Tributes paid to racing driver Justin Wilson who died after being hit on the head by a piece of flying debris in crash in US
These images of a 12-year-old young Justin Wilson just starting his stellar racing career as a champion go-kart driver are tinged with sadness following his death today (MON).
A highly regarded IndyCar driver, and former Formula 1 racer, Wilson died after being struck by flying debris and suffering a serious head injury in a race in the US on Sunday.
The 37-year-old – who began racing karts in 1987 – spent several years during the mid 1990s in Formula Vauxhall with Paul Stewart Racing.
That was before he earned international attention when he won the inaugural Formula Palmer Audi championship with nine race wins.
Then in 1998, he was a finalist in the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award.
A year later, he graduated to the FIA International Formula 3000 championship and won the championship in 2001, setting a record winning margin in the process.
Wilson was injured when a car crashed in front of him at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway, he appeared to lose consciousness immediately as his car veered to the inside of the circuit.
The father-of-two from Sheffield, South Yorks., was airlifted to hospital but tragically died on Monday.
Justin is survived by his wife Julia and his two daughters. His brother Stefan is also an IndyCar driver.
His grieving family issued a statement via his website justinwilson.co.uk.
It reads: “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 amazingm outpouring of support from fans around the world.”
Stefan also used Twitter to pay tribute to his brother.
He wrote: “Can’t even begin to describe the loss I feel right now. He was my brother, my best friend, my role model and mentor. He was a champion!
“He never stopped giving and caring for others. Even at this time. He had pre-chosen to donate his organs to help others in need. #myherojw”
Mark Miles, chief executive of IndyCar’s parent company Hulman & Co, said in a statement: “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.”
Justin was a former F1 driver, having competed for Minardi and Jaguar during the 2003 season.
He later moved to the United States, competing in Champ Car from 2004 to 2007 – and finishing as runner up in 2006 and 2007.
He switched to IndyCar in 2008, and competed in 174 races, recording seven wins, the latest of which came in 2012 at the Texas Motor Speedway.
He had begun this season without a full-time drive but was offered a part-time role with the Andretti Autosport team, contracted to drive in seven races of which Sunday’s was the sixth.
Wilson‘s death comes almost four years after British driver Dan Wheldon, an Indianapolis 500 winner, was killed at the Las Vegas Speedway in the same series.
In a statement, the Andretti Autosport team said: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Justin Wilson. He was a tremendous racer, a valuable member of the team and respected representative to our sport.
“While Justin was only part of the Andretti lineup for a short time, it only took a second for him to forever become part of the Andretti family.
“His life and racing career is a story of class and passion surpassed by none. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Wilson family and fans worldwide.
F1 driver Jenson Button wrote: “The motorsport World comes 2 a standstill once again. @justin_wilson was a great person & racing driver. My thoughts are with his family RIP.”
Former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montaya wrote: “Tough day in motorsport today as we loose another great person and driver. RIP Justin. You will be miss. Thoughts and prayers for his family”.
Tony Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indy 500 winner, wrote: “Oh man, my heart is aching another friend gone. Godspeed to one of racing’s truest gentlemen. #justinwilson
“Why do we do this? Because we love it, don’t want to be anywhere else but a race car. We will keep your legacy.”