Robert Wickens won for the first time since spinal cord injury in 2018, teaming with Mark Wilkins to win the TCR class on Saturday at the Michelin Pilot Challenge at Watkins Glen International in New York.
Wickens was a promising IndyCar rookie when he was injured in a fence collision at Pocono Raceway in his 14th race.
He was on the podium four times that season, nearly won the first stage before being swept off the track with one lap remaining, and was sixth in the IndyCar standings at the time of the accident.
Although he uses his legs to some extent, Wickens uses a wheelchair, and Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai have spent over a year working on a program to get Wickens back into competitive racing. His Elantra is manual and Wickens made his debut in January with Wilkins at Daytona International Speedway.
Wickens and Wilkins, both Canadians, were 0.0374 seconds ahead of Tim Lewis in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce as Lewis heavily attacked Wilkins in the final laps of the two-hour race. Wickens watched from his wheelchair next to the Herta timing stand after having driven the first half of the race.
“It looks like a landmark victory,” Wickens said. “For some reason this is not the most emotional event I have had, maybe because I was sitting when we crossed the finish line. I think it’s different, like a driver with adrenaline and everything.”
Back to where we belong… VICTORY ALLEY! Incredible day. We knew we could do it from the very beginning. Mega work @MWilkins to keep us ahead in the final laps.
— Robert Wickens (@robertwickens) June 25, 2022
He said watching Wilkins keep the win was “pretty nerve-wracking because Alfa was very fast on the straights.
“Mark did such a good job. I was just happy that I gave him the car safe and sound, and he did the rest himself. So I wasn’t too nervous.”
Wickens started third in the class but pulled ahead during his split before passing the Hyundai to Wilkins with 57 minutes left.
The best result for the 33-year-old Wickens this season with four races to win was third with Wilkins in the season opener at Daytona.
Wickens’ last professional win came in 2017 when he drove at the Nürburgring in Germany in the DTM Touring Car Series in Europe.
Bill Auberlen and Dillon McHavern took the overall win, giving Turner Motorsport their first win of the season.