Robert Wickens will make his return to racing in 2022 with a full season of IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge driving for Bryan Herta Autosport, three years and five months after sustaining spinal injuries in an accident during an NTT IndyCar Series round.
Wickens, who was paralyzed from the waist down after the serious crash at Pocono Raceway, has been confirmed as a driver of the No. 33 Hyundai Elantra N TCR for the ten-event campaign.
The Pilot Challenge season kicks off at Daytona later this month and will then include a home round for Wickens at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on July 1-3.
The 32-year-old will share the wheel with fellow Canadian Mark Wilkins, who was recently named as part of an expanded six-car TCR lineup for Bryan Herta Autosport.
Wickens sampled a racing car for the first time since his accident when he got behind the wheel of a Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster N TCR at Mid-Ohio last May.
After the test, Wickens said that there were “a lot of emotions” as he returned to the cockpit and that he was open to returning to motorsport in the future.
“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 following confirmation of his 2022 full-season drive.
“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.”
Wickens joins a Bryan Herta Autosport team that won last year’s Pilot Challenge TCR teams’ title, as well as the drivers’ championship with Taylor Hagler and Mark Wilkins.
Wickens is set to turn his first laps in the Elantra N TCR at next week’s pre-season test as part of the Roar Before the Rolex 24 event.
His hand control system in the Elantra has been designed by BHA technical director David Brown and development technician Jonathan Gormley.
The system features a finger-pull metal ring that is connected to the car’s brake pedal, while throttle and gear paddles are also located on the steering wheel.
Wilkins will be able to deactivate the hand controls at the flick of a switch, in order to operate the Elantra’s throttle and brake pedals with his feet when he takes over.
“Today is a monumental day for us as a team and as fans of Robert Wickens,” commented team president Bryan Herta.
“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.”