we shouldn’t expect the pairing to win on Friday. That said, they are racing in a BHA-prepared Hyundai Elantra N, which is in many ways the same car as the one Tyler Maxson and Mason Filippi stuck on the TCR pole.
With a full 48-car grid, there’s a good chance that the race will be a bit chaotic, so if Wickens/Wilkins can keep their car out of trouble, it could end pretty well for them. I don’t think I’d be alone in saying I’d love to see this race go their way, because that would be one hell of a comeback story. Either way, the fact that Wickens managed to get back in the cockpit at all is a truly inspirational effort. It wasn’t really that long ago that he posted the first video of himself climbing stairs without help.