How do you race without the use of your legs? Pro Mazda racer Michael Johnson started racing motorcycles when he was four, but was forced to change plans after a dirt track accident left him paralyzed below the waist. Now he’s the first and only paralyzed racer licensed by IndyCar, and here’s how he drives his car.


Welcome to Onboard of the Week, a feature where we spend that pesky time between races looking at awesome footage from inside the car.

According to a Fox News interview from several years ago, Johnson told his mother that he wanted to continue racing no matter what, even after his motorcycle accident. That meant a shift into open-wheel race cars, where a modified steering wheel gives him full control of the car.

In addition to the paddles that shift through the gears, Johnson controls the throttle with a lever and pushes in the entire steering wheel assembly to brake. Just like many hand-control-equipped cars, the amount the throttle lever gets pulled correlates to the amount of throttle the car is given. The result? Wicked fast laps, no feet required.

Here are some of Johnson’s laps around Blackhawk Farms Raceway where the camera is pointed back at the wheel to show you how things work.


Despite breaking his hip and pelvis at the St. Petersburg Grand Prix, Johnson told Racer that he plans to return to racing in June’s race in Toronto. “The muscles are getting better,” Johnson wrote. “The doctor said I could do pretty much anything I want, really, which is definitely refreshing!” His only real hold-up as to whether he’ll make that race is his vision. As of earlier this month, he was waiting on his vision to return to normal, as the impact also bruised his eyes. Either way, we can’t wait for Johnson to make a full recovery and get back to racing.

Photo credit: Michael Johnson Racing

[H/T Steve Wittich]

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