Justin Wilson (racing Driver)
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Justin Wilson Racing Driver

Justin Wilson
Justin Wilson 2013.jpg
NationalityBritish
BornJustin Boyd Wilson
(1978-07-31)31 July 1978
Moorgate, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England
Died24 August 2015(2015-08-24) (aged 37)
Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States
Related toStefan Wilson (brother)
Verizon IndyCar Series career
Years active2008-2015
Former teamsNewman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (2008)
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (2010-2011)
Dale Coyne Racing (2009, 2012-2014)
Andretti Autosport (2015)
Starts120
Wins3
Poles2
Fastest laps2
Best finish6th in 2013
Champ Car World Series
Years active2004-2007
TeamsConquest Racing (2004)
RuSport (2005-2006)
RSPORTS (2007)
Starts54
Wins4
Poles6
Best finish2nd in 2006, 2007
Awards
2006, 2007Greg Moore Legacy Award
Formula One World Championship career
Active years2003
TeamsMinardi, Jaguar
Entries16
Championships0
Wins0
Podiums0
Career points1
Pole positions0
Fastest laps0
First entry2003 Australian Grand Prix
Last entry2003 Japanese Grand Prix

Justin Boyd Wilson (31 July 1978 - 24 August 2015) was a British professional open-wheel racing driver who competed in Formula One in 2003, the Champ Car World Series (CCWS) from 2004 to 2007 and the IndyCar Series from 2008 to 2015. He won the first Formula Palmer Audi (FPA) in 1998, the International Formula 3000 Championship (IF3000) with Nordic Racing in 2001, and co-won the 2012 24 Hours of Daytona for Michael Shank Racing.

Wilson began karting at the age of eight and achieved consistent results, before progressing to car racing in the Formula Vauxhall Championship. He won the FPA title and earned a fully funded seat in IF3000, becoming the first British driver to win the series championship in 2001. He moved to the 2002 World Series by Nissan for the Racing Engineering team and finished fourth. Through an investment scheme where the public could purchase shares in Wilson, he drove for the Minardi and Jaguar teams in the 2003 Formula One season.

He drove for the Conquest Racing and RuSPORT teams in the CCWS from 2004 to 2007, winning four races and finishing runner-up in the 2006 and 2007 drivers' championships. Wilson went to Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing for the 2008 IndyCar Series, winning the Detroit Indy Grand Prix. A move to the low-budget Dale Coyne Racing (DCR) team for 2009 resulted in the team's first open-wheel victory at the Grand Prix at the Glen. Wilson moved to the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing squad from 2010 and 2011 but did not win a race. He returned to DCR for 2012 to 2014, winning the 2012 Firestone 550 and finishing sixth in the 2013 drivers' championship.

Late in the 2015 season, in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, Wilson died one day after debris from Sage Karam's crashed car struck his helmet. He was the first driver to die from injuries sustained in an IndyCar race since Dan Wheldon in 2011. His organs were donated to save the lives of five people. A hairpin corner at Snetterton Circuit was renamed after him and a memorial fund was established to support his children.

Early and personal life

Wilson was born in Moorgate, a suburb of Rotherham, South Yorkshire,[1] on 31 July 1978 to Keith and Lynne Wilson.[2] His father owns a solvents company, a petrol station,[3] and raced Formula Ford cars from the 1960s until a major accident at Oulton Park in 1975 ended his career.[4][5] Wilson's younger brother, Stefan, is also a racing driver.[6] He grew up in Woodall, South Yorkshire.[2] From 1989 to the completion of General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examinations in July 1994, Wilson was educated at Sheffield's private Birkdale School.[7]

At age 11, he was tested for dyslexia, a learning disability that affects how a person reads and writes words; the test was negative. Wilson's mother took him to a clinic for a second test two years later and he was formally diagnosed with the condition at the age of 13.[8] He struggled at school with the disability and received additional tutoring; Wilson's peers perceived him as inept and unintelligent.[9] He married his partner Julia in 2006 and have two children, Jane and Jessica.[2] Wilson was the official ambassador for the International Dyslexia Association,[9] and Teen Cancer America.[10]

Junior career

Aged 8 in 1987, Wilson sought a hobby and took up karting,[5] refining his ability at the South Yorkshire Kart Club in Wombwell, Barnsley.[11] His father was his chief mechanic, courier and mentor.[12] In 1989, Wilson finished 7th in the Cadet National British Karting Championship, 12th in the 1991 RACMSA Junior British Championships, improving to 4th in 1992.[4] His father contacted karting expert Terry Fullerton in 1993 and the two met at the Worksop motorway services. Fullerton told him Wilson should cease karting in his category because of his weight, and mentored him in 1994.[12] Wilson finished fifth in the 1994 Formula A British Championship, the United Kingdom's highest-level of kart racing.[13] He was third at Buckmore Park Kart Circuit's Renault GP race.[14]

He progressed to car racing at age 16, competing in the Formula Vauxhall Junior Winter Series with Team JLR,[15] as preparation for the 1995 Formula Vaxuhall Junior Championship.[13] Wilson won on his series debut at Pembrey Circuit in South Wales' first heat aged 16 years and 2 months,[15][16] and became the first 16-year-old to win an official motor race in the United Kingdom.[16][17] He remained with Team JLR in 1995.[15] Wilson missed the season's first round after breaking both his legs when the brakes on his racing school car failed at Brands Hatch.[15][18] A pre-season title favourite,[15] he claimed four victories and tied on points in third position with driver Ben Collins.[13] He won the Formula Vauxhall Junior Challenge Cup category limited to 16-year-olds.[15] Wilson won the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) Chris Bristow Trophy as "the most promising driver to race at Silverstone",[19] and was a finalist for the Autosport BRDC Award.[20]

To better his driving ability,[6]Paul Stewart Racing (PSR) manager Andy Pycock selected him to compete for the team in the 1996 championship.[20][21] PSR were allowed to move his pedals back and alter its shape for better comfort to accommodate Wilson's 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) frame.[21] He won the season-opening round at Brands Hatch,[20] finished in the top five in every race and took two pole positions to finish runner-up in the championship.[14] The following year, Wilson fell to fourth overall with three victories and seven podium finishes.[19][20] For the 1997 EFDA Nations Cup at Donington Park in October, he joined fellow driver Warren Carway at the Diamond Racing-run European Union Team, finishing fourth.[22]

Photograph of Jonathan Palmer, Wilson's manager, looking at the camera
Jonathan Palmer (pictured in 2011) became Wilson's manager after the driver won the Formula Palmer Audi title in 1998.

His performances impressed the three-time world champion Jackie Stewart and his son Paul.[4] Jackie Stewart concluded Wilson's height would hinder him in single-seaters and advised a move to either sports car or touring car racing.[23] A lack of funding prevented a progression to Formula Three due to its high entry fee.[17][24] His family wrote to the former driver and commentator Jonathan Palmer for advice.[4] Palmer replied he had established a one-make racing series for drivers seeking a modest financial route to Formula One. Wilson entered Formula Palmer Audi in 1998 and was employed as a driving instructor at Bedford Autodrome.[4][24][25] With nine victories and four pole positions, he won the inaugural championship over Darren Turner,[14][18] and was again shortlisted for the Autosport BRDC Award.[2]

Wilson's title victory earned him a fully funded seat in the International Formula 3000 Championship (IF3000)--Formula One's feeder series--with Team Astromega for the 1999 season,[20][25] and Palmer became his manager.[18] He worked to better his engineering skills and relationship with the media.[18] During the season, in which Palmer obtained sponsorship for Wilson from Benetton Formula,[26] he qualified for every race and was several times the highest-placed rookie. He took two points and was 20th in the drivers' standings.[13][14][23]

His driving ability attracted Nordic Racing's attention, and they signed him for the 2000 season.[27] He established a rapport with team owners Chris and Derek Mower,[18] and results improved from 1999, finishing fifth overall with two podiums and five points finishes.[19] He returned to Nordic Racing for the 2001 season,[14] after negotiations with Arden International in late 2000 fell through because of his tall height.[28] Wilson won three times--at Autódromo José Carlos Pace, the A1-Ring and the Hungaroring--[19] and achieving 10 podium finishes and scoring 71 points,[23] to become the first British driver to claim the championship.[29] Wilson won by a series-record 32 points over Mark Webber,[27][30] and the BRDC Gold Medal, the ERA Club Trophy and the Graham Hill Trophy for winning the title.[17]

At first Formula One teams were not interested in Wilson,[31] but tested for the Jordan squad at Silverstone in September 2001,[32] and had a seat fitting at McLaren.[4] Jordan did not employ Wilson to race in the 2002 season due to financial issues,[25] signing the 2001 British Formula Three champion Takuma Sato.[33] Wilson considered going to Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART),[33] and spoke to the Minardi team before it selected Webber; he did not return to IF3000.[34] For 2002, he drove in the inaugural World Series by Nissan. The Racing Engineering team chose Wilson,[20] and he accepted.[27] He won races at Autódromo José Carlos Pace and the Circuit Ricardo Tormo and achieved six more podium finishes for fourth in the points standings.[13][19]

Formula One career

When Minardi driver Alex Yoong was rested for two races due to poor performance, Wilson was the team's preferred choice to replace him.[4] However during a seat fitting at Minardi's headquarters in Faenza, Italy,[35] he was unable to fit inside the PS02 car because of his long legs[4][20] and so Anthony Davidson drove the car instead.[23] Wilson and his manager Jonathan Palmer were eager to arrange a test with the Newman/Haas Racing CART team in September 2002, and the latter had a seat fitting in a Lola-Toyota car at their Chicago workshop and became acquainted with its staff. Wilson made his oval track test debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway on 8 October.[36] He declined Newman/Haas' invitation for a second test at Sebring International Raceway in December.[37][38]

Photograph of Wilson in a racing car leaving a curve
Wilson driving for Minardi at the 2003 British Grand Prix

Wilson discussed driving for Minardi in 2003 with its owner Paul Stoddart, who was keen to have him replace the outgoing Mark Webber.[39] He was told to gather £2 million in sponsorship funding to race for Minardi.[40] The capital was raised through Palmer searching for financial partners,[41] whilst Wilson's father mortgaged the family home.[29] With the provision of him bringing the agreed financial settlement,[41] Minardi designed the PS03 car to accommodate Wilson's large frame; the seat was lowered to keep his knees away from his chin and moved its pedals forward.[42] He visited Faenza in late November and had no difficulty entering and exiting a mocked-up version of the car.[43] Wilson signed a three-year contract to drive for Minardi one month later.[44]

It emerged Wilson had not obtained the necessary sponsorship money to pay for his seat at Minardi and his father was close to selling his petrol station.[42] Palmer spent most of January and February 2003 holding meetings with lawyers to develop a programme allowing investors to support Wilson's career by buying shares in him. This would allow them to raise £1.2 million required for Wilson to drive for Minardi in the season's first two rounds.[45] The investment was floated on the London Stock Exchange from 5 March to 31 May,[45][46][47] making Wilson the first racing driver to be listed on it.[47] A total of 900 people invested a minimum of £500,[13] with 10 per cent of Wilson's earnings paid to them until 31 December 2012.[a][47][48]

Photograph of Wilson driving his Jaguar into the pit
Wilson driving for Jaguar at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix

He equalled the pace of his more experienced teammate Jos Verstappen;[13][27] Wilson generally qualified in a low grid slot and made brisk starts to gain track position before a pit stop.[23] Before the German Grand Prix, Jaguar selected him to replace the under-performing Antônio Pizzonia for the rest of the season.[b][49] David Pitchforth, Jaguar's managing director, and team principal Tony Purnell were impressed with Wilson's performances and driving; they received feedback from Stoddart and Wilson's mechanics at Nordic Racing. Palmer told Wilson to visit Jaguar's headquarters in Milton Keynes for a seat fitting at midnight with a contract written up the day after the British Grand Prix.[50] Having been granted the final five races to convince Jaguar to keep him alongside Webber for 2004,[51] his teammate outperformed him by half a second on average due to his unfamiliarity with the car.[52] Wilson finished eighth at the United States Grand Prix and was 20th in the drivers' standings with one point.[53]

He was linked to three teams for the 2004 season.[54] Jaguar granted Wilson a contract extension until post-season testing ended in December to convince the team to retain him.[55] Jaguar dropped Wilson because its owner, Ford, was not prepared to pour unlimited funds into Formula One and advised the team to sign a pay driver.[56]Christian Klien, a Formula Three driver funded by the drink company Red Bull, took Wilson's place.[23] A return to Jaguar as a test driver on race weekends was made unfeasible after Formula One's governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), retained a regulation for 2004 prohibiting drivers who had competed in six or more Formula One events from participating in Friday test sessions.[57]

American open-wheel racing career

Champ Car World Series (2004-2007)

With the loss of employment in Formula One, Wilson was disenchanted with his career,[58] and sought a drive in the Champ Car World Series (CCWS) over the rival Indy Racing League (IRL) due to its parity, noting: "Same cars, same engines, so working with the team with a half reasonable budget you can do a half decent job."[59] Wilson signed with the small-budget Conquest Racing team for the 2004 season.[60][61] The layout of his Lola car allowed him to lie almost flat on its floor and demonstrated a decent performance in pre-season testing.[62] Wilson had a mixed season driving the No. 34 car; he took eight top-ten finishes, with a year-best of fourth at the season-ending Gran Premio Telmex/Tecate. He generally qualified higher than he finished, taking a season-high of second at the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland.[63] Wilson finished 11th in the drivers' standings with 188 points,[63] and was second to A. J. Allmendinger in the rookie of the year standings.[64]

Photograph showing part of the side of a racing car with Wilson's head and helmet showing
Wilson competing for RuSPORT at the 2005 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

After the season, Wilson declared his wish to remain in the CCWS for the 2005 season and enquired several teams about employment.[65] Car owner Carl Russo signed him to replace Michel Jourdain Jr. at the RuSPORT team in November 2004.[64][66] Wilson worked with driver coach Barry Waddell,[67] and cautioned his rivals he was ready to win races due to further car and driver development.[68] In the No. 9 Lola-Ford car, Wilson took three fourth-place finishes in the first three rounds before earning his first series pole position at the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland.[63] He led the final ten laps of the Molson Indy Toronto to claim his first series victory.[69] Wilson followed that victory with four more top-ten finishes,[63] and ended the season with a second career win at the Gran Premio Telmex/Tecate from pole position.[70] He amassed 265 points to finish third in the drivers' championship; his qualifying results improved with nine top fives.[63]

Wilson remained with RuSPORT for the 2006 season. Several pundits predicted he would challenge for the drivers' championship, and he said his objective was to be consistent and win two or three races.[71] He took four second-place finishes in the first five rounds.[63] At the season's sixth race, the Molson Grand Prix of Toronto, Wilson won his only pole position that year.[72] At the following West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton he qualified in third place and achieved his only victory of 2006.[73] Wilson took a further three top-eight finishes.[63] He fractured the scaphoid bone in his right wrist in an accident in practice for the Lexmark Indy 300, requiring him to withdraw from the race; he was deemed fit by the CCWS medical delegate Chris Pinderski to enter the season-ending Gran Premio Telmex.[c][74] He qualified on pole position,[75] and led until Sébastien Bourdais passed him on the final lap.[76] Wilson finished runner-up in the championship with 298 points,[63] and won that year's Greg Moore Legacy Award.[77]

Photograph of two race cars almost side by side on a track
Wilson during pre-season testing for the 2007 Champ Car season

The Newman/Haas, Forsythe and RuSPORT teams were interested in Wilson for the 2007 season.[78] He signed "a multi-year contact" with RuSPORT in January 2007.[79] Wilson was persuaded to remain there after his race engineer Todd Malloy left and limitations in the team's budget saw his assistant Mike Talbott promoted.[67] Driving the No. 9 Panoz DP01-Cosworth XFE he achieved eight top-ten finishes and two pole positions at the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland and the San Jose Grand Prix at Redback Raceway after ten rounds.[63] Wilson led most of the Bavaria Champ Car Grand Prix for his solitary victory of the season.[80] He ended his CCWS career with consecutive top-ten finishes in the final two rounds to be runner-up in the drivers' championship with 281 points.[63] Wilson won the Greg Moore Legacy Award for the second successive year.[77]

IndyCar Series (2008-2015)

Photograph of Wilson driving a red Dallara-Honda car on a race track
Wilson practising for the 2008 Indianapolis 500

Late in the season RuSPORT announced it was closing and informed Wilson and his colleagues.[81] He was put on Newman/Haas' shortlist to replace the outgoing Bourdais for the 2008 season, and was rumoured to be in contention to drive for Andretti Green Racing and did not want to move to the American Le Mans Series.[82] Wilson and Palmer agreed terms to join Newman/Haas in the CCWS before it amalgamated with the IRL to form the IndyCar Series.[27][25] Wilson said his objective for the season was to perform to the best of his ability and acknowledged Newman/Haas would be disadvantaged against the established IndyCar teams on oval tracks noting: "We can only judge the competition when we get there, but we have to be realistic. I don't want to overestimate and I don't want to underestimate."[83]

While Wilson struggled during his rookie season driving the No. 2 Dallara-Honda car, he took pole position for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach,[63] and rapidly established himself as a road course expert.[13] He qualified 16th for his first Indianapolis 500. Mid-race, Wilson had an accident due to a loss of control at the rear of his car, which left him 27th.[84] He was third at the Indy Edmonton and achieved his first series victory at the Detroit Indy Grand Prix three races later.[13] Wilson was 11th in the drivers' championship with 340 points,[63] and was second in the rookie of the year standings, behind Hideki Mutoh but ahead of Will Power.[85]

Wilson driving his car on a track

Before the 2009 season Newman/Haas co-owner and actor Paul Newman died and the Great Recession cost the team much of its funding.[18][25] In January 2009 Wilson was released from the team after being informed they could not support two paid drivers without acquiring additional sponsorship.[d][86] The funded Robert Doornbos replaced him.[87] He contacted Dale Coyne, the co-owner of the privately underfunded Dale Coyne Racing (DCR) team,[16][25] in February,[88] after a journalist told him DCR had employed engineer Bill Pappas.[89] Wilson visited their workshop for a seat fitting,[90] and became acquainted with Pappas.[88] He signed a contract to drive for DCR one month later.[63][91] At the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Wilson began from second and finished third.[91] He qualified 15th for the Indianapolis 500; late in the race, Wilson retired following a collision with a barrier after 160 laps, placing 23rd.[84] Wilson started second at the Grand Prix at the Glen and led for 49 out of 60 laps in DCR's first open-wheel victory and his second in the series.[92] With five more top-ten finishes over the rest of the year, he was ninth in the points standings with 354.[63]

Wilson drove Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's (DRR) No. 22 car in the 2010 season.[93] A disagreement over the length of his contract with DCR, the departure of key team personnel and a desire for another experience led him to assess driving elsewhere.[87][89] Wilson received a telephone call from Dreyer & Reinbold co-owners Robbie Buhl and Dennis Reinbold and visited their workshop in January 2010. He was impressed by what he observed and signed to the team soon after.[94] Wilson mentored his teammate Mike Conway on oval track racing and advised DRR on road courses.[95] In the first four races he finished second at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the Grand Prix of Long Beach.[96] After qualifying 11th for the Indianapolis 500, Wilson led eleven laps and took seventh.[84] Four races later, he took his first IndyCar pole position for the Honda Indy Toronto.[97] The rest of Wilson's season saw him achieve a best of sixth at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. He was 11th in the drivers' standings with 361 points.[63]

Although linked with the Andretti Autosport, KV Racing Technology and Panther Racing teams for the 2011 season,[87] Wilson stayed at DRR. An important factor in his decision was the progress he believed the team had made in 2010.[98] Wilson sustained a minor fracture in his left wrist in an accident with Alex Tagliani at the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and wore a carbon fibre brace.[99] He started the Indianapolis 500 from 19th position. Handling and balance difficulties left Wilson in 16th.[100] His best finish of 2011 was fifth at Edmonton Indy.[63] During practice for the Honda Indy 200 an accident left him with a stable burst fracture of the T5 vertebrae in his back. Wilson was ruled unfit for three months and wore a back brace.[101] For the rest of the season, his substitutes were Simon Pagenaud at Mid-Ohio, Tomas Scheckter at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Giorgio Pantano on the road and street courses and Townsend Bell in Kentucky and Las Vegas.[102] Wilson was 24th in the points standings with 183.[63]

Photograph of Wilson in a Dallara DW12 Honda racing into a curve
Wilson competing for Dale Coyne Racing at the 2012 Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix

For the 2012 season, he returned to drive for DCR in its No. 18 Dallara DW12-Honda car. Wilson had two tenth-place finishes in the first four races. At the Indianapolis 500, he qualified in 21st and finished 7th.[63] At the Firestone 550 Wilson overtook Graham Rahal, who crashed with two laps to go, for his third career series victory and his first on an oval track.[e][104] The rest of his season saw him claim two more top-ten results in the final eight races for 15th in the drivers' championship with 278 points.[63]

Wilson remained at DCR for the 2013 season after signing a long-term contract; he changed his car number to 19.[105] He began the year with three consecutive top-nine finishes.[63] Wilson qualified for the Indianapolis 500 in 14th and finished a career-high fifth.[f][107] His performance for the rest of 2013 included three podium finishes--two third places at the first Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix and the Grand Prix of Houston, and a season-high second at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.[63] At the season-ending IndyCar World Championships at the Auto Club Speedway, Wilson was involved in a high speed lateral impact with driver Tristan Vautier, sustaining a minor pulmonary contusion and three non-operable breakages to his pelvis. He was told to avoid bearing weight on his right leg before commencing rehabilitation.[108] Wilson finished the season a series-high sixth in the drivers' standings with 472 points.[63]

Photograph of Wilson sitting in his blue and white racing car in the pit at the 2015 Indianapolis 500
Wilson driving for Andretti Autosport during qualifying for the 2015 Indianapolis 500

DCR owner Dale Coyne took up an option to retain Wilson for the 2014 season after recovering from injury and recommenced training.[109] Michael Cannon became his race engineer after Bill Pappas moved to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Coyne promised Wilson better resources for him to continue achieving top-ten finishes.[110] His first top ten-finish of 2014 was a sixth at the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.[63] Wilson started 14th at the Indianapolis 500 finishing eight places lower and two laps down in 22nd after debris damaged his front wing late in the race.[111] One race later, Wilson achieved a season-best fourth at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix and four top-ten finishes in the final 12 rounds for 15th overall with 395 points.[63]

He left DCR after the season ended because of their limited budget for a full-time campaign,[30] and sought employment with another team for the 2015 season, saying: "It's one of those things, where I could find out tomorrow, or it could be in another month or two months."[112] Talks with Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti, who was interested in Wilson, about a full-time campaign ended in March 2015 over sponsorship issues.[48] That same month, Wilson signed a two-race contract to drive Andretti Autosport's No. 25 car in May's Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500.[113] He started his final Indianapolis 500 from sixth position. During the race a tyre vibration and a pit stop strategy error left him in 21st.[63][114] Afterwards, Wilson obtained sponsorship to drive the season's final five races for Andretti,[27] finishing a year-high second in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio,[63] in an aerodynamically inefficient car.[61]

Other racing ventures

Wilson made his sports car racing debut at the 2001 FIA GT Magny-Cours 500km, part of the FIA GT Championship. He shared the Coca-Cola Racing Team's No. 65 Porsche 911 GT3-RS with Tomá? Enge, finishing third in the N-GT category.[115][116] He joined fellow British drivers Ben Collins and Christian Vann in a Team Ascari-entered Ascari KZR-1 car in the LMP900 class at the 2002 12 Hours of Sebring (part of the American Le Mans Series), finishing sixth.[117] Two years later, he again entered the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring, this time joined by Milka Duno and Phil Andrews. Driving a Taurus Racing-fielded Lola B2K/10 they finished 9th in class and 22nd overall. In June, Wilson competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Tom Coronel and Ralph Firman in the No. 16 Racing for Holland Dome S101-Judd car, retiring after 313 laps with ignition failure.[116]

At the 2006 24 Hours of Daytona (part of the Rolex Sports Car Series), Wilson drove for Michael Shank Racing (MSR) alongside A. J. Allmendinger, Oswaldo Negri Jr. and Mark Patterson in the No. 60 Riley Mk.X1-Lexus car in the Daytona Prototype (DP) category, completing 733 laps and finishing second.[118] He entered the season-ending round of the 2007 Rolex Sports Car Series, the Sunchaser 1000, joining Negri and Patterson at MSR and finishing tenth. He returned to MSR for the 2008 24 Hours of Daytona with Negri, Patterson and Graham Rahal, driving the Riley Mk.XX-Ford DP vehicle and finishing sixth after starting from pole position.[116]

Photograph of the Riley Mk.XXVI-Ford Wilson shared to win the 2012 24 Hours of Daytona
The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Riley Mk.XXVI-Ford that Wilson shared with A. J. Allmendinger, Oswaldo Negri Jr. and John Pew to win the 2012 24 Hours of Daytona outright.

In 2010, he entered the 24 Hours of Daytona for the third time, this time for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in the DP class. The No. 01 Riley Mk.XX-BMW car he shared with Max Papis, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas finished second after starting fifth.[116] Wilson returned to MSR with Curb/Agajanian for the 2011 24 Hours of Daytona, partnering Allmendinger and Michael McDowell, starting eighth and finishing seventh in the No. 6 Dallara DP01-Ford car.[116] He won the 2012 24 Hours of Daytona with Allmendinger, Negri and John Pew at MSR, completing 761 laps in the No. 60 Riley-Ford DP car.[119] He joined Kelly Racing as Greg Murphy's international co-driver in its No. 51 Holden Commodore for the Gold Coast 600 double header round of the V8 Supercars Championship in October 2012.[120] Wilson visited the team's workshop for a seat fitting as preparation for the round.[121] He and Murphy finished outside of the top ten in both races.[122]

Wilson entered the 24 Hours of Daytona alongside Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Negri and Pew at MSR in 2013, finishing third.[116] He partnered Gustavo Yacamán in MSR's No. 6 Riley-Ford car at the Six Hours at the Glen when regular driver Antônio Pizzonia had sponsorship problems,[123] finishing sixth.[116] With no date conflicts between the IndyCar Series and the Rolex Sports Car Series, Wilson entered the 2013 Rolex Sports Car Series' final four rounds to partner and mentor Yacamán.[124] The duo had a season-best second-place finish at Lime Rock.[116] At the 2014 24 Hours of Daytona (now part of the United SportsCar Championship), Wilson, Allmendinger, Negri and Pew were 12th in the prototype class and 47th overall due to a gearbox fault in the No. 60 Riley-Ford Ecoboost car.[116][125] He rejoined Negri and Pew at MSR for the following 12 Hours of Sebring,[125] finishing ninth.[116]

In 2015, Wilson replaced Matt McMurry as co-driver to Negri and Pew in MSR's No. 60 Ligier JS P2-Honda car at the 12 Hours of Sebring,[126] where they came 42nd.[116] As Wilson waited for a new IndyCar Series contract, he was entered into the all-electric Formula E round in Moscow by Andretti Autosport in June.[2] He replaced Scott Speed, who had an X Games commitment.[127] Wilson finished 10th and scored 1 championship point for a 25th drivers standing finish.[128] A planned drive in a HPD ARX-04b at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in June was cancelled because turbocharger failures damaged the car's motors.[129]

Death

On the 179th lap of the 2015 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway,[130] the race leader Sage Karam lost control of his car in the first turn after passing a bump in the tarmac surface. He crashed heavily with the front of his car against a wall to the right of the circuit.[131][132] The car's nose cone was removed with enough force that it ricocheted along the racing surface as other drivers manoeuvred past it.[133]James Jakes slowed faster than Wilson,[134] who turned right to avoid contact with his car. At the same time, the nose cone from Karam's car struck Wilson's helmet as he drove through the accident scene. Wilson was knocked unconscious and his car almost immediately veered left out of control towards the inside wall.[132][134] It left the track, hitting the left-hand side wall coupled with a SAFER barrier after the first turn and continued to slide before stopping.[132]

Aerial photograph of the Pocono Raceway
Pocono Raceway, where Wilson sustained a fatal accident from being struck by airborne debris from the car of Sage Karam.

Wilson was unresponsive when the track safety crew arrived at his vehicle and he had to be extricated from it.[130] A medivac helicopter was called for and transported Wilson to Lehigh Valley Hospital in nearby Allentown, Pennsylvania. He was reported to be in a coma with a severe head injury and listed in a critical condition.[135] Wilson was declared dead from his injuries at 17:37 local time on 24 August.[136] The Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles and the CEO of the Hulman & Company Mark Miles made the news public at 21:00 that same day.[137] He was the first driver to die from injuries sustained in a racing accident in IndyCar since Dan Wheldon was killed during the 2011 IZOD IndyCar World Championships at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. An autopsy conducted by Andrew Kehm, the Chief Deputy Coroner of the Lehigh County Coroner's Office, on 26 August determined Wilson died of a blunt force trauma to his head.[136] On 10 September, he was given a funeral service at St James The Great Church in Paulerspury, Northamptonshire, England attended by about 500 mourners, which included members of the motor racing community. Wilson was subsequently cremated, and a wake was held for him at Silverstone Circuit.[138]

An inquest into his death was held at Northampton General Hospital on the morning of 9 March 2016.[g][140] The coroner concluded his death was "accidental".[141] A statement from Wilson's father was read, which described the crash as a "freak accident" and stated:

"The car leading the race crashed and was driving at over 200 mph (320 km/h). The driver was unhurt but debris from his car flew high into the air and a large, heavy piece hit Justin on the head as he approached the scene of the accident. Justin was unconscious, he was extracted from the car and rushed to hospital. He underwent surgery and was kept on a life support machine until the following day. The decision was then taken to switch off the machine and Justin was pronounced deceased."[141]

Personality and legacy

David Tremayne of The Independent described Wilson as an "easy-going and humble" individual who was able to build a rapport with others.[77] According to Alasdair Steven of The Herald: "his cheerful, quietly modest manner, and genuine enthusiasm" made him popular with fans of motor racing.[6] A leader of the IndyCar safety and promotional association alongside Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan,[142] Wilson increased his lobbying for improved safety after the death of Dan Wheldon in 2011.[18] He aspired to have retention walls altered to better deal with airborne crashes,[18] and wrote an online article arguing for the shifting of trackside grandstands to inside racing circuits as a means of shielding spectators from debris.[30]

Nicknamed "Bad Ass" by his driving instructor colleagues at PalmerSport in 1999,[18][143] for being "as fearsome a competitor you could ever find",[144] Wilson was friendly,[77] shy,[18][144] endearing,[27] soft-spoken and highly analytical.[145] His technical shrewdness provided teams with extensive performance alterations to improve a race car.[145] According to Racers Mark Glendenning this made Wilson a driver who "commanded universal respect" from fellow competitors.[30] For DailySportsCar editor Graham Goodwin it created an image of Wilson as "a very rare breed indeed, a man in the modern age who had competed at the highest level in multiple motorsport disciplines", and a driver who "had the cutting edge".[146] Wilson was fast-witted and used this in his humour.[144]

After Wilson's death, the donation of his organs helped to save the lives of five people.[147] On 27 August IndyCar drivers Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Graham Rahal converted what had been a previously planned promotion for the season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway by driving their cars across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco into a tribute for Wilson. Andretti drove Wilson's No. 25 car.[148] Honda and Andretti Autosport employed Wilson's close friend and fellow driver Oriol Servià to drive his car in Sonoma.[149]

Joey Gase's white racing car with Wilson's image on the back and an organ donation appeal from DonateLife.net
NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Joey Gase ran with Wilson's image at the rear of his car to promote awareness of eye, organ and tissue donation.

Joey Gase, a NASCAR Xfinity Series driver, carried a photograph of Wilson on the rear of his No. 52 car to promote awareness of eye, organ and tissue donation.[150] A. J. Allmendinger had his former teammate Wilson's name above the window of his vehicle for the final 12 rounds of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.[151] At the 2016 Indianapolis 500, Stefan drove the No. 25 KV Racing Technology car in honour of his elder sibling.[152] The name of a hairpin turn on the Snetterton Circuit's 300 layout was changed from Montreal Corner to Wilson Corner by the track's owners MotorSport Vision in July 2016; a board at the corner features the design of Wilson's multi-coloured rainbow racing helmet and his surname.[153]

The Wilson Children's Fund was launched with the support of his widow Julia to ensure their two daughters would be financially secure in the long-term following his death.[154] Contributions are raised through the auctioning of motor racing memorabilia on the internet and by public donations.[155]

Motorsports career results

Complete International Formula 3000 results

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap; small number denotes finishing position)

Year Entrant 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 DC Points
1999 Team Astromega IMO
6
MON
Ret
CAT
6
MAG
10
SIL
Ret
A1R
Ret
HOC
Ret
HUN
7
SPA
Ret
NÜR
Ret
20th 2
2000 Nordic Racing IMO
8
SIL
3
CAT
5
NÜR
Ret
MON
7
MAG
9
A1R
2
HOC
Ret
HUN
5
SPA
5
5th 16
2001 Coca-Cola Nordic Racing INT
1
IMO
6
CAT
3
A1R
1
MON
2
NÜR
Ret
MAG
2
SIL
2
HOC
2
HUN
1
SPA
2
MNZ
2
1st 71
Source:[156]

Complete American Le Mans Series results

Year Entrant Class Chassis Engine Tyres 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Rank Points
2002 Team Ascari LMP900 Ascari KZR-1 Judd GV4 4.0L V10 G SEB
ovr:6
cls:6
SON MID AME WAS TRO MOS MON MIA PET 39th 19
2004 Taurus Racing LMP1 Lola B2K/10 Judd GV4 4.0L V10 D SEB
ovr:22
cls:9
MID LIM SON POR MOS AME PET MON 27th 8
Source:[116]

Complete Formula One results

(key)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 WDC Points
2003 European Minardi Cosworth Minardi PS03 Cosworth V10 AUS
Ret
MAL
Ret
BRA
Ret
SMR
Ret
ESP
11
AUT
13
MON
Ret
CAN
Ret
EUR
13
FRA
14
GBR
16
20th 1
Jaguar Racing Jaguar R4 Cosworth V10 GER
Ret
HUN
Ret
ITA
Ret
USA
8
JPN
13
Source:[53]

Complete American open-wheel racing results

(key)

Champ Car World Series

Year Team Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Rank Points
2004 Conquest Racing Lola B02/00 Ford XFE V8t LBH
6
MTY
6
POR
5
CLE
18
TOR
12
VAN
14
ROA
7
DEN
7
MTL
14
LS
18
LVG
8
SRF
8
MXC
4
11th 188
Reynard 02i MIL
11
2005 RuSPORT Lola B02/00 Ford XFE V8t LBH
4
MTY
4
MIL
4
POR
17
CLE
7
TOR
1
EDM
4
SJO
4
DEN
17
MTL
3
LVG
11
SRF
7
MXC
1
3rd 265
2006 RuSPORT Lola B02/00 Ford XFE V8t LBH
2
HOU
5
MTY
2
MIL
2
POR
2
CLE
13
TOR
4
EDM
1
SJO
3
DEN
8
MTL
14
ROA
5
SRF
Wth
MXC
2
2nd 298
2007 RSPORTS Panoz DP01 Cosworth XFE V8t LVG
14
LBH
4
HOU
10
POR
2
CLE
4
MTT
5
TOR
3
EDM
2
SJO
13
ROA
8
2nd 281
RuSPORT ZOL
5
ASN
1
SRF
2
MXC
10
Source:[63]
Years Teams Races Poles Wins Podiums
(non-win)
Top 10s
(non-podium)
Championships
4 3 54 6 4 11 25 0

IndyCar Series

Year Team Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Rank Points
2008 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing Dallara Honda HMS
15
STP
9
MOT1 KAN
9
INDY
27
MIL
7
TXS
27
IOW
12
RIR
7
WGL
25
NSH
18
MDO
11
EDM
3
KTY
19
SNM
9
DET
1
CHI
11
SRF2
12
11th 340
Panoz Cosworth LBH1
19
2009 Dale Coyne Racing Dallara Honda STP
3
LBH
22
KAN
14
INDY
23
MIL
15
TXS
15
IOW
18
RIR
14
WGL
1
TOR
5
EDM
8
KTY
21
MDO
13
SNM
7
CHI
10
MOT
12
HMS
10
9th 354
2010 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing SAO
11
STP
2
ALA
7
LBH
2
KAN
18
INDY
7
TXS
19
IOW
24
WGL
10
TOR
7*
EDM
21
MDO
27
SNM
6
CHI
7
KTY
11
MOT
16
HMS
21
11th 361
2011 STP
10
ALA
19
LBH
22
SAO
7
INDY
16
TXS
17
TXS
21
MIL
10
IOW
12
TOR
15
EDM
5
MDO
Wth
NHM
Inj
SNM
Inj
BAL
Inj
MOT
Inj
KTY
Inj
LVS
C
24th 183
2012 Dale Coyne Racing Dallara DW12 STP
10
ALA
19
LBH
10
SAO
22
INDY
7
DET
22
TXS
1
MIL
23
IOW
10
TOR
21
EDM
9
MDO
18
SNM
11
BAL
17
FON
23
15th 278
2013 STP
9
ALA
8
LBH
3
SAO
20
INDY
5
DET
3
DET
22
TXS
15
MIL
9
IOW
11
POC
7
TOR
11
TOR
8
MDO
8
SNM
2
BAL
4
HOU
3
HOU
4
FON
18
6th 472
2014 STP
8
LBH
16
ALA
6
IMS
11
INDY
22
DET
4
DET
12
TXS
21
HOU
10
HOU
12
POC
14
IOW
13
TOR
10
TOR
10
MDO
15
MIL
17
SNM
9
FON
13
15th 395
2015 Andretti Autosport STP NLA LBH ALA IMS
24
INDY
21
DET DET TXS TOR FON MIL
18
IOW
17
MDO
2
POC
15
SNM 24th 108
Source:[63]
1 Run on same day.
2 Non-points-paying, exhibition race.
Years Teams Races Poles Wins Podiums
(non-win)
Top 10s
(non-podium)
Indianapolis 500
wins
Championships
8 4 120 2 3 9 41 0 0
Source:[63]

Indianapolis 500

Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results

Year Team Co-drivers Car Class Laps Pos Class pos
2004 Racing for Holland Tom Coronel
Ralph Firman
Dome S101-Judd LMP1 313 DNF DNF
Source:[116]

Complete WeatherTech SportsCar Championship

Year Team Class Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Rank Points
2014 Michael Shank Racing P Ford EcoBoost Riley DP Ford EcoBoost 3.5 L V6 Turbo DAY
12
SIR
9
LBH
LGA
DET
WGL
MSP
IND
ELK
COA
PET
40th 43
2015 Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb/Agajanian P Ligier JS P2 Honda HR28TT 2.8 L V6 Turbo DAY SEB
13
LBH
LGA
DET
WGL
MOS
ELK
COA
PET
33rd 19
Source:[116]

Complete 24 Hours of Daytona results

Complete Formula E results

Year Team Car 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Pos Points
2014-15 Andretti Autosport Spark-Renault SRT 01E BEI PUT PDE BNA MIA LBH MCO BER MSC
10
LON LON 25th 1
Source:[128]

Notes

  1. ^ Murray Walker, the motor racing commentator, promoted the investment and bought shares in it.[6]
  2. ^ Wilson's seat at Minardi was filled by the International Formula 3000 driver Nicolas Kiesa.[49]
  3. ^ Adam Carroll, a GP2 Series racer, was shortlisted to replace Wilson if he had been ruled unfit for participation.[74]
  4. ^ Wilson's sponsors were transferred to his teammate Graham Rahal.[86]
  5. ^ Wilson's car failed a post-race inspection because an illegal aerodynamic modification to its sidepod was discovered; he was fined $7,500 and the victory was upheld.[103]
  6. ^ Wilson's fifth-position finish at the 2013 Indianapolis 500 earned him the Earl Howe Trophy as "the highest placed British driver in the Indianapolis 500 race or to the British driver who has established the most meritorious performance of the year in North America."[106]
  7. ^ As of 2019, the full report into Wilson's death compiled by the IndyCar Series has not been released to the public.[139]

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External links

Justin Wilson career summary at DriverDB.com

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Inaugural
Formula Palmer Audi
Champion

1998
Succeeded by
Richard Tarling
Preceded by
Bruno Junqueira
International Formula 3000
Champion

2001
Succeeded by
Sébastien Bourdais
Preceded by
Dan Wheldon
Fatalities in Champ Car/IndyCar
2015
Succeeded by
None

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Justin_Wilson_(racing_driver)
 



 



 
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