Robert Wickens returns to racing with Bryan Herta Autosport

Robert Wickens will return to racing in 2022, racing a specially-adapted Hyundai Elantra N TCR in the 2022 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

Wickens, 32, will partner 38-year-old compatriot Mark Wilkins in one of the team’s Hyundai cars in the touring car class of the series this year.

The Canadian previously raced in the DTM between 2012 and 2017 with Mercedes-Benz, before departing touring cars to race in IndyCar in the United States.

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However, a huge crash at Pocono Raceway in his maiden season in 2018 curtailed his career, and Wickens emerged with significant injuries, including a thoracic spinal fracture and spinal cord injury which left him paraplegic.

Wickens has spent the past three years recovering from his injuries, and with his team of therapists and trainers has been innovative in developing new technology and treatment methods for the spinal cord injury community.

Wickens’ car will be fitted with a custom hand control system designed by Bryan Herta Autosport Technical Director David Brown and Development Technician Jonathan Gormley.

The system works via a metal ring behind the steering wheel connected to the brake pedal by a series of rods, specific to the Elantra.

Wickens can thus use his fingers to apply the brakes, along with two linked throttle paddles and shift paddles which allow acceleration, shift and steering inputs to all be carried out by hand.

When Wilkins races the car, a switch will be activated which then disables the hand controls and allows him to race using conventional foot pedals.

“Today is a monumental day for us as a team and as fans of Robert Wickens,” said Bryan Herta, president of BHA. “We have followed along with Robert’s rehabilitation and marvelled 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.”

Wickens already tested a hand-controlled Hyundai Veloster N last year in May, which then marked his first time in a race car in 989 days.

“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,” said Wickens.

“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 2022 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge gets underway with a four-hour race at the Daytona International Speedway on 28 January 2022.

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