As safe as motorsports is these days, it still comes with very real risks and dangers. Robert Wickens knows that better than most after he suffered a tragic accident back in 2018. Now, he has a new goal of being the first disabled driver to compete in the Indy 500, and he wants to be on the circuit next year.
As covered by Motorspot.com, Wickens, 34, is eager to return to top-tier open wheel competition. His IndyCar career showed promise from the drop, with Wickens even scoring Rookie of the Year at his first appearance at Indianapolis in 2018. Later that season, though, a huge crash at Pocono would derail his plans, when he incurred serious injuries that left him largely paralyzed from the waist down.
Wickens hasn't let his injuries hold him back, however. Less than three years after the devastating incident, he was back turning laps in a race car. With the aid of special hand controls fitted to a Hyundai Veloster N TCR, Wickens was able to put his professional skills back to work despite the setbacks he faced. Since then, he graduated to racing an Elantra N TCR in the IMSA Challenge series and has taken several victories along the way.
That experience has spurred Wickens to contemplate racing the Indy 500 once more. "If I can get on the grid in 2024 for the Indy 500, it will be 108th running of the race, and there's never been someone [racing] with a disability," said Wickens, adding, “I think it'd be great for any person struggling with something, to show that you can achieve anything in life if you have a great support system, and a lot of hard work and a positive attitude.”
It's a lofty goal, with some hurdles to overcome before it's a reality. Wickens and his team are looking for fundraising to support the effort, as racing at Indy doesn't come cheap. There's also a need to develop hand controls that are compatible with the current model IndyCar. Wickens hopes that he can get some laps in a properly-equipped car so he can evaluate whether competing at the Indy 500 is a realistic possibility.
Bryan Herta, boss of Wickens' current team, is backing his return to the sport. Noting the challenges involved, he's nonetheless positive. "IndyCar has been incredibly supportive of the idea, and very open to investigating it," Herta told Motorsport.com, adding "So, nobody's saying 'no, you can't do it'. It's been a lot of yeses. And that's where we're at."
With the 2024 race just over a year away, it's a tight timeframe to get Wickens in the car by next year. Even if it doesn't happen immediately though, Wickens is still well-placed to be the first disabled entrant in one of America's most famous races. On any timescale, though, it would be a glorious thing to see Wickens return to the big oval after so many years away.
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