Robert Wickens and his glorious return to the tracks

Hello Motion Composites family. Today we continue our web blog series of interviews with another amazing APEX C user and professional Indy car racer Robert Wickens!

Robert Wickens is a proud Canadian, passionate about motorsports racing, and an IndyCar series racer. Born and raised in Guelph, Ontario, Robert started his racing career at the young age of 7 years old. Since the humble beginning of his career, Robert found his love for the sport on the Go-Kart tracks and since then he has risen through the ranks and made it to the professional Indy car series. After a tragic accident on the track in 2018, Robert was left paralyzed with little chance of returning to the sport he fell in love with; since then, he has defined all odds and has made his return to the tracks with an adapted car system that has allowed him to compete once again.

5 years later, Robert is thriving! He got married to the gorgeous Karli Woods (now Karli Wickens), and now they have a beautiful baby boy called Wesley. Robert is back to the tracks, and we could not be more excited for him. We had the privilege to get to know Robert a little bit better, to talk about his journey and all the challenges he has overcome in his valiant return to the sport!

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Motion Composites: Good day Rob! Glad to be interviewing a fellow Canadian! First things first, as a Canadian, how did you get into the world of Indy car racing?

Robert Wickens: I started at a young age racing 40 hp go-karts; I realized I had the skills, talent, and competitive mindset to succeed at a top level. I made my way through the go-kart circuit and eventually progressed into the restrictor plate series of car racing. From there I made my debut into the Indy car racing world.

MC: Tell us about your first race. Tell us about your first victory and the emotions that followed

RW: Well first things first, my mom was never too excited to actually watch me race; don’t get me wrong, she has always been my biggest supporter, but she has always been too nervous to actually watch my races, she cheers for me at the events but always kept herself occupied during my races, so she was never actually watching (she turns away whenever she saw my car on TV). My family has always been my biggest supporting team… Anyway, when I won my first big event my body was overcome with pure ecstasy (that and the fact he was racing at 240 mph!), the feeling was too unreal to describe, and I was hooked. The driver is only 1 small part of what goes into winning; the team preparation, emotional support, practice, training 6 hours a day 6 days a week, and team effort are all huge factors in winning, so when I finally did get first place, there was a big release of pressure, and it was great to get a win for the entire team and all the people involved. Nothing in this life compares to that feeling!

Photo courtesy of: Robert Wickens

MC: How important is the racing equipment, and team for success in the sport? What kind of materials do you use for lightweight and durability?

RW: Much like Motion Composites, our equipment is always focused on being the most lightweight, and durable, so as you can imagine, everything is carbon fiber. Carbon fiber enhances our car’s performance because it is strong and super lightweight. Actually, this is the same attributes that attracted me to my APEX C. When I started racing in the IMSA Michelin pilot challenge everyone had carbon fiber parts on their cars because it is secure, and it really helps promote safety if you have an unfortunate accident. It is a really good material that has damping attributes that absorb the bumps a driver may encounter on the track.

MC: A brilliant Segway into our next question! What was your first experience with Motion Composites? What made the APEX C stand out to you?

RW: After my accident I was rehabbing at Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado (a phenomenal facility by the way); one day I was taking a class on wheelchair preparation and how it will become an everyday part of my future life. After the course, someone introduced me to Motion Composites and brought me 2 demos, and APEX A and an APEX C. The APEX C material brought back memories of racing and I knew this was the chair for me! I have known about the benefits of carbon fiber, so the choice was a no-brainer. The rigidity and structure increase the longevity of my energy when I propel and in the long run with safe the integrity of my joints and body.

Photo courtesy of: Robert Wickens

MC: Back to your racing career… When did you realize you had a chance to return to the track? How did that feel emotionally? How did your friends, family and community react?

RW: Deep down I knew I would return to racing in some shape or form; maybe not as the driver but I knew I wanted to be involved again. I felt super grateful as a pro-racer because if you are paralyzed in another sport, say if I were an NHL player, I would not have the same opportunities because in racing we do have adaptive equipment that makes it possible. Even with the actual controls now all needing to be done by hand, the concept and mind set of a racer remains the same. All I needed to do was adapt to my new hand driving system and prove to the world I could still compete at the top level.

Fortunately for me, there have been race car drivers in the past who have used this system and the R&D hours spent on this adapted system were already in place to help perfect it. I met a fellow racer, Michael Johnson, who was the pioneer of the hand-driving system; he had the equipment and took interest in me to train me so I could home in my skills. The equipment is constantly evolving for the better and now I have the privilege of helping grow the adaptive equipment aspect of this sport. Michael’s design is truly a specimen to see, it is ergonomically beneficial as well.

MC: We saw that your return to racing started with virtual events and adaptive equipment, how did that compare to the real thing.

RW: Modern technology has advanced so much over the past 20 years. It is insane the things people can accomplish with platforms like I-Race and EAsports; I had a system installed in my home so I could practice every day. It was really cool because I could compete with an adapted home system against people from around the world. Actually, I do meet quite a few fellow adaptive drivers on the virtual circuit, and we become friends, share our stories, and talk about how cool it is to have such a system where we can still do the thing we love. It is a fun community to be a part of.

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MC: Speaking of family, congratulations on your wedding, we bet that was a very emotional day for you, for your wife and road to recovery; it was a big step (no pun intended)!

RW: The biggest driving factor was giving my wife her dream wedding and first dance. She has always been my rock that drove me in the hard times of my career, and I owed her at least this much. After the accident I suffered from guilt, and I felt selfish; I was risking our future every time I stepped out on the track. So, I delivered the wedding she would have wanted and when it came time for our first dance, I took my first steps out of my APEX C so give her the best first dance I could. It was a very emotional day for our family.

Cinemetography: Bryann Star
Read more about their wedding here 

MC: We heard you mentioned rehab was the most hard-working experience a person can live through. Do you have any advice to those who are going through rehab today?

RW: The biggest thing people in rehab experience is the daunting workload; it is the biggest mental exercise anyone can experience, imagine spending hours a day telling your brain to move a body part that is unresponsive. Some days it felt hopeless, but I applied the same work ethic that I had used in racing and kept pushing, even when I would have zero results after weeks of rehab. My advice is STAY POSITIVE—you will have your good days and you will most definitely have your bad days, keep pushing. If you keep a positive mindset, the positive results will follow. Therapists are also key in rehab, having someone support and push you every day is a must, have a good relationship with them and don’t be ashamed if you do not meet the initial expectations of your rehab. Everyone handles the mental strain of rehab differently, what got me through was my wife and family support. At the end of the day, all you can do is give 100% each day.

MC: Finally, we wanted to congratulate you with your podium finish (3rd place) last year; do you have plans to continue racing and for how long?

RW: Hopefully this is the new beginning to my career. The return to the elite level does not necessarily mean a return to the Indy circuit for me. I still have the drive to try to be the best racer in the world; the 3rd place podium was a huge victory for me and a big steppingstone to my future (it was also cool because I shared the podium with a fellow Canadian!) When I was rehabbing at Craig Hospital I always dreamed of this day, it was what pushed me through in the hard days. I also like the attention it is drawing because it raises SCI awareness and shows that there is a place for it in our sport. Since then, I have actually come close to winning, when I was down in Sebring, Florida we were in the lead for quite a few laps when some faulty equipment caused us to pull out early, but I took that as a silver lining that achieving 1st place is a strong possibility. I hope to add much more hardware to my victory collection in the near future!


We want to thank Robert for taking the time to talk to us in his crazy busy schedule and his super busy dad and husband life! Motion Composites is sending all the best your way with your future racing career. We will see you “on top of the poll”.

Make sure to follow Robert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, to see everything that’s new on his career and with his adorable family; and don’t forget to check his website for his merchandise if you are a fan like us!  

About Motion Composites

Motion Composites has an international reputation as a leader in the design and manufacture of ultralight manual wheelchairs.