Sam Schmidt has had anything but a smooth ride to a successful racing career. In January 2000, while testing an IndyCar at Walt Disney World Speedway, he was in an accident that paralyzed him from the neck down.
Schmidt is nothing if not persistent, though, and, after meeting Frank Williams, decided to found a racing team. Now part owner of the Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team, his determination and success are beyond question.
A born racer, though, Schmidt wasn’t satisfied just leading a successful racing team, he wanted to drive, too. Working with Arrow Electronic, a C8 Corvette was made for him that could be driven without arms or legs.
This year, he was finally invited to go up the Duke of Richmond’s driveway at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. And he was only too happy to take the opportunity to drive the famed hill climb course.
“This is such an unbelievable event, I’ve always wanted to come,” said Schmidt in a recent video. “Thought I would come as a spectator but it’s even so much more unbelievable to compete. So, you know, happy to be here. We’ve gotten great support from the fans all weekend long and, man, this is awesome.”
The drive system, he says, takes a little bit of getting used to but he can work the car using just his head. As with some mobility chairs, Schmidt makes the car go forward by blowing on a straw and slows it by sucking on it. Cameras, meanwhile, track his head and steers in the direction his helmet is facing.
Schmidt and Arrow chose a Corvette not just because its removable top helps get him in and out of the car more easily, but also because the driver remains competitive. He didn’t just want to drive, he wanted to race. In an earlier video, Schmidt can be seen putting his Corvette through its paces on a racetrack and in what appears to be an autocross event.