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Wickens drove a hand-operated Hyundai TCR prepared by Bryan Herta Autosport on a track day in Mid-Ohio.
It has been almost three years since Robert Wickens last sat behind the wheel of a competitive racing car. </ On August 19, 2018, Wickens' Indy car was involved in an accident at the Pocono Raceway in which the aspiring IndyCar star suffered a thoracic spine fracture, a broken neck, tibia and fibula fractures on both legs, and fractures in both cases had hands, a broken right forearm, a broken elbow, a concussion, and four broken ribs.
On Tuesday, Wickens made a positive step in his recovery from these injuries when he got behind the wheel of a specially prepared Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster N TCR for a day of racing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio sat. It was the same car that the paralyzed racing driver Michael Johnson used in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
« It was just a great time, » said Wickens after stepping out of the car on Tuesday. « I honestly can’t thank Bryan Herta Autosport, Hyundai and Michael Johnson enough. It’s not everyday that someone can lend you a racing car to take an item off your bucket list. » Wickens said he did I put the car through its paces for about 25 laps in the first half of the day in wet and then dry conditions. However, neither the conditions nor the car mattered that day.
« There was a lot of emotion when I was able to take off my visor and get back on a racetrack, » he said. « The whole week before it wasn’t so much nerves, but excitement and anticipation. When I put on a suit again and started putting on the earphones, the baklava, the helmet, everything went out the window and it was normal business. When I did back on track, it was a slightly different story. «
Getting used to the hand controls was a challenge – there is a ring on the front of the steering wheel that the driver presses to accelerate , and there is another ring on the back of the steering wheel that is pulled to activate the braking system. This learning curve was nothing compared to the challenges Wickens has faced over the past 20 months.
« There have been many difficult times, » said 32-year-old Wickens. « I think something – something a lot of people try not to talk about – the mental health aspect of recovery like this is extremely daunting. That was really one of the biggest struggles. I think a lot of people can do manual labor and then try Getting better and stronger, but doing it every day and keeping a positive outlook is extremely difficult.
« Then there is the whole other world of emotions. You go through different stages of your recovery. The mental aspect was hands down the hardest part of his recovery. «
Wickens says he’s still eager to get back into a competitive race car and compete at a high level. As for offers or schedules, nothing is in right now the pipeline.
« I think the biggest thing for me, the hardest thing about my injury, was that I felt like I was at the peak of my career and my ability when this happened, » said Wickens. « It’s been three years since the accident and I have the feeling that I’m not using these best years of my career. I wouldn’t love anything more than getting back to the elite level. Selfish, I’d love it. « Come back to IndyCar to close this chapter of my life on my own terms. »
« I would do nothing better than ideally win an IndyCar race and then maybe move on . » he said. « There’s so much to find out right now. At the beginning of my recovery, I really wanted to get back to IndyCar. I’m not saying I don’t now, but I think I understand what accessibility is to make an Indy. » A car that is competitive with hand controls would be a daunting undertaking – one that may not be fully feasible with current IndyCar regulations.
« But never say never. There are a lot of great teams out there, and I honestly think crazier things have happened in the past. But for now I’ll just keep doing what I do, focus on my rehab and hopefully admittedly Time will come when the right opportunity will come. «
Wickens not only spoke of IndyCar, but also of Formula E as a possible landing place to race again one day. And working with Hyundai and Michael Johnson opened Wickens’ eyes to the possibility of sports cars someday. « The long-term goals for me haven’t changed, » he said. « I want to go back to an elite level of motorsport. It really has been since day zero of my recovery and we’re still gone. This is a massive step on the way back, but that’s really all that is today . »
« I will keep doing what I can, keep working hard, and I believe that this hard work always pays off. I think I deserve to still ride at a high level, at an elite level, and hopefully that can come true. » soon. »
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