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IndyCar driver Robert Wickens is happy to be racing again, even if it’s in the virtual world.
(Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
The 31-year-old Canadian was mostly paralyzed below the waist in a crash at Pocono Speedway in 2018 that fractured his spine and neck and bruised his spinal cord.
He’s gradually been regaining the use of his legs through therapy and sharing his progress on social media as he sets his sights on getting back behind the wheel of a race car one day.
He did lap the Toronto IndyCar street circuit in an Acura NSX fitted with hand controls last July, but on Saturday he strapped into a driving simulator to compete with several of his IndyCar colleagues in the second race of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge.
The series is being held online while the regular IndyCar season is suspended due to the coronavirus, which will be on hold until at least May 30 in Detroit.
Wickens hoped to take part in the first race on March 28, but the necessary equipment didn’t arrive in time. He finished eighth for his Arrows Mclaren SP team after starting at the back of the 29-car-field in a race held on a digital version of Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, and he was pleased with the result.
“My return to IndyCar was exactly how I imagined it – in my basement. No, I’m just kidding,” Wickens said. “In a lot of ways it felt like the real thing, my eyes are burning. My first race back in IndyCar, a top 10.”
(Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
The race was won by Australian Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin, who was taking part from his home in Brisbane, finishing ahead of Will Power and Scott Speed. McLaughlin was scheduled to take part in the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for Team Penske on May 9, but that race has been tentatively rescheduled for July 4.
Wickens plans to continue competing in the series, which is holding races on Saturdays on a variety of tracks using the realistic iRacing platform, which is also powering the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series.
“Thank you @arromclarensp for calling my race and guiding me through it all. If any of you think this is “just a video game,” Wickens posted to Instagram after the race.
”I can assure you it is not. It is a full team effort from top to bottom! I’m taking the day off from my @simcraft sim before it’s full focus on the next race! “
The Associated Press contributed to this report