Justin Wilson dies from crash injuries


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Justin Wilson has died as a result of the injuries he suffered in Sunday’s crash during the IndyCar Pocono 500, the series has confirmed.

Wilson died after he was struck on his crash helmet by debris from Sage Karam’s car, which crashed during the race at the oval circuit in Pennsylvania.

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said: “This is a monumentally sad day for IndyCar and the motorsports community as a whole.”

“Justin’s elite ability to drive a race car was matched by his unwavering kindness, character and humility – which is what made him one of the most respected members of the paddock.

“As we know, the racing industry is one big family, and our efforts moving forward will be focused on rallying around Justin’s family to ensure they get the support they need during this unbelievably difficult time.”

Wilson’s death comes in a year when IndyCar has seen a string of major crashes at its fastest courses. During the build-up to the Indianapolis 500 several cars flipped after crashing individually and James Hinchcliffe suffered serious leg injuries after hitting the wall.

A frantic race at the second superspeedway on the calendar, Fontana, raised concerns over the dangers of ‘pack racing’ which had developed following the introduction of aero kits. At Pocono, the third 500-mile race of the year, a string of accidents had led to multiple caution periods before Wilson’s crash.

Concerns over the dangers of oval racing had previously led one of Wilson’s fellow British drivers, Mike Conway, to limit his participation in the championship to road courses only. He made his decision in the wake of the the death of another British racer, Dan Wheldon, in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas. Prior to Wilson, Wheldon had been the series’ most recent fatality.

Wilson, who was 37, began racing in America in 2004 after a year in Formula One driving for Jaguar and Minardi. He scored a total of seven wins in IndyCar and Champ Car races, and took joint victory in the 2012 Daytona 24 Hours driving for Michael Shank Racing alongside AJ Allmendinger, Oswaldo Negri and John Pew.

Wilson is survived by his wife Julia and their two daughters.


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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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57 comments on “Justin Wilson dies from crash injuries”

  1. This is the worst terrible news to wake up to. R.I.P. Justin :( I don’t follow IndyCar that much, but I do remember him well from his Minardi and Jaguar days.

    My thoughts are with his friends and families.

  2. That’s a damn shame :(

  3. The first thing I did when I woke up was to search for news about Wilson’s condition. Very sad to hear he succombed to his injuries.

  4. RIP Justin.

  5. This is a truly sad day. I spoke to Justin a few times and you couldn’t wish to meet a nicer guy.
    All the tributes regarding his great character that you see and hear today will be sincere and true.
    My heartfelt best wishes to his family and friends.

  6. these kind of things remember us all that driving a sports car is not a game, is not as easy as some people think it is and that every time they race they put in risk their life…

    RIP Justin

  7. Another tragic loss for all motorsport.

    I’ll always remember Paul Stoddart praising Wilson’s heroic efforts during his second grand prix in Malaysia after his HANS device caused him such major difficulties that he trapped a nerve in his shoulder and lost feeling in his arms.

    He was, quite truthfully, a badass.

  8. This has been a very sad summer. Where do we go from here?

    Firstly, I believe that IndyCar should immediately revoke the article 9.3.8. that forbids drivers to criticise the championship.

    Secondly, can anything be done to avoid similar accidents in the future? Do we accept that sometimes stuff flies around and that sometimes it hits a driver? Or should formula racing gradually switch to close cockpits? I still do not have an answer to these questions.

    RIP Justin Wilson.

    1. the accitdent had nothing to do with the “championship” this sort of accident has happened in formula 2 (surtess), and in f1 (massa). the drivers will not critisise the series for this random accident. only disigruntled fans of indycar will use it as more hate bait.
      RIP Justin, I thought he could have succeeded in F1, and he was a great driver everywhere.

    2. Race in Peace Justin.

      Post trauma is never a good time to make decisions. Allow a period of grieving to pass. For emotions to settle and rationalise.

      1. I can’t agree @psynrg. Use the energy while it’s here, is my view. Make his death mean something. Decide to do something, before memories fade and other priorities assert themselves again.

        IMO somebody should experiment with a canopied single-seater, without helmets but maybe a headband for HANS. That needs a LOT of energy.

        1. I still think they should wear helmets in any case @lockup: all major closed cockpit racing series do, and for a reason.

          1. I know yours is the general view @vettel1, but what’s the reason for helmets? To dissipate head contact energy. So with (say) 16mm of polycarbonate to do that job, what’s the helmet for?

            Meanwhile it adds weight and inertia and load on the neck, and prevents us seeing the drivers’ faces which is one of the arguments used against canopies.

          2. what about driver’s head hitting the canopy/cockpit interior/ canopy failing etc.?

          3. what about driver’s head hitting the canopy/cockpit interior/ canopy failing etc.?

            That has to be prevented indeed @watertank. It’s easier without the extra bulk of a helmet, in fact. I don’t know what scenario you’re thinking of with a canopy failure? Something quite high-energy.

          4. Yeah, one the benefits of helmets is the added volume means your head can’t get flung about without hitting your shoulders or the back of the seat: if you had a HANS headband and got into a serious accident, you’d likely get a SERIOUS ropeburn on your head to the point of a layer of skin being abraded.

            What I want to know is how heavy this piece of debris was; if Massa survived a 1kg spring travelling at 150+mph, this thing must have been MUCH heavier to have done greater damage to Wilson.

          5. OmarR-Pepper - Vettel 41 wins!!! For Jules (@)
            25th August 2015, 16:52

            @wushumr2 I just read on an American page that it weighed 8 pounds

          6. A lot of it will be due to the HANS device for closed cockpit racing I would suspect @lockup: it provides an object to affix it to. Also, protection would also come if the head were to come into contact with any part of the car’s structure; such mundane things as headrests could inflict serious damage.

        2. @lockup You do make a fair point and of course there should be something learned from this terrible loss.

          Open cockpit single seater racing is however such a fundamental motor sports category. We will never be able to remove all danger. Safety is very advanced now and although right now this seems like a dark period in racing it is fortunately very rare that such serious incidents occur. Ultimately it should be up to the drivers to say if they want to continue racing with exposed cockpits.

          My own, albeit very limited, exposure of driving open cockpit vs. closed cockpit, the experience is on another level. I can understand why drivers are prepared to take the risk in exchange for the visceral experience of open cockpit vs. closed.

          Nevertheless, the tragic loss of Justin Wilson to such an unfortunate accident can hopefully help to make a difference somehow.

          1. Yes I know what you mean @psynrg and I agree we shouldn’t try too hard to eliminate risk or we’d be banning motorcycles. But if we swapped helmets for canopies what would we lose?

            I don’t think we can leave it to the drivers because they will race anything, as we used to see in the 60’s and 70’s. One’s idea of risk is different when you’re young, and these are the most risk-seeking among them. It’s like how helmets had to be made compulsory, with the wind-in-your-hair arguments.

            I know it’s a tricky subject, I’d just like to see it tried, I guess. Develop a car, see how it looks, and if it proves out try a series.

          2. I don’t envision them ever considering no helmets, even with a closed cockpit. To my thinking there is no way a driver’s head could ever be so stabilized from the massive forces that can occur in a crash such that his head would be guaranteed to never hit something within the car. We’ve all seen the videos showing how much a driver’s head moves around in a crash in spite of tight shoulder belts and HANS. The forces are too immense at times and the freedom the drivers need to be able to move their arms and their heads to race the car precludes them from being so locked in that a helmet would be unnecessary.

  9. Ah, no way :(
    Thoughts go out to his family and friends, terrible news RIP

  10. Sad news.

    RIP Justin Wilson.

  11. Devastating.

  12. What terrible news to wake up at :(

    This all looked so harmless when seen in live … I was more concerned with Karam at first, since he had hit rather hard … And then seeing the emergency teams focus on Wilson, followed by the replay of him hitting the debris, you immediately understood that something very bad had happened ..

    How many drivers go through such a cloud of debris every weekend and are able to keep on with their race just thinking “haha, what an idiot, I’m one place closer to the top now !” ?

    Another sad day ..

  13. These are dark times for Motorsport.

    The Wilson crash makes a difficult problem to solve for safety advisors. In crashes, debris is almost a necessity, the cars go through massive amounts of energy and if the car stays in one piece, then it’s almost certainly the driver who bares the brunt. However, as this shows, the debris itself is still a potential hazard. Simply making the larger parts ‘shatter’ would likely have caused a puncture, which is exactly what IndyCar don’t want on an oval race.

    The only viable option would be to protect the driver. Helmets were strengthened further after the Massa crash in 2009, and I remain unconvinced on closed cockpits (Great at protecting the driver from debris, but I can’t find one that provides easy access to the car when it is needed)

    I’ll remember Justin as someone who proved that it was possible, even in recent eras, to be tall and still fit in Formula cars, I was excited to see him racing in Formula E earlier this year aswell, a truly great man.

    1. I guess that in theory, it would be a matter of letting stuff break, but keep it attached to the car, like with the tire tethers. But in practice I would image it both an issue of it actually being possible (you can’t tether down every little piece that may break of), as well as safety (tethered stuff could end up in your own cockpit)

      1. @losd I agree there should be a form of tethering for the larger, heavier structural parts, probably based on shape and weight. If the main nose cone element had been retained, Justin Wilson would be alive today.

        Alas, not only have we seen existing tethers break or fail, we’ve seen several times how the wheel tethers on F1 cars cause the tyre to flick back and nearly enter the cockpit of the car they came from… there’s no solution to this problem that is sure enough to save lives in every situation.

        1. @losd Bah. Of course, how do they then remove & replace a damaged nose? The unsolvable conundrum!

          1. Oh yeah, that would of course be an issue. Although one that has been already solved for wheels.

          2. @losd Not exactly. The wheel tethers are a misnomer – they retain the hubs, which *should* be attached to the wheels.

            If there’s a failure of the wheel nut (due to, say, impact damage), then it’s conceivable that the wheel will still be lost.

          3. Yes and no: We’ve certainly seen wheels come off (that horrible pit-lane hit comes to mind), but that’s due to the nuts not being fitted right. The hubs are much more likely to come off in a crash, as their attachment is so much weaker.

            Only time I remember the wheels flying are back in… Maybe 2010, when the whole front suspension just flew off by itself (no crash)… Can’t remember who or where, but that was weird.

            I could imagine a similar system for the nose: An easily breakable part where the nose is attached to… Of course, in F1 it would come with problems: There’s a LOT of big parts to the whole nose and wing, many of them pretty big, and “easily breakable” does not go very well with a wing generating tons of force.

          4. Buemi’s entire front suspension collapsed a few years ago and both wheels went flying I believe.

  14. Every time I’d come here to look for news, I’d been dreading it…

    Why does it always seem to be the good guys? I think the tributes from other racers will speak for themselves about that. His character always appealed to me, as well as his obvious ability, since I first became aware of him while he was beating Mark Webber to the F3000 title. Always looked out for his results and celebrated the good ‘uns while wishing he could have had more success and recognition.

  15. This is terrible news. Obviously my thoughts are with his family and friends. RIP Justin.

    I’m not sure that oval racing and open wheelers really are a good match. However, I’m not a mad keen Indycar fan, so I guess I won’t try to sit on my high horse, but to me as an outsider, it seems that the higher risks, the life threatening ones are on the ovals specifically.

    1. @dragoll If you look at the situation, it was a freak accident. I doubt anyone could predict the nose cone was going to behave as it did.

      During Marcus Ericsson’s shunt at Spa during practice, his nose-code became detached away from the track. Taking that as an example of such an event happening anywhere, we might as well ban the Montreal Wall of Champion because there’s nothing to dissipate the energy of that impact before a passing car could get involved in flying debris.

    2. I agree with you. It was a freak accident for sure but high speed ovals are just a different roll of the dice than anywhere else. More crashes, broken parts, high speed, and lack of reaction time. He was tucked right in behind someone when they came upon the debris. Usually you don’t get this situation on a road course.

      1. @gitanes Agreed re: most road courses, but consider Albert Park, Valencia, the end of Korea and Circuit du Giles Villeneuve – tight corners, concrete walls and pretty high speeds in the latter’s case.

        The only unique problem with Ovals is the penchant for pack racing, which is a different problem altogether.

  16. Very sad news, although I feared this outcome as being the most likely one. It’s been a difficult year for motor racing and head injuries.

    My condolences to Justin Wilson’s family and friends.

  17. I’ll always remember his performance in Mid Ohio several weeks ago.
    RIP JW..

    1. I watched his 2009 underdog victory in Watkins Glen a few months back – a first for Dale Coyne Racing, it was a massive upset at the time and a scintillatingly quick last stint from Wilson to actually win on merit (not just due to a lucky break of cautions).

      I wouldn’t have thought, not in my wildest dreams, that he would be gone just months after I watched it.

  18. That’s all sad news, very sad news. Way too many head injuries lately.
    By the way Keith, little typo here, you surely meant Dan Wheldon instead of Dan Whelson?

  19. FlyingLobster27
    25th August 2015, 11:00

    Awful, awful news, it’s really got me down. Justin was an accomplished and respected racer. Nothing much more to prove really, but he was still giving, with that second place at Mid-Ohio. Man…

  20. I knew Justin very well – he was the subject of my very first article for AUTOSPORT when he won the F3000 title in 2001. I would like to think he saw me as a friend.

    I am speechless. My heartful condolences to his family now that motor-racing’s gentle giant has passed. We will remember you, Justin, we will remember your immense talent, and your gentle soul.

    1. Condolences to you @countrygent I’m sorry for your loss.

    2. @countrygent – I’m truly sorry for the loss of your friend. Justin Wilson really seemed like a very nice man as far as I could tell from viewing on TV and reading in the media and hearing things from people I know in racing. What you and others are saying certainly confirms that to us who weren’t as fortunate to meet him in person. Heartbreaking, especially for his family. Continued thoughts and prayers for them.

  21. Extremely unfortunate.

    I just feel really bad just now.

    RIP Justin.

  22. RIP, Justin – you will be missed.

  23. This is most definitely not the news I was expecting to see heading for F1F today. What a sad day (((

    RIP Justin.

  24. So sad. Condolences to the family and friends of Justin Wilson.

  25. Sad, sad, sad. RIP Mr. Justin Wilson. Prayers are with your family.

    In the article, I point out of respect that it’s Dan Wheldon, not Whelson typo…

  26. Very sad to hear this news this morning, I don’t follow Indycar closely but I was aware of him putting in great performances for smaller teams.

  27. Very sad news. Rest in peace. I hope it will bring positive changes to the safety of indyCar and motosport as a whole.

    P.S. There is a typo i think – Wheldon, not Whelson

  28. R.I.P. Justin Wilson. I think now is the time to adopt a fighter jet-like canopy for all open-cockpit racing cars.

  29. Motorsport seemed to have a grip for many years on safety but it is looking like a false dawn. It is very dangerous no matter what but things can be improved further and although not full proof can delay the time periods before the next death. Canopies have access issues so solve 1 problem create another not to mention misting up. Why not a wraparound screen which face and side on covers the angles to the drivers head but is still open. Would be a bit retro as 50’s 60’s cars had small screens although of course not for safety reasons.

  30. John McGeorge
    26th August 2015, 7:45

    R.I.P Justin Wilson.I think they need a high screen around cockpit like in N.H.R.A to deflect debris.Lock at sum older F1 of the 60’s.

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