Less than a year after a terrifying accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, this star IndyCar driver is getting behind the wheel again – and the whole story is a miraculous one.
Robert Wickens’ crash happened during the 2018 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono – and the 29-year-old driver had just gotten to the 7th lap of the race when the crash happened and his car was destroyed.
The Horrible Crash
Following a restart on Lap 7, the Canadian INDYCAR driver was running side-by-side with American Indy champ Ryan Hunter-Reay when Wickens tried to pass him.
— Tech Chanakya (@TechChanakya) August 20, 2018
The cars slightly touched, causing Hunter-Reay’s car to slam into the outer wall, but Wickens got dragged along with him and launched up over the wall – flying into the catch fence and ripping his car to shreds as he flipped over and over.
HUGE CRASH in Pocono. Ryan Hunter-Reay & Robert Wickens collide, and Wickens gets into the fence. Shades of Scheckter and Brack in Texas 03. Red flag, long delay coming. #IndyCar #ABCSupply500 pic.twitter.com/6JxX0IncHB
— Blaynos (@Blaynos14) August 19, 2018
The fencing he catapulted into was shredded and so was his car – which came to rest near an inside wall and was reduced just to the tub of the car. Emergency personnel rushed to his aid and he was flown via medivac to an Allentown, PA hospital.
Eventually, it was revealed by his team of doctors – and Wickens himself – that he was temporarily paralyzed with a good prognosis for overcoming the physical injuries and being able to return to normal life.
In a video posted to Instagram on October 25th, 2018 (just about a year before his wedding) Wickens opened up about his status and how far away he was from walking.
“The reality is I am far away from walking on my own,” he wrote in the video’s caption. “Some people are a bit confused with the severity of my injury, so I wanted to let you know the reality of it. I’ve never worked harder for anything in my life, and I am giving it all I’ve got to spark those nerves in my legs.”
Now, showing exactly how much incredible progress Wickens has made in just under a year, he’s working with his team to get back behind the wheel for a special part of the upcoming Toronto IndyCar race – an event in his hometown.
This week, Wickens tested out a specially-equipped car that’s called a SAM (Semi-Autonomous Motorcar) which is developed by his sponsor – Aarrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
The car is equipped with specialized hand-controls that allow him to control the accelerator and brakes with his hands instead of traditional foot pedals.
Reflecting on his time testing the car for Sunday’s race (July 14th), Wickens told the AP it’s different than what he’s used to.
“It took me a little while to get to grips with everything,” Wickens told AP. “To be honest, it’s not completely second nature just yet. This is just phase one of many to come with the car’s modifications. What Arrow was able to do in such a short period of time is remarkable, and it still allows me the opportunity to drive again so it’s a win-win.”
Wickens will be driving the IndyCar parade lap with this specialized Acura SAM before Toronto’s big race this weekend – and we are thrilled to hear of his amazing progress toward walking again.
Check out the videos below of Wickens’ testing the car and his post-test thoughts (filled with excitement!).
Here’s a glimpse into what yesterday looked like. Can’t wait for the parade lap on Sunday! #acuraNSX #hondaindy #indyTO #rw6 #indycar #arrowdriven #spinalcordinjury #handcontrols #accessibility @hondaindy @HondaRacing_HPD @Acura @SPMIndyCar @ArrowGlobal @Honda pic.twitter.com/YH60JaYHqE
— Robert Wickens (@robertwickens) July 11, 2019