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Former F1 racer Justin Wilson killed in Indycar crash – open cockpits under scrutiny again
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Justin Wilson
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Aug 2015   |  8:09 am GMT  |  61 comments

Motorsport lost a popular figure as Justin Wilson, the former Jaguar F1 driver, died on Monday night in the US as a result of head injuries from an accident in an Indycar race at Pocono. Wilson was struck on the head by a piece of nosecone from another car and then crashed into the barriers.

He was airlifted to hospital Sunday night but his family issued a statement on Monday night saying that the 37 year old had died from his injuries.

Justin Wilson

Wilson will be remembered in F1 for his 2003 season with Minardi and Jaguar, switching mid-season to Jaguar and scoring a point at the US Grand Prix. Managed by ex F1 driver Jonathan Palmer on his ascent to F1, he had an innovative funding model, whereby fans could invest in him against his future earnings as a racer. He won the F3000 championship in 2001 (the forerunner to GP2).

Wilson switched to the US racing scene, like many F1 drivers before him and found a natural home in ChampCar, which was renamed Indycar, winning seven races during his career there.

It will once again intensity discussions about protecting the drivers’ heads in open cockpit racing cars following fatalities and serious injuries with debris, wheels and objects hitting the drivers’ heads.

The two main US motor sports series IndyCar and NASCAR sit alongside the FIA and the F1 experts on the recently formed GIMSS (Global Institute for Motor Sport Safety) and share knowledge and research between them on all areas of motorsport safety and operations.

Justin Wilson

The Statement from Wilson’s family said: “With deep sadness, the parents of Justin Wilson, Keith and Lynne, his wife Julia, and his brother Stefan share the news that Justin passed away today after succumbing to injuries suffered during the Verizon IndyCar event at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, August 23.

Justin was a loving father and devoted husband, as well as a highly competitive racing driver who was respected by his peers.

The family would like to thank the staff at the Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest Hospital, Pocono Raceway, Andretti Autosport, and the Verizon IndyCar Series as well as the entire racing community for the amazing outpouring of support from fans around the world.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Wilson Children’s Fund care of INDYCAR.

Wilson Children’s Fund

C/O INDYCAR

4551 West 16th Street

Indianapolis, IN 46222

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Justin Wilson, Jaguar F1

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1

Awful. Just sad. Rest in peace Justin.

2

Very sad about the death of Justin Wilson. Condolences to his family and friends. I have seen him race numerous times in CCWS (ChampCar/CART) and IndyCar. Saw him the pit lane prior to the 2013 LBGP joking around with his crew, where I believe he was runner up to Takuma Sato. Earlier poster’s comment that Justin simply wasn’t F1 material needs to be called out. Justin never had a fair shot at F1, maybe because of his height and very likely due to lack of funding.

3

Completely agree. He had the skill for F1. Williams made a car big enough for Damon Hill in 96 and he won 8 races in it and the championship. Webber was a tall guy and Newey also made a car that he could comfortably drive and win in. Alex Wurz – another tall guy who managed ok in big teams whee he had proper design support.

4

James

I just wanted to confirm to your readers that Justin was a true Gentleman and a pleasure to work with at Jaguar. On behalf of all his ex Jaguar F1 Team members I wish his family my best wishes at this very sad time.

RIP Justin

5

Thanks Mark. Very sad

6

Big, heavy pieces like nosecone sections need to be tethered to the monocoque.

7

Gutted. Justin seemed like an incredibly nice guy.

Knew it was bad the instant I saw it, Felipe Massa was almost killed by a spring hitting his head and this was a much heftier piece hitting the driver at much higher speed.

The nose seemed remarkably intact. Aren’t the front sections of Indycars designed to absorb any energy on any kind of impact? Maybe tethers would be something to consider in the wake of this.

8

Justin was a terrific person and a very good driver. Heartfelt thoughts go out to his family, team and friends.

9

What a sad day… again…

How unlucky can one be? Right on the head – BAM! Gone in a split second.

Really hope he didn’t feel too much pain.

Rest in piece Justin Wilson.

I will always remember the crash that Shumi had with Liuzzi in Abu Dhabi on the first lap several years ago. That was sooooo close and would have been definetely fatal for Schumi. Hope you get better soon Champion so that all of us get to see you one day…

10

That moment with Shumi was the moment i decided they should have a forward roll hoop, not sure if it would have helped Wilson though, RIP.

11

A forward roll hoop? How should that look like?

12

Dreadfully sad news. I’ve followed Justin’s career closely since his F3000 days, and was an investor in his funding scheme. I moved to the States myself in 2004 so had many chances to watch him race at Long Beach over the past 10 years, and as much as I’m a fan of motorsport, I’ve always hated ovals. With the loss of Dan Wheldon and now Justin, that will never change.

RIP

13

RIP Justin. Its a sad day for motorsport, I hope a viable solution can be found soon.

14
Rob in Victoria bc

I’ve always wondered, Americans being what they are with the baseball ‘World Series’, etc., whether IndyCar and Nascar are part of the FIA. Anyone know?

15

They’re both under ACCUS, which is the U.S. umbrella motorsports authority. ACCUS is then affiliated with FIA. I believe FIA have representatives within ACCUS.

16
Rob in Victoria bc

Thank you very much! Now l know.

17

The Automobile Competition Committee for the United States (ACCUS) is a member of the FIA, and IndyCar, Nascar, IMSA, SCCA, NHRA, and other U.S. racing organizations are members of ACCUS.

So yes, IndyCar and Nascar are part of the FIA.

18
Stone the crows

I believe competition in Indycar counts as points toward an F-1 super license.

19

RIP. Sad new for motorsports.

20

When death’s in Motor Sport was the norm and just accepted as part of what happens. i.e. 50’s. 60’s. 70’s etc…

It took a major change/shock to make people understand that more needed to be done.

Senna’s death changed a lot, and makes the sports so far safer nowadays.

But when will people start to realise that WE NOW NEED another major change. Is it still acceptable to continue to see people killed just for the sake of sport?

Motor Sport will never be 100% safe, but surely there has been enough death to now think about another major change to the cars these brave people drive?

We can look back in 20 odd years time and think wow how did they drive like that, the same way we now look at the cars in the early 90’s and see how high the drives sat up in the cars, and even further back with no helmets or seat belts.

Time to change your attitude and accept we need some kind of bar, canopy or what ever it takes to stop the needless deaths in Motor Sport.

Or do we have to wait until a huge star name is killed before we sit up and do something? Just like “Senna”. Would Alonso / Vettal or even Hamilton have to be killed before changes are made?

(Forgive me for mentioning their names in the last sentence)

21

very sad news, I’ve watched nearly every race he’s been in since he entered f1. he never got a chance to drive for a top team in indycar, Andretti tried to do a deal for him several times and there was a good chance he’d be driving for them next year, had he done so I’m sure he would’ve won more races.

RIP to a very talented drive and nice guy Justin

22

Here is a radical idea; let the designers address the situation.

The FIA is not always the source of knowledge. Take away the restrictions that would allow individual teams to address the problem – if it is a problem. Trust the teams explore opportunities. An aero solution may actually evolve as the best safety solution. Good design most often involves solutions to more than one narrow problem.

The worst solution would be probably be a mandated FIA one-size-fits-all. The best solution would be as just stated, one that solves more than one problem; then all teams would end up copying the best solution.

23

James, what do you think is the issue with Indy car? How is it that a series that seems to be so similar has significantly more deaths and grave injuries than F1? Is it a track design problem or a car design problem or some confluence of both? You don’t see Indy car drivers walking away nearly unscathed from accidents like Kubica’s shunt in Canada. Jules’ crash was unique in that he likely would have walked away maybe with a minor concussion/soreness if that tractor hadn’t been there, so basically F1 has not suffered a fatality from a racing accident since Imola ’94, and it isn’t for lack of truly horrific crashes. What is that we (Americans) are getting wrong? Or is it just luck?

24

Indycar drivers walk away from massive shunts all the time (Ryan Briscoe at Fontana comes to mind immediately), as long as they don’t get hit in the head by flying debris, or fencing support posts.

25

Ovals are a different beast. IndyCar racing hasn’t had a driver fatality on a road course since Gonzalo Rodríguez in 1999. An accident like Wilson’s could have happened anywhere though.

26

I’m not sure that’s right? The debris was dislodged because of the other cars impact with the wall, which lines the track on an oval (ie no runoff). Given the frequency of accidents on ovals, coupled with the speeds involved, the odds of this incident and the resultant consequences are far higher on an oval than any other type of circuit.

27

another tragedy and, as i said in another thread, the weekend could’ve been a lot worse had vettel’s tyre exploded one or two seconds earlier. it appears as though the actual tracks are very much a contributor to the outcomes in these accidents. i do recall ryan briscoe getting flung up in a ball of flame into the catch fence some years back. how he lived is an unknown but oval racing is just so dangerous that it does need to be seriously looked at.

wilson was an OK guy and i recall him driving as webber’s team mate at jaguar but he simply wasn’t F1 material. his success in the US proved to be a happy hunting ground and he will be sorely missed. bad luck, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. a sad end to his career.

28

” i do recall ryan briscoe getting flung up in a ball of flame into the catch fence some years back.”

That wasn’t an indycar or oval problem, Mark Webber had a similar sort of accident at Valencia in 2010 for example but been on a straght there was no catch fencing to hit. Had that same accident happened in a fast corner or had the car gone airborn to either side of the track he’d have hit the catch-fence just like Briscoe did.

As to oval racing, Its a part of the sport. Indycar fans like them & many of the drivers like racing on them.

I’d also point out that this sad outcome wasn’t down to oval racing, This sort of thing could & has happened on road circuits at much slower speeds (Henry Surtees at Brands Hatch a few years back for example).

There was also a near miss in the GP3 race at Spa on Sunday morning where debris flew across the track after an accident & got collected by another car, Fortunately it caught the front wheel & tore that off but had that bit of debris bounced a bit higher it may have hit the driver.

29

Such a tragic accident and through no fault of his own…

a previous poster stated they were trimming downforce to dangerous levels, and that was what was being spoken about during the race commentary as well, as Honda didn’t think they’d be competitive at Pocono, yet as the race wound down we had a number of Honda cars with really, really skinny wings…maybe there should be enforced minimum downforce limits, much like the “restrictor plate racing” in Nascar to limit stupid levels of power and speed at the superspeedways lie Talladega and Daytona.

When Justin’s car came to a halt I had that same sick feeling I had years back with Senna…you were willing that helmet to move….couldn’t sleep that morning (SA time around 1am).

So sad for his family and the racing community who knew him.

From interviews with him and reports, you just got the idea he was a stellar guy…

RIP Justin

30

RIP Justin. You will always be in the thoughts of the racing community. One can only hope your tragic passing will bring about change in motorsport regulation

31

RIP Justin. So sad for his family

32

I’ve been a Justin Wilson fan since I saw him race with Minardi, and then followed him in the US. I’m gutted, to be honest. Racing has lost a real man, Kind, intense, fast. I know he died doing what he loved and will be remembered. Not just for his racing, but for how he carried himself as a man.

33

Met him a few times, the initial NASCAR race at Rockingham Oval, Bedford Autodrome amongst others

Unbelievable and so, so sad……

34

Sad sad news,yet again a great talent lost to early,deepest sypathys to his whole family,at least he went doing something he loved doing.

35

This been a very bleak period for Motor sports, with a number of deaths occurring through unprecedented accidents. It’s highly unfortunate and does not belong in an age where they can be avoided.

A canopy would not have saved Bianchi, but it would definitely have saved Wilson. Massa would have been spared serious injury too.

More effort needs to be made to make it work.

36

Shocker & it’s a shame another driver has passed away.

One of the tallest drivers in F1 when he drove in 2003 for Jaguar & Minardi.

A great talent & role model for young people suffering from dyslexia.

He was a great talent but due to his tall stature he didn’t have a decent chance in F1.

Indy Car & Britain as lost a true gentleman in the field of Motor Sport.

Rest In Peace Justin Wilson .

37

Here here.

Flying debris claimed the life of a marshall at Monza 2000 and Melbourne 2001. Clearly, there is more investigation and research required to stop racing cars shattering into several hundred pieces before there is another fatality from debris splintering into fellow competitors, spectators and marshalls.

RIP Justin.

38

I know it was a nose cone that got Wilson, but IndyCar keeps adding more bits to the cars…

A fan was hit in the head by a piece of bodywork at the first IndyCar race this year. She wasn’t even next to the track, but standing behind one of the grandstands.

How long before one of those rear-wheel “bumper pods” gets knocked off and bops somebody in the head?

39

Unfortunately they’re designed to break apart easily. Dissipates the energy in a crash.

40

Unfortunately I do not quite remember Justin from F1 days, but it doesn’t matter, motorsport world is big and different, but such tragedies always feel like personal.

And I have to admit that motorsport is in some black strip of freak accidents and deaths 🙁

Though since Zanardi’s accident in 2001 I have a strong feeling that IndyCar (CART or whatever American racing was called back then) doesn’t have substantial safety regulations and requirements…

41

On the contrary, Indycar has been at the forefront of safety innovations – both safety car periods and the HANS device are examples of measures introduced in Indycar before they appeared in F1.

The fact is that in oval racing any crash occurs at much higher speeds and there is much more force applied to the cars and drivers involved, and there’s only so much you can do to fight the laws of physics.. The last fatality on a road course in Indy/CART was Gonzalo Rodriguez’s freak crash at Laguna Seca in 1999.

Further head protection, including canopies and/or forward rollbars is something that should be seriously looked at in both F1 and Indy but I suspect that foot-dragging and umm-and-ahhing will delay or prevent those measures on both sides of the Atlantic.

42

BH, he said road course. Wheldon died on an oval. However there was Franchitti’s career-ending crash at Houston in 2013. As Tim said, it’s mostly the increased speeds that make the ovals so much more dangerous.

43

BH: I said on a road course, I was making the point that ovals are faster and inherently more dangerous (since the Rodriguez accident I mentioned, there have now been 5 fatal oval crashes in Indy/CART).

44

Dan Weldon??

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