Wickens’ emotional return to racetrack an inspiring scene

(via Toronto Sun) – Seven carefully crafted words stirred the emotions of thousands under clear skies on Sunday afternoon in Toronto.

“Future drivers of mine, start your engines!”

Those words, spoken by Guelph, Ont., native Robert Wickens, signalled the start of the Honda Indy Toronto and capped what was certainly the most inspiring few minutes witnessed in the top North American open-wheel series in some time.

In addition to giving the commands for the 22-car field, Wickens moments earlier led the parade lap — with fiancee Karli Woods in the passenger seat — as part of the pre-race ceremonies for the NTT IndyCar Series, driving a modified Acura RSX fitted with special hand controls.

Wickens’ journey has been well-documented. The 30-year-old crashed during a race at Pocono in Long Pond, Pa., last August, sustaining myriad injuries. He is bound to a wheelchair and has been undergoing intense rehab ever since as he attempts to regain use of his legs, with a goal of one day returning to racing.

It was here in Toronto just last July where Wickens stood on the podium at his home-country track, the Indy series rookie having finished third in what was his series debut in Toronto.

On Sunday, the circumstances were far different than before, but the applause he received was no less, In fact, it was likely greater. A standing ovation from fans in the grandstands. Cheers from fellow drivers. Heartfelt support blanketed the injured driver.

And rightly so.

Wickens showed great promise throughout his rookie campaign before the crash altered his life’s path in an instant, and here, a bit more than a year later, Wickens showed what will and determination can bring. Wickens has not let his situation determine his final destination.

Here he was, back in a race car – albeit not yet racing – doing what he loves.

The “future drivers of mine” part of his race-starting commands tell you everything you need to know about Wickens’ resolve.

As inspiring as it gets, really.

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