IndyCar driver

Born: July 31, 1978;

Died: August 24, 2015.

The death of Justin Wilson, who has died at the age of 37 while competing at the Pocoono track in Pennsylvania, has been mourned by all those involved in motor racing. The track, known as the Tricky Triangle is a unique design and Mr Wilson was killed after his car was struck by flying debris during the closing laps of the penultimate race in the IndyCar Series season. He had become a figurehead in the sport and was much respected for his driving on the track – he was a master at timing and overtaking – and the manner he conducted his personal life.

Mr Wilson never joined the glamour side of motor racing. He suffered from dyslexia and was an active ambassador for dyslexia charities throughout the world. He regularly visited schools to raise awareness of the condition and openly admitted he had been diagnosed with a learning disorder aged 13.

He was tall and was told he would never, with ease, fit into the cramped cockpit of an F1 car. Indeed in 2002 Mr Wilson lost a drive with the F1 Minardi team because he could not fit into its car. At 6 feet 4 inches Mr Wilson was the tallest driver in the IndyCar Series but his height, his cheerful, quietly modest manner, and genuine enthusiasm endeared him to fans who called him the Gentle Giant.

Justin Boyd Wilson was born in Sheffield and raced go-karts from the age of eight often competing against the young Jenson Button. Mr Wilson joined the team run by Paul Stewart, son of the three-times world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, in order to advance his driving skills. Mr Wison's father encouraged him in his motor racing and in 2001 he broke the points record in F3000.

Minardi redesigned their car to suit Mr Wilson's lanky frame in 2003. The seat was lowered and he drove with his knees beside his chin. His considerable frame crammed into such a small space made aggressive and competitive driving very difficult. But Mr Wilson's drive and commitment won through: he loved the sport and the people involved in it.

Then he discovered he did not have the required sponsorship funds to pay for an F1 berth. His father and manager evolved a canny scheme: to sell equity in Mr Wilson. The BBC's legendary commentator Murray Walker helped promote the scheme and it was considerably oversubscribed.

The F1 2003 season driving for Minardi was successful enough for Mr Wilson to gain a place with the more technically advanced Jaguar team and Mr Wilson gained his first F1 points when he finished 8th in the US Grand Prix.

For the ensuing decade Mr Wilson drove in the Le Mans 24 Hour Race and then mostly concentrated on IndyCar racing winning several races notably the 24 Hours of Daytonna.

Apart for his work on behalf of dyslexia Mr Wilson was much involved in working on behalf of various charities and his brother, Stefan (also a racing driver) announced after Mr Wilson's death that, "Justin had donated his organs to others — and given vital help to six people." It was this generous spirit that earned Mr Wilson the reputation of being "the nicest guy in the paddock". Jensen Button has recalled, "I raced with Justin as far back as 1989 in Karting and remember his smile was infectious, such a lovely guy."

Mr Wilson and his family had homes in Northampton and Colorado. He is survived by his wife, Julia, whom he married in 2006, and their two daughters.