INDIANAPOLIS — His recovery has been nothing short of remarkable. And Saturday, thanks to an Atlanta-based company called SimCraft, Robert Wickens is about to take the next step in his road to recovery — virtual racing, with the rest of the IndyCar series.
"It's very early days. The sim was setup by SimCraft, they finished yesterday yesterday around 3 o'clock," Wickens said. "I was able to put in a couple of laps last night for the first time and it's weird.
Speaking in a Zoom conference call along with Will Power and Graham Rahal, Robert has setup a steering wheel not unlike the one used by Alex Zenardi, clutch and throttle are connected to it. And to brake, he'll have a lever he'll grab off to the side.
"Although this is fine, I see this as the long term project of getting back into a race car that I knew, through simulation, would be the best way to get me back into a race car," Wickens said. "This really step one of 100 to get me back into the NTT IndyCar series.
In 2018, it didn't take long for Wickens to go flat out. He was a threat to win every week and was named the Indy500 Rookie of the Year. He also won over fellow drivers.
"Ah man, I just — he deserves to be back in the series," Will Power said. "Tremendous talent that you knew would be a champion."
Graham Rahal agreed.
"It's great to have him out here competing with us," Rahal said. "The likelihood is he's going to figure this out and kick all of our butts again. Hopefully we can keep up with him better on the sim than we did in real life."
He may not actually be putting on a helmet and climbing into his race car, but there's no doubt some of the familiar feelings will return.
"I'm just excited to be driving something," Wickens said. "Last night was the first time I've driven any form of race car since the accident at Pocono, so even though it was virtual it still felt pretty good."
Chances are it will for everyone soon.