Robert Wickens wins first race since 2018 with spinal cord injury

Robert Wickens won for the first time since suffering a spinal cord injury in 2018 teaming up with Mark Wilkins for Saturday’s TCR win in the Michelin Pilot Challenge at Watkins Glen International in New York.

Wickens was a promising rookie to IndyCar when he was injured in an air crash into the fence at Pocono Raceway during his 14th race. He scored four podiums that season, nearly winning the opening goal until he turned with one lap left and was sixth on the IndyCar leaderboard at the time of the collision.

Although he has to use his legs, Wickens uses a wheelchair and Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai spent over a year working on a program to get him back into competitive racing. Using an Elantra equipped with manual controls, Wickens made its debut in January with Wilkins at the Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens and Wilkins, both Canadians, beat Tim Lewis in Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce 0.0374 seconds when Lewis hit Wilkins hard in the closing laps of the two-hour race. Wickens watched from his wheelchair beside the Herta timer after driving the first half of the race.

“It’s like an important victory,” said Wickens. “It wasn’t the most emotional I’ve ever had for some reason; maybe because I was sitting when we crossed the finish line. I think driving with adrenaline and things would be different.”

He said that watching Wilkins secure the win was “quite nerve-wracking because Alfa was so fast on the straight.”

“Mark did such a good job,” said Wickens. “I’m just glad I gave him the car complete and in good condition and let him do the rest. So I’m not that worried.”

Wickens started third in the class but led in his time before handing the Hyundai to Wilkins with 57 minutes left. The 33-year-old Wickens’ best finish this season across four races is third place with Wilkins in the season opener at Daytona.

Wickens’ last professional victory came in 2017 when he drove at the Nurburgring in Germany in the DTM touring car series in Europe.

Bill Auberlen and Dillon Machavern took the overall win to give Turner Motorsport its first win of the season.

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