Justin Wilson (racing driver)

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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 active20082015
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 the Champ Car World Series from 2004 to 2007 and the IndyCar Series from 2008 to 2015. He won the first Formula Palmer Audi in 1998, the International Formula 3000 Championship with Nordic Racing in 2001 and was a co-winner of the 2012 24 Hours of Daytona for Michael Shank Racing.

In 1987, Wilson began karting at the age of eight and achieved consistent results, before progressing to car racing in the Formula Vauxhall Championship. There he won his series debut to become the first 16-year old British driver to win a motor race in the United Kingdom. His Formula Palmer Audi title success earned him a fully-funded and sponsored drive in the International Formula 3000 Championship. Wilson was the first British driver to win the series championship in 2001. The following year, after failing to obtain employment in Formula One, he switched to the inaugural World Series by Nissan, where he finished fourth for the Racing Engineering team. Through an investment scheme where members of the public could purchase shares in Wilson, he competed for the Minardi and Jaguar teams in the 2003 Formula One World Championship.

He began driving in the Champ Car World Series in 2004, with the Conquest Racing team, before moving to RuSPORT, where he won four races and was runner-up in the drivers' championship in 2006 and 2007. Wilson switched to the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing squad to compete in the 2008 IndyCar Series, winning the Detroit Indy Grand Prix late in the season. A move to the low-budget Dale Coyne Racing team for 2009 resulted in the team's first open-wheel victory at the Grand Prix at the Glen. Wilson's subsequent transfer to the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing squad resulted in no further victories between 2010 and 2011. He returned to Dale Coyne Racing from 2012 and 2014, where he won the 2012 Firestone 550 and was sixth in the final 2013 drivers' championship standings.

Late in the 2015 season, in the ABC Supply 500 at the 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 event since Dan Wheldon in 2011. Overall Wilson won seven races in American open-wheel racing. He was a popular driver and was able to establish a rapport with others. Wilson donated his organs to save the lives of six people. A hairpin corner at the Snetterton Circuit was renamed after him and a memorial fund was established to support his two children financially in the long-term.

Early and personal life[edit]

Wilson was born in Moorgate, a suburb of Rotherham, South Yorkshire,[1] on 31 July 1978 to Keith and Lynne Wilson.[2] His father is the owner of a solvents company and a petrol station[3] who raced Formula Ford cars from the 1960s until a major accident at Oulton Park in 1975 ended his career.[4][5][6] Wilson has a younger brother, Stefan, who is also a racing driver.[7] He grew up in Woodall, a small hamlet outside of the Woodall services a motorway service station on the M1 motorway near Sheffield.[2][6] From 1989 to the completion of General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examinations in July 1994, Wilson was educated at the Birkdale School.[8]

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.[9] He struggled at school with the disability and received additional tutoring; Wilson's peers perceived him as inept and unintelligent.[10] He married his partner Julia in 2006. They have two children, Jane and Jessica.[2] Wilson was the official ambassador for the International Dyslexia Association,[10] and Teen Cancer America.[11]

Junior career[edit]

Aged 8 in 1987, Wilson sought a hobby and took up karting.[5] He refined his driving skill at the South Yorkshire Kart Club in Wombwell, Barnsley.[12] Wilson's father served as his chief mechanic, courier and mentor from the start of his son's career.[13] In 1989, he finished seventh in the Cadet National British Karting Championship. Wilson was 12th in the 1991 RACMSA Junior British Championships, improving to fourth in 1992.[4] Wilson's father contacted karting mentor and expert Terry Fullerton in 1993 and the two met at the Worksop services. Fullerton told him that his son should cease karting in his category because of his weight. Fullerton mentored Wilson in 1994.[13] Wilson finished fifth in the 1994 Formula A British Championship, the highest-level of kart racing in the United Kingdom.[14] He was third at the Buckmore Park Kart Circuit's Renault GP race.[15]

He progressed to car racing at age 16, competing in the Formula Vauxhall Junior Winter Series with Team JLR,[16] as preparation for the 1995 Formula Vaxuhall Junior Championship.[14] Wilson won his series debut at the Pembrey Circuit in South Wales' first heat aged 16 years and two months,[16][17] and became the first 16-year old to win a motor race in the United Kingdom.[17][18] He remained with Team JLR in 1995.[16] Wilson missed the season's first round after breaking both his legs when the brakes on his racing school car failed at Brands Hatch.[16][19] A pre-season title favourite,[16] he claimed four victories en route to a joint third position finish in the points standings with fellow driver Ben Collins.[14] He won the Formula Vauxhall Junior Challenge Cup category limited to 16-year old competitors.[16] Wilson won the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) Chris Bristow Trophy for being "the most promising driver to race at Silverstone".[20] He was a finalist for the Autosport BRDC Award.[21]

To better his driving ability,[7] Paul Stewart Racing (PSR) manager Andy Pycock selected him to compete for the team in the 1996 championship.[21][22] Wilson's 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) frame meant PSR were granted dispensation to move his car's pedal box back and alter its shape for better comfort.[22] He won the season-opening round at Brands Hatch,[21] finished in the top five in every race and took two pole positions to finish runner-up in the championship.[15] The following year, Wilson fell to fourth overall with three victories and seven podium finishes.[20][21] For the 1997 EFDA Nations Cup at Donington Park in October, he joined fellow driver Warren Carway in the Diamond Racing-run European Union Team, finishing fourth.[23]

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.[24] A lack of funding prevented a progression to Formula Three due to its high entry fee.[18][25] 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 thus entered Formula Palmer Audi in 1998 and was employed as a driving instructor at the Bedford Autodrome.[4][25][26] With nine victories and four pole positions, he won the inaugural championship over Darren Turner.[15][19] He was again shortlisted for the Autosport BRDC Award.[2]

Wilson's title victory earned him a fully-funded and sponsored seat in the International Formula 3000 Championship—Formula One's feeder series—with Team Astromega for the 1999 season,[21][26] and Palmer became his manager.[19] He worked to better his engineering skills and improved his relationship with the media.[19] During the season, in which Palmer obtained sponsorship for Wilson from Benetton Formula,[27] he had sub-par results. He qualified for every race (several times as the highest-placed rookie) and earned two points for a 20th-finishing position in the drivers' championship.[14][15][24]

His driving ability attracted Nordic Racing's attention. They signed him for the 2000 season.[28] He established a rapport with team owners Chris and Derek Mower.[19] Wilson's results improved from the previous year. He finished fifth in the standings with two podium finishes and took five points' finishes.[20] He returned to Nordic Racing for the 2001 season,[15] and moved to Northampton in late May.[6] Wilson won three times —at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, the A1-Ring (now called Red Bull Ring) and the Hungaroring[20]to finish the season as the champion by a series-record 32 points over his nearest rival Mark Webber.[28][29] His consistency led to a record-breaking 10 podium finishes and 71 championship points.[24] Wilson was the first British driver to win the International Formula 3000 Championship.[30] He was awarded the BRDC Gold Medal, the ERA Club Trophy and the Graham Hill Trophy for his achievement.[18]

Formula One teams were not interested in Wilson early on;[31] In September 2001, he tested for the Jordan team at Silverstone,[32] and had a seat fitting at McLaren.[4] Jordan did not sign Wilson to race in the 2002 season due to sponsorship issues,[26] and the role went to the 2001 British Formula Three champion Takuma Sato.[33] Wilson considered a switch to Championship Auto Racing Teams.[33] He talked to the Minardi team before it selected Mark Webber to drive for them; he did not return to International Formula 3000.[34] For 2002, he drove in the inaugural World Series by Nissan. The Racing Engineering team chose Wilson,[21] and he accepted.[28] He won the second races at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace and the Circuit Ricardo Tormo and took a further six podium finishes. Wilson was fourth in the final championship standings.[14][20]

Formula One career[edit]

When Minardi driver Alex Yoong was rested for two races, Wilson was the team's preferred choice to replace him.[4] He was unable to fit inside the monocoque of the PS02 because of his long legs,[4][21] during a seat fitting at Minardi's headquarters in Faenza, Italy;[35] the car was driven by Anthony Davidson instead.[24] Wilson and his manager Jonathan Palmer were eager for an opportunity to test a CART vehicle with the Newman/Haas Racing team in September 2002. He visited their workshop in Chicago to undergo a seat fitting in their Lola-Toyota car and became acquainted with their employees. Wilson made his oval track test debut for the team at the Homestead–Miami Speedway on 8 October.[36] He was invited to test for Newman/Haas for a second time at the Sebring International Raceway in December,[37] which he declined.[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 the 2003 season 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 secure employment with Minardi.[40] The capital was raised through Palmer searching for financial partners;[41] Wilson's father mortgaged the family home.[30] With the provision of him bringing the agreeed financial settlement,[41] Minardi designed its PS03 chassis to accommodate Wilson's large frame by lowering the seat to prevent his knees from being positioned next to his chin and pushed its pedals forward.[42] He visited Faentza 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 later emerged Wilson had not obtained the necessary sponsorship money to pay for his ride 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 that provided investors an opportunity 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] 900 individuals invested a minimum of £500; 10 per cent of Wilson's earnings was paid to them until 31 December 2012.[a][14][47][48]

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

At the season's second event, the Malaysian Grand Prix, a loose HANS device and seatbelt caused him to move freely in his cockpit and both his arms were temporarily paralysed after a nerve was pinched.[49] FIA medical delegate Sid Watkins cleared Wilson for the following race in Brazil.[50] He equalled the pace of his more experienced teammate Jos Verstappen;[14][28] Wilson generally qualified in a low grid slot and made brisk getaways to gain track position before a pit stop.[24] Before the German Grand Prix, Jaguar selected him as the under-performing Antônio Pizzonia's replacement for the rest of the season.[b][51] David Pitchforth, Jaguar's managing director, and the team principal Tony Purnell were impressed with Wilson's performances and driving ability; 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.[53] Having been granted the final five races to convince Jaguar to keep him alongside Mark Webber for the 2004 championship,[54] he was outperformed by his teammate by half a second on average due to his unfamiliarity with the car.[55] Wilson finished eighth at the 2003 United States Grand Prix and was 20th in the drivers' standings with one point.[56]

He was linked to three teams for the 2004 season.[57] Wilson was granted a contract extension with Jaguar until post-season testing ended in December to convince the team to retain his services.[58] Wilson did not keep his position with Jaguar because its owner, Ford, was not prepared to pour unlimited funds into Formula One and advised the team to sign a pay driver.[59] Christian Klien, a Formula Three driver who was funded by the drink company Red Bull, took Wilson's place.[24] A return to Jaguar as a test driver on Grand Prix weekends was made unfeasible after Formula One's governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), retained a regulation for the 2004 championship that prohibited drivers who had competed in six or more Formula One races from participating in Friday test sessions.[60]

American open-wheel racing career[edit]

Champ Car World Series (2004–2007)[edit]

With the loss of employment in Formula One, Wilson was disenchanted with his career.[61] He sought a drive in the Champ Car World Series 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."[62] Wilson signed with the small-budget Conquest Racing team in the 2004 season.[63][64] The layout of his Lola car allowed him to lie almost flat on its floor and demonstrated a decent performance in pre-season testing.[65] Wilson had a mixed season in the No. 34 car (he drove a Reynard for the season's third race, the Time Warner Cable Road Runner 250). 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, securing a season-high starting place of second at the championship's fourth round, the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland.[66] Wilson finished 11th in the points standings with 188 points,[66] and was second in the rookie of the year standings, after a season-long battle with A. J. Allmendinger.[67]

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 Champ Car World Series for the 2005 season and enquired about employment with several teams.[68] He was subsequently signed to drive for the RuSPORT team by its owner Carl Russo in November 2004 and replaced Michel Jourdain Jr.[67][69] Wilson worked with driver coach Barry Waddell,[70] and cautioned his rivals he was ready to win races due to further car and driver development.[71] In the No. 9 Lola-Ford car, Wilson took a trio of fourth-place finishes in the first three rounds before earning his first career series pole position at the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland.[66] He then led for the final ten laps of the Molson Indy Toronto to claim his maiden series victory.[72] Wilson followed that victory with four more top-ten finishes,[66] and ended the season with a second career win at the Gran Premio Telmex/Tecate from pole position.[73] He amassed 265 points to finish third in the drivers' championship; his qualifying results improved during the season with him starting in the top five nine times.[66]

Wilson remained with RuSPORT for the 2006 season. Several pundits predicted he would be a challenger for the drivers' championship. Wilson said his objective was to be consistent during the season and win either two or three races.[74] He began the year with a quartet of second-place finished within the first five rounds.[66] At the season's sixth race, the Molson Grand Prix of Toronto, Wilson won his sole pole position of the campaign.[75] At the West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton that followed he qualified in third place and overtook Paul Tracy and Sébastien Bourdais for his only victory of the season.[76] Wilson continued his form with a further three finishes within the first eight positions.[66] He fractured the scaphoid bone in his right wrist in an accident while practising for the Lexmark Indy 300, requiring him to withdraw from the race; he was deemed fit by the Champ Car World Series medical delegate Chris Pinderski to participate in the season-ending Gran Premio Telmex.[c][77] He qualified on pole position,[78] and led until Bourdais passed him on the final lap.[79] Wilson finished runner-up in the championship standings with 298 points.[66] He was awarded the Greg Moore Legacy Award that year.[80]

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.[81] It was confirmed he would remain at RuSPORT on "a multi-year contract" in January 2007.[82] 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.[70] Driving the No. 9 Panoz DP01-Cosworth XFE he claimed 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 in the season's first ten rounds.[66] At the Bavaria Champ Car Grand Prix, Wilson led for most of the event for his solitary victory of the season.[83] He ended his Champ Car World Series career with consecutive top-ten finishes in the campaign's final two rounds and placed runner-up in the drivers' championship with 281 points.[66] Wilson was named the Greg Moore Legacy Award winner for the second year in a row.[80]

IndyCar Series (2008–2015)[edit]

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.[84] He was put on Newman/Haas' shortlist to replace the outgoing Sébastien Bourdais for the 2008 season. He was also rumoured to be in contention to drive for Andretti Green Racing and did not want to move to the American Le Mans Series.[85] Wilson and Jonathan Palmer agreed terms to join Newman/Haas in the Champ Car World Series before the championship amalgamated with the IRL to form the IndyCar Series.[28][26] 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."[86]

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,[66] and rapidly established himself as a specialist on road courses.[14] He qualified for his first Indianapolis 500 in 16th position. In mid-race, Wilson had an accident due to a loss of control at the rear of his car, which relegated him to a 27th-place finish.[87] He finished third at the Indy Edmonton and followed the result with the highlight of his season, a maiden career series victory at the Detroit Indy Grand Prix three races later.[14] For his results during the season, Wilson ended the year 11th in the drivers' championship standings with 340 points,[66] and was second in the rookie of the year standings, behind Hideki Mutoh and ahead of Will Power.[88]

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.[19][26] In January 2009 Wilson was released from the team after being informed they could not support two paid drivers without acquiring additional sponsorship.[d][89] The funded Robert Doornbos replaced him.[90] He contacted Dale Coyne, the co-owner of the privately underfunded and generally non-competitive Dale Coyne Racing (DCR) team,[14][17][26] in February,[91] after a journalist told him DCR had employed engineer Bill Pappas.[92] Wilson visited their workshop to undergo a seat fitting,[93] and became acquainted with Pappas.[91] He signed a contract to drive DCR's No. 19 (later No. 18) car one month later.[66][94] At the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Wilson began from second and finished third.[94] He qualified 15th for the Indianapolis 500; late in the race, Wilson retired following a collision with a barrier after completing 160 of 200 laps. He was classified 23rd.[87] Wilson started second at the Grand Prix at the Glen and led for 49 out of 60 laps for DCR's first open-wheel victory and his second in the series.[95] With five more top-ten finishes during the rest of the year, he was ninth in the final points standings with 354 accrued.[66]

Wilson drove Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's No. 22 vehicle during the 2010 season.[96] 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.[90][92] Wilson received a telephone call from Dreyer & Reinbold's 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.[97] Wilson mentored his teammate Mike Conway on oval track racing and advised Dreyer & Reinbold on its road course activities.[98] In the first four races he finished second at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the Grand Prix of Long Beach.[99] After qualifying 11th for the Indianapolis 500, Wilson led eleven laps for a seventh-position result.[87] Four races later, he qualified on pole position for the Honda Indy Toronto, his first in the IndyCar Series.[100] The rest of Wilson's season was sub-par, with a best finish of sixth at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. He placed eleventh in the drivers' standings with 361 points.[66]

Having been linked with the Andretti Autosport, KV Racing Technology and Panther Racing teams for the 2011 season,[90] it was announced Wilson would remain at Dreyer & Reinbold for the year.[101] An important factor in his decision was the progress he believed Dreyer & Reinbold had made during the previous year.[102] 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.[103] He started the Indianapolis 500 from 19th position. Handling and balance difficulties left Wilson in 16th.[104] His best finish of the season was a fifth-place at the Edmonton Indy.[66] During practice for the Honda Indy 200 a heavy 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.[105] For the rest of the season, his substitutes were Simon Pagenaud at Mid-Ohio, Tomas Scheckter at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Giorgio Pantano on the road and street courses and Townsend Bell in Kentucky and Las Vegas.[106] Wilson was 24th in the final points standings with 183 points.[66]

Wilson competing for Dale Coyne Racing at the 2012 Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix

He returned to drive for DCR in the 2012 season in its No. 18 Dallara DW12-Honda. Wilson had two tenth-place finishes in the first four races. At the Indianapolis 500, he qualified in 21st and advanced fourteen positions to finish seventh.[66] 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 a oval track.[e][108] The rest of his season saw him claim a further two top-ten results in the remaining eight races. Wilson was 15th in the final drivers' championship standings with 278 points.[66]

Wilson remained at DCR for the 2013 season after signing a long-term contract; he changed his car number to 19.[109] He began the year with three consecutive top-nine finishes.[66] Wilson qualified for the Indianapolis 500 in 14th. He set the race's fastest speed and finished a career-high fifth.[f][111] He was consistent in attaining top ten finishes, with nine in the following thirteen rounds. This included top-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.[66] At the season-ending IndyCar World Championships at the Auto Club Speedway, Wilson lost control of his car mid-race and spun. He sustained a 62 g0 (610 m/s2) lateral impact when Tristan Vautier struck the side of the car at high speed. Wilson sustained 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.[112] Wilson finished the season a series-high sixth in the drivers' standings with 472 points.[66]

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 he had recovered from his injuries and recommenced training.[113] Michael Cannon became his race engineer after Bill Pappas moved to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Coyne promised Wilson the team's resources would be strengthened for him to continue attaining top-ten finishes.[114] In the season's first five races, he finished sixth at the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.[66] He started 14th at the Indianapolis 500 finishing eight places lower and two laps down in 22nd after hitting debris late in the race, which necessitated a front wing replacement on his car.[115] One race later, Wilson had his best finish of the season finishing fourth at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. He attained four top-ten finishes during the season's remaining twelve rounds. Wilson came 15th in the drivers' standings with 395 points; his qualifying average dropped from 12.2 in 2013 to 13.11 in 2014.[66]

He left DCR after the season ended because of their limited budget for a full-time campaign,[29] 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."[116] Talks with Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti, who was interested in Wilson, about a full-time campaign broke down in March 2015 because of sponsorship issues.[48] That same month, Wilson signed a two-race contract to compete in Andretti Autosport's No. 25 car in May's Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500.[117] He started his final Indianapolis 500 from sixth position. During the race a tyre vibration and a pit stop strategy error restricted him to 21st.[66][118] Afterwards, Wilson obtained sponsorship to drive the season's final five races for Andretti,[28] attaining a year-high finish of second in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio,[66] driving an aerodynamically inefficient car.[64]

Other racing ventures[edit]

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 Tomáš Enge, finishing third in the N-GT category.[119][120] He then paired with fellow British drivers Ben Collins and Christian Vann in a Team Ascari-entered Ascari KZR-1 in the LMP900 class at the 2002 12 Hours of Sebring (part of the American Le Mans Series), where the trio placed sixth overall.[121] Two years later, he again entered the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring, this time partnered by Milka Duno and Phil Andrews. Driving a Taurus Racing-fielded Lola B2K/10 they finished ninth in class and 22nd overall. In June, Wilson competed for the first (and only) time in his career at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Joining Tom Coronel and Ralph Firman in the No. 16 Racing for Holland Dome S101-Judd, the car retired after 313 laps with an ignition failure.[120]

During the 2006 Rolex Sports Car Series, Wilson drove for Michael Shank Racing (MSR) in the Rolex Sports Car Series at the 24 Hours of Daytona with A. J. Allmendinger, Oswaldo Negri Jr. and Mark Patterson in their No. 60 Riley Mk.X1-Lexus in the Daytona Prototype (DP) category. Their car, starting in fifth place, finished second overall, completing 733 laps.[122] He subsequently entered the season-ending round of the 2007 Rolex Sports Car Series, the Sunchaser 1000, joining Negri and Patterson at MSR and coming tenth. He returned to MSR to compete in the season-opening 2008 24 Hours of Daytona with Negri, Patterson and Graham Rahal. The quartet drove the Riley Mk.XX-Ford DP to a sixth-place finish after starting from the pole position.[120]

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 participated in the 24 Hours of Daytona for the third time, this time with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in the DP class. Paired with Max Papis, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, the No. 01 Riley Mk.XX-BMW the quartet drove finished second overall from a fifth-position start.[120] Wilson returned to MSR with Curb/Agajanian for the 2011 24 Hours of Daytona, partnering Allmendinger and Michael McDowell. Their No. 6 Dallara DP01-Ford started eighth and finished one place higher in seventh overall.[120] He returned for a fifth time to take part in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2012. Wilson, Allmendinger, Negri and John Pew won overall with MSR, completing 761 laps in the No. 60 Riley-Ford DP.[123] 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.[124] Wilson went to the team's workshop to undergo a seat fitting in preparation for the round.[125] He and Murphy finished outside of the top ten in both races.[126]

Wilson entered the 24 Hours of Daytona alongside Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Negri and Pew at MSR in 2013. The quintet finished third overall.[120] He partnered Gustavo Yacamán in MSR's No. 6 Riley-Ford at the Six Hours at the Glen when regular driver Antônio Pizzonia had sponsorship problems,[127] finishing sixth.[120] 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.[128] The duo had a season-best second place finish at Lime Rock.[120] 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.[120][129] He then rejoined Negri and Pew at MSR for the following 12 Hours of Sebring,[129] finishing ninth overall.[120]

In 2015, Wilson replaced Matt McMurry as a co-driver to Negri and Pew in MSR's No. 60 Ligier JS P2-Honda at the 12 Hours of Sebring,[130] where they placed 42nd outright.[120] As Wilson waited for a new IndyCar Series contract, he was entered into the all-electric single-seater Formula E round in Moscow by Andretti Autosport in June.[2] He replaced Scott Speed, who had an X Games commitment.[131] Wilson finished tenth and scored one championship point for a 25th drivers standing finish.[132] He was due to drive the HPD ARX-04b at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in June until turbocharger failures damaged the car's motors and necessitated its withdrawal.[133]

Death[edit]

On the 179th lap of the 2015 ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway,[134] the leader of the event Sage Karam lost control of his car in the first turn after passing a bump in the tarmac surface. He crashed into a wall to the right of the circuit.[135][136] The impact removed a majority of Karam's front-end, and he stopped at the corner's exit. The car's nose cone was removed with enough force that it ricocheted along the racing surface as other drivers manoeuvred past it.[137] James Jakes slowed faster than Wilson, who was following him, could do so.[138] Wilson steered to the outside to avoid contact with Jakes' car. At the same time, the nose cone from Karam's crashed car struck Wilson's helmet at an estimated force of 8 kg (18 lb) 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.[136][138] It left the track, hitting the left-hand side wall that was coupled with a SAFER barrier after the first turn and continued to slide before stopping.[136]

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.[134] 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.[139] Wilson was declared dead from his injuries at 17:37 local time on 24 August.[140] The news was made public by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles and the CEO of the Hulman & Company Mark Miles at 21:00 that same day.[141] He was the first driver to die from injuries sustained in a racing accident in IndyCar competition since Dan Wheldon was killed during the 2011 IZOD IndyCar World Championships at the 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.[140] On 10 September, he was given a funeral service at the St James The Great Church in Paulerspury, Northamptonshire, 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 the Silverstone Circuit.[142]

An inquest into his death was held at the Northampton General Hospital on the morning of 9 March 2016.[g][144] 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.[145]

The coroner concluded his death was "accidental".[145]

Personality and legacy[edit]

David Tremayne of The Independent described Wilson as an "easy-going and humble" individual who was able to build a rapport with others.[80] According to Alasdair Steven of The Herald: "his cheerful, quietly modest manner, and genuine enthusiasm" made him popular with fans of motor racing.[7] A leader of the IndyCar safety and promotional association alongside Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan,[146] Wilson increased his lobbying for improved safety after the death of Dan Wheldon in 2011.[19] He aspired to have retention walls altered to better deal with airborne crashes,[19] and wrote an online article arguing for the shifting of trackside grandstands to inside racing circuits as a means of shielding spectators from debris.[29]

Nicknamed "Bad Ass" by his driving instructor colleagues at PalmerSport in 1999 for being "as fearsome a competitor you could ever find",[19][147][148] Wilson was friendly,[80] shy,[19][147] endearing,[28] soft-spoken and highly analytical. His technical shrewdness provided motorsport teams with extensive alterations to a race car to improve its performance.[149] According to Racer's Mark Glendenning this made him a driver who "commanded universal respect" from fellow competitors.[29] 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".[150] Wilson was fast-witted and used this in his humour.[147]

After Wilson's death, his brother Stefan said through social media his sibling had saved the lives of six people through the donation of his organs.[151] 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.[152] Honda and Andretti Autosport employed Wilson's close friend and fellow driver Oriol Servià to drive his car in Sonoma.[153]

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 organ donation.

A moment of silence was observed in his honour at the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series races at Road America in late August 2015.[154] Similar occurrences occurred at the Grand Prix of Sonoma,[155] the Formula One Italian Grand Prix in September[156] and the Lone Star Le Mans at the Circuit of the Americas that same month.[157] Joey Gase, a NASCAR Xfinity Series driver, carried a photograph of Wilson on the rear of his No. 52 to promote awareness of organ donation.[158] A. J. Allmendinger had his former teammate Wilson's name above the window of his vehicle for the final twelve rounds of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.[159] At the 2016 Indianapolis 500, Stefan drove a No. 25 car entered by KV Racing Technology in honour of his elder sibling.[160] 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.[161]

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 after his death.[162] Contributions are raised through the auctioning of motor racing memorabilia on the internet and by public donations.[163]

Motorsports career results[edit]

Complete International Formula 3000 results[edit]

(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:[164]

Complete American Le Mans Series results[edit]

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:[120]

Complete Formula One results[edit]

(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:[56]

Complete American open-wheel racing results[edit]

(key)

Champ Car World Series[edit]

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:[66]

IndyCar Series[edit]

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 SNM BAL MOT KTY LVS 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:[66]
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:[66]

Indianapolis 500[edit]

Year Chassis Engine Start Finish Team
2008 Dallara Honda 16 27 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
2009 Dallara Honda 15 23 Dale Coyne Racing
2010 Dallara Honda 11 7 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
2011 Dallara Honda 19 16 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
2012 Dallara Honda 21 7 Dale Coyne Racing
2013 Dallara Honda 14 5 Dale Coyne Racing
2014 Dallara Honda 14 22 Dale Coyne Racing
2015 Dallara Honda 6 21 Andretti Autosport
Source:[66]

Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results[edit]

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:[120]

Complete 24 Hours of Daytona results[edit]

Year Team Co-drivers Car Class Laps Pos Class pos
2006 Michael Shank Racing A. J. Allmendinger
Oswaldo Negri Jr.
Mark Patterson
Riley Mk.XI-Lexus DP 733 2 2
2008 Michael Shank Racing Oswaldo Negri Jr.
Mark Patterson
Graham Rahal
Riley Mk.XI-Ford DP 680 6 6
2010 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Max Papis
Scott Pruett
Memo Rojas
Riley Mk.XI-BMW DP 755 2 2
2011 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian A. J. Allmendinger
Michael McDowell
Dallara Ford DP 719 7 7
2012 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian A. J. Allmendinger
Oswaldo Negri Jr.
John Pew
Riley Mk.XXVI-Ford DP 761 1 1
2013 Michael Shank Racing A. J. Allmendinger
Marcos Ambrose
Oswaldo Negri Jr.
John Pew
Riley Mk.XXVI-Ford DP 709 3 3
2014 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian A. J. Allmendinger
Oswaldo Negri Jr.
John Pew
Riley Mk.XXVI-Ford Ecoboost P 599 47 12
Source:[120]

Complete Formula E results[edit]

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:[132]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Murray Walker, the motor racing commentator, promoted the investment and bought shares in it.[7]
  2. ^ Wilson's seat at Minardi was filled by the International Formula 3000 driver Nicolas Kiesa.[51] and Pizzonia declined to take up a test driver role at Jaguar.[52]
  3. ^ Adam Carroll, a GP2 Series racer, was shortlisted to replace Wilson if he had been ruled unfit for participation.[77]
  4. ^ Wilson's sponsors were transferred to his teammate Graham Rahal.[89]
  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.[107]
  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."[110]
  7. ^ As of 2019, the full report into Wilson's death complied by the IndyCar Series has not been released to the public.[143]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

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