British IndyCar driver Justin Wilson has died following an accident during Sunday’s Indy 500 race at Pocono Raceway, Pennsylvania. The 37 year-old succumbed to major head injuries sustained when he was struck on the head by flying debris from leader Sage Karam’s car which spun and crashed in the latter part of the race.
Following the impact, Wilson’s Andretti Autosport car veered out of control and collided with the inside wall of the track. In the aftermath of the incident, the Sheffield-born racer was immediately airlifted to hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania where doctors were sadly unable to save him.
Wilson was an experienced hand at open-wheel racing, having made his first major breakthrough in Formula One back in 2003. The ex-Formula 3000 winner stepped up to F1 with Minardi before moving to Jaguar for the final five races of the 2003 season, partnering a young Mark Webber. He scored his only point in at the 2003 US Grand Prix.
After leaving the F1 paddock, Wilson persuaded a career in US open-wheel racing where he enjoyed multiple successes in the now defunct Champ Car series. He twice came close to winning the championship, finishing as series runner up in 2006 and 2007. Following the amalgamation of Champ Car and IndyCar in 2008, Wilson continued to be a regular fixture at America’s premiere motor racing events. The most recent of his seven career race victories came at the 2012 Firestone 550 at the Texas Motor Speedway. Despite enduring a barren year in 2014, the Briton was beginning to show signs of recapturing his best form this season. He had finished second in the previous IndyCar race in Mid-Ohio only weeks before Sunday’s tragic accident.
Wilson’s death comes just 38 days after F1 star Jules Bianchi succumbed to injuries he suffered at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, making him the first F1 driver to die following a race-related incident since Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash at Imola in 1994. The last IndyCar driver to lose his life was fellow Britain Dan Wheldon, who was killed when his airborne car collided with a post at the 2011 Las Vegas Indy 300.
This latest tragedy, coupled with Bianchi’s passing, will no doubt spark calls for more stringent safety regulations to be imposed on high speed, closed-circuit race tracks like those typical to the hugely popular IndyCar series where large fields of open-wheel racing cars reach speeds of up to 230mph.
In the immediate aftermath though, our thoughts and deepest condolences go out the family and friends of Justin Wilson, a true racer who died doing what he loved. He leaves behind a wife and two daughters.
RIP Justin Wilson: 1978-2015