The family of a Yorkshire-born IndyCar driver who died from injuries sustained when he was hit by debris during a race in the United States have paid tribute to the “loving father” and respected driver.
IndyCar confirmed overnight that the 37-year-old, who was from Sheffield, died on Monday and described him as “one of the most respected members of the paddock”.
The former Formula One driver, who was competing for Andretti Autosport, suffered a head injury when Sage Karam’s car crashed in front of him at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania on Sunday 180 laps into a 200-lap race.
Originally from Sheffield, he leaves behind his wife Julia and two young daughters.
In a statement on his website, his family, including parents Keith and Lynne and brother Stefan, said: “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.”
Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co, the parent company of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway said: “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.”
His brother Stefan, also an IndyCar driver, described Wilson as a “champion” in a series of posts on Twitter.
He said: “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 & caring for others. Even at this time. He had pre-chosen to donate his organs to help others in need.
“I often told him, I just want to grow up to be half the man he is, as that will make me a pretty good man.
“He lived for this sport, he loved it. The only comfort I feel is that he lived a life he loved. RIP mate, I’ll chuffing miss you.”
Wilson’s death comes after that of another British driver racing in the IndyCar Series, Dan Wheldon, who died in 2011 after a 15-vehicle pile-up while competing in the Las Vegas Indy 300 when his car was sent flying over another and burst into flames.
After that crash, Wilson acted as one of three driver representatives in liaising with the race operators.
A host of American motorsport royalty also posted tributes on social media.
Fellow IndyCar and former Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya tweeted: “Tough day in motorsport today as we lose another great person and driver. RIP Justin. You will be missed. Thoughts and prayers for his family.”
IndyCar and Nascar racer Alex Tagliani posted: “I will miss the good laughs of my 2007 teammate Justin Wilson & the great conversations in the paddock. I am very sad & hurt for his family.”
Nascar driver Danica Patrick tweeted: “Wow, what a sad day. Justin Wilson was a good man. A great man. I had the pleasure of knowing him and pray for his family.”
Four-time Nascar Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon said: “So sad to hear that we lost Justin Wilson today. Thoughts & prayers to his family and friends.”
Wilson, who lived outside Denver in Longmont, Colorado, was a former F1 driver having competed for Minardi and Jaguar during the 2003 season.
He won seven IndyCar races in 12 seasons, completing 711 laps over 174 races in a successful career in the series.
He finished third in the Champ Car standings in 2005, and was runner-up in both 2006 and 2007. To support his career, his management in 2003 allowed fans to invest in the driver, with hundreds of people buying shares in the star, who was dyslexic and acted as an ambassador for dyslexia charities.
Wilson also won the prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona.