Formula E Racing: Paralyzed Driver Uses Hand Controls in Car Test

Joseph Adebayo

Robert Wickens, a former IndyCar driver paralyzed from the waist down, returned to a single-seater racing car. Unexpected. Excitedly. With and without trepidation. He tested a Formula E GenBeta car at Portland International Raceway equipped with hand controls. Wickens’ track test exhibits his resilience and adaptability in the face of a life-altering accident.

What’s Happening & Why This Matters

Wickens suffered a severe crash at Pocono Raceway in 2018 that resulted in paralysis from the waist down. Before the accident, he was Rookie of the Year at the Indy 500 showcasing immense potential in open wheel racing. His return to the track, particularly in a Formula E car, is a personal milestone in his recovery and career.

This wasn’t Wickens’ first racing venture since his accident. He previously competed in IMSA’s Michelin Pilot Challenge series, securing the 2023 TCR championship in a Hyundai Elantra N. However, the Formula E GenBeta car presents a different challenge, weighing nearly 900 lbs less than his Hyundai and featuring greater power with immediate electric torque.

Wickens explained, “It’s an entirely different beast to an IndyCar. The aerodynamic differences and series philosophy are completely different, but I’m excited to test the GenBeta car.”

Credit: Formula E/Youtube

Hand Control Innovation

Unlike typical racing controls, Wickens uses a specially designed hand control system. His setup allows him to manage throttle and braking with precision, a necessity for competitive racing. He credits Alex Zanardi, another driver who adapted to racing post-injury, for guidance on the optimal setup.

Wickens noted, “The brake on the steering wheel provides the best control, crucial for trail-braking into corners. My current setup includes a pneumatic actuator to assist with brake pressure, ensuring consistent performance.”

TF Summary: What’s Next

Wickens’ test in the Formula E GenBeta car is a testament to technological advancements and human determination. His ability to adapt and compete at a high level offers inspiration to many and highlights the importance of innovation in motorsports. As he continues to push boundaries and himself, Wickens’ journey is exciting for adaptive racing technology.

Wickens on Track. Credit: Formula E.

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By Joseph Adebayo “TF UX”
Joseph Adebayo is the user experience maestro. With a degree in Graphic Design and certification in User Experience, he has worked as a UX designer in various tech firms. Joseph's expertise lies in evaluating products not just for their technical prowess but for their usability, design, and consumer appeal. He believes that technology should be accessible, intuitive, and aesthetically pleasing.
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