Number 272: The Insider Issue
Justin Wilson was one of those guys we had on speed dial for whenever RACER wanted an intelligent, considered and balanced opinion on the motorsport matters of the day, because he was extraordinary selfless. He never tried to turn a potentially political hot topic in a direction that suited him, but instead saw validity in the opinion of each one of his peers… even when the rest of us didn’t!
Wilson was also one of those few drivers who always tried to observe racing from the fan’s perspective, either in person or on TV.
Before he became a racer, he was like you and me – someone who spent time and money watching racing – and he never forgot what it was like to be the other side of the fence.
So despite being initially very shy at the attention he received, Justin nonetheless welcomed IndyCar paddocks being access-all-areas for fans. “That’s exactly how it should be for anyone who’s paid to watch us,” he said once, “otherwise all they see are helmets sticking out of cars. That’s not special or memorable. I think people come to a race instead of watching it on TV to feel the atmosphere and meet their heroes.”
He’d have been too modest to realize it – too humble for it to even cross his mind
– but Wilson became a hero to many. Even for those who might have another favorite, JWil was the default option, the guy no-one would ever dream of rooting against. He was too unusually nice to leave people unmoved.
But even if you never met him, never heard what he was like as a man, he’d win you over with his skills: Justin’s visibly strenuous efforts to send a midfield car to the front of the pack were always one of the highlights of a race weekend.
It still feels surreal to write about him in the past tense. Surreal and tragic. However much our tribute is a celebration of a great man’s life and career, the pain of losing him is still raw. Our hearts go out primarily to his wonderful family, but also to countless fans worldwide.