It was during winter testing, at the deceptively light-hearted named Walt Disney Speedway, that Schmidt’s life changed for ever; the accident rendered him quadriplegic, unable to move from the neck down – his racing days were over.
However, after a meeting with legendary team founder Sir Frank Williams, himself a paraplegic since 1986, Schmidt was inspired to form Sam Schmidt Motorsports, a team that has since become a powerhouse in Indy Lights, the feeder series to the main IndyCar championship. Three drivers have raced an SSM car to title success, making Schmidt’s team the most successful in the championship’s history.
Now however, fourteen years after his life-threatening accident and thanks to some pretty remarkable technology, Sam Schmidt returns to the wheel of a car!
No miracles have been performed, no breakthrough in traditional medicines or voodoo – sadly, Schmidt remains a quadriplegic – but the Semi-Autonomous Motorcar (SAM) produced by Arrow Electronics has made it possible for Schmidt to taste speed once again.
The car itself is no G-Wiz, it’s not a car with ground-breaking technology yet no thought to its performance or aesthetics, Schmidt is a racer at heart and so the modified car is a 2014 Corvette Stingray.
It will be controlled using Schmidt’s head movements; a tilt to the left will make the car turn left and you can guess the rest. Braking though, will be controlled by a pressure pad in Schmidt’s mouth. Like I said, pretty remarkable.
A break-through in technology this may be, but perhaps more heart-warming and poetic is that Schmidt’s return will take place at the hallowed ‘Brickyard’, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He will complete four laps of the famous oval as racers complete their warm-up laps for this years Indy 500, a race Schmidt himself competed in three times.
It will no doubt be an emotional experience for Sam Schmidt, his family and the entire Indy racing fraternity as he takes to the track once again, as well an inspirational tale for anybody who dares to dream – if Sam Schmidt can drive again, who knows what can happen in the future?