Canadian Robert Wickens Returns to Racing in Hyundai Elantra N TCR

Published on January 14, 2022 in Racing by Guillaume Rivard

Former IndyCar star Robert Wickens, who’s back behind the wheel after suffering a terrible accident that left him paralyzed in 2018, will co-drive the No. 33 Hyundai Elantra N TCR race car along with fellow Canadian champion Mark Wilkins in the IMSA’s 2022 International Michelin Pilot Challenge (IMPC).

“Today is a monumental day for us as a team and as fans of Robert Wickens,” said Bryan Herta, president of Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA). “We have followed along with Robert’s rehabilitation and marveled at his determination and dedication, along with his many, many fans. To now announce that he will be making his professional motorsports return in one of our Hyundai Elantra N TCR cars is truly incredible. We thank Hyundai for their amazing support and helping us build a path for Robert to get back to where he belongs.”

As we reported in May of 2021, Wickens successfully evaluated the BHA No. 54 Hyundai Veloster N TCR using hand controls. It was his first time driving a race car following 989 days of rehabilitation. He will resume racing at the IMPC season opener, a four-hour endurance race commencing the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona race weekend at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 28.

Photo: Hyundai

“I’ve spent a lot of nights thinking and dreaming of this moment, and with the support from Bryan Herta and Hyundai it is all becoming a reality,” Wickens said. “I am hungrier now than I was before my accident to compete for wins again! I’m really looking forward to incorporating myself with the entire Bryan Herta Autosport team and finally get my first taste of the Hyundai Elantra N TCR.”

The No. 33 Hyundai Elantra N TCR has been fitted with a custom hand-control system that features a metal ring connected to the brake pedal by a series of rods specifically tailored to the Elantra. The ring is attached behind the steering wheel that is pulled with fingers to activate the brake. Two linked throttle paddles and shift paddles, all attached behind the steering wheel, will allow the driver to accelerate, shift and make steering inputs. The system also features a switch for Mark Wilkins when he takes over the cockpit in pitstops that deactivates the hand throttle. The Elantra will accelerate and brake using the traditional foot pedals when Wilkins is driving.

Photo: Hyundai

Wickens, if you remember, took the IndyCar scene by storm as a rookie in 2018. He won the pole position and led all but two laps in his first IndyCar race, went on to score four podium finishes and earned the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honour, all in his first 12 IndyCar races in 2018.

Race number 13 proved to be bad luck indeed as Wickens was involved in an accident on lap 7 at Pocono Raceway, where he suffered a thoracic spinal fracture, spinal cord injury, neck fracture, tibia and fibula fractures to both legs, fractures in both hands, a fractured right forearm, fractured elbow, a concussion, four fractured ribs and a pulmonary contusion.

Since the accident, Wickens and his team of therapists and trainers have become trailblazers in developing innovative technology and treatment methods for the spinal cord injury community. The Car Guide had interviewed Wilkins back in May 2021 when the driver was initially invited by Bryan Herta Autosport at Mid-Ohio during an all-Hyundai test day to take the wheel of the #54 Hyundai Veloster N TCR.

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