The Verizon IndyCar Series
was left in mourning after
debris from a crash in the
ABC Supply 500 at Pocono
Raceway cost the life of one
of its most respected drivers.
Justin Wilson’s helmet was
struck by the flying nosecone
broken off Sage Karam’s car,
which had just crashed into
the outside wall on Lap 180
of the 200-lap race. Wilson’s
Andretti Autosport car was
traveling at approximately
160mph at moment of impact.
The Briton was airlifted
to Lehigh Valley Health
Network Cedar Crest Hospital
in Allentown, Pa., but
remained in a coma before
succumbing to his injuries
the following afternoon.
Justin Wilson dies after being struck by flying debris
TRAGEDY STRIKES AT POCONO
COCKPIT PROTECTION DEBATE REIGNITES
Formula 1 fans knew Justin Wilson as
the tallest driver ever to race in a Grand
Prix. But in the U.S., where he spent the
vast majority of his professional career,
the Briton commanded universal respect
and affection from his peers for his
speed and racecraft inside the car, and
intelligence and generosity outside of it.
Born in South Yorkshire, UK, Justin
Boyd Wilson began racing karts in 1987
and progressed to cars with Paul
Stewart Racing in Formula Vauxhall. His
first championship came in the inaugural
Formula Palmer Audi UK season in
1998. The prize was a season in
Formula 3000, predecessor to GP2, and
that culminated in his dominating the
2001 F3000 season with Nordic Racing.
The natural step for F3000 champions
was into F1, but Wilson’s 6ft.4in. height
proved to be a barrier: he tested with
Jordan in 2001 and Minardi in ’02, but
it wasn’t until the following year that
Minardi was able to build a car able to
accommodate Justin’s frame.
In addition to the dimensional
challenges associated with getting onto
the F1 grid, there was also the issue of
budget. Minardi required its drivers to
bring funding, and in the absence of a
sponsor, Wilson pre-empted the crowd-funding approach by selling shares in
himself on the UK stock market.
Commercial setbacks and an unreliable
car conspired against Wilson at Minardi,
yet a switch to Jaguar for the final five
races wasn’t much better, yielding just
one point in the U.S. GP.
Justin turned his sights on the Champ
Car World Series in 2004, and with
Conquest Racing he finished sixth on his
debut and scored several more top- 10
Open-wheel racing’s regular
debate about the need for
enhanced cockpit protection
has increased in volume
following the death
of Justin Wilson.
Since the death
of Henry Surtees in
2009, killed by a
loose wheel in a
Formula 2 race,
followed just a week later by
Felipe Massa’s serious head
injury from a flying spring
during practice for the
Hungarian GP, the FIA has
looked at potential solutions,
including canopies and
Composites, maker of NHRA
Top Fuel canopies, has
expressed an interest in
working with the series.
Wilson ran among the leaders at
Pocono until a pit speed penalty.
Could Top Fuel-style cockpit canopies
become part of future IndyCar design?
As he did following Dan Wheldon’s death,
Graham Rahal organized an eBay auction of
race gear, with all proceeds going to the Wilson
Children’s Fund. All JWil’s rivals donated their
Sonoma helmets, among other memorabilia.
JUSTIN WILSON TRIBUTE, PAGE 22
“WILSON’S SPELLS AT COYNE YIELDED
ITS FIRST TWO WINS AFTER A WAIT
OF ALMOST A QUARTER CENTURY”
finishes. Better things awaited when he
moved to RuSPORT for 2005. Wilson
earned his first North American win in
Toronto, and backed it up by winning
from pole in Mexico to finish third in the
points. He was championship runner-up
in 2006 and ’07, adding victories at
Edmonton and Assen along the way.
Switching to Champ Car’s dominant
Newman/Haas Racing for 2008, Justin’s
timing proved unfortunate as the series
merged with IndyCar and the team had
to learn the Indy Racing League Dallara,
yet he still won in Detroit.
Wilson’s two spells with Dale Coyne
Racing in 2009 and 2012-’ 14 (split by
a two-year stint at Dreyer & Reinbold
Racing) yielded Coyne’s first two wins
after a wait of almost a quarter century.
Budgetary issues denied Wilson a
full-time seat for 2015, but his part-time
gig with Andretti Autosport had already
earned him a second-place finish in his
final complete race at Mid-Ohio. He and
team owner Michael Andretti were in
serious talks about a full time ride in ’ 16.
Outside of IndyCar, Wilson won the
Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in 2012,
along with ex-RuSPORT teammate AJ
Allmendinger, Ozz Negri and John Pew
in the Michael Shank Racing Riley-Ford.
Justin is survived by his wife Julia,
and two daughters, Jane and Jessica.
RACER sends its deepest condolences
to all of his family and thousands of fans.