Motor racing: Wilson funeral held near Silverstone

Wilson died last month aged 37 after he was hit by flying debris during a race.
Wilson died last month aged 37 after he was hit by flying debris during a race.REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of British IndyCar racer Justin Wilson in a quiet English village near Silverstone circuit on Thursday.

Australian Mark Webber, a Jaguar team mate in Formula One in 2003, and retired three-times Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti were among the pallbearers at the church service in Paulerspury.

In a eulogy, former F1 racer Jonathan Palmer said Wilson had “died doing something he loved. He wasn’t in denial about the risks.”

Wilson died last month at the age of 37 after he was hit on the helmet by flying debris from a car he was following in the closing laps of a race at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway.

The Briton, who also raced in Formula One for the Minardi team that is now Toro Rosso, was a seven-time winner in the US series.

He was the first IndyCar driver to die following a race incident since fellow Briton Dan Wheldon in a crash at Las Vegas in October 2011.

Formula One drivers held a minute’s silence for Wilson at Monza last Sunday before the Italian Grand Prix and also carried stickers in his memory on their helmets.

“Justin Wilson is one of the greatest human beings I have ever, ever met in my life. Wonderful driver, but a great human being, such a good guy. I think that the show of support today shows that,” said Franchitti.

“There was that sort of duel personality – an absolute tiger in the car and out of the car just an absolute laid back gentleman.”

Webber, who left Formula One at the end of 2013, remembered Wilson – ironically nicknamed “Badass” – as a gentle giant.

“He was such a good guy to race against, he was so accurate with his passing moves, he was a tough competitor,” he told reporters.

“A bit of a Jekyll and Hyde, if you like, in and out of the cockpit because he was such a warm and generous character out of the car. He always cared for other people, what other people were up to, and nothing was ever too much of a chore for him.”

Wilson’s death has reopened a debate within IndyCar and Formula One about the possibility of introducing closed cockpits to protect drivers from head injuries.

Webber, who now races in sportscars for Porsche, has backed such a move.