Admirable determination. Alessandro Zanardi, the Italian racing driver who, following a horrific accident in 2001, lost both his legs is, as we write this, all set to make a guest DTM start at Misano, in Italy, driving a BMW M4 F82 DTM. This event will represent the latest high point in Zanardi’s incredibly determined return to motorsport. A two-day test session in Vallelunga, Italy, saw the ex-F1 and American CART series driver complete an impressive 294 laps at the wheel of his specially modified M4 F82.
“The test was great,” the Italian said, “all went really well and we are heading in the right direction. Thanks a lot to BMW, we´re getting ready for Misano.” As you read this, the DTM race weekend will have just taken place, scheduled, as it is, for 25-26 August.
Zanardi is the only double-amputee to compete at this high level, and his car has undergone significant modifications, the most notable of which concerns the brakes. For the first time, Zanardi will brake using his hand, no longer using a prosthetic leg attached to a conventional brake pedal in the footwell.
“The progress from the previous system to the current one is massive,” Zanardi explained. “Driving a race car like the BMW M4 DTM F82 is physically very demanding. For me, it would be far more strenuous if I were to continue to brake with my prosthesis, as I have done up to now.
“I admit that it felt very strange to have a completely empty footwell in front of me the first time I pulled out of the garage. But, I have to say that the whole system worked very intuitively for me. I am getting along excellently with it.” On Zanardi’s ‘Road to Daytona’, the guest start in the DTM Series represents a welcome test run for the new system. “It’s going to be a huge event for me,” he added, “and probably one of the most difficult tasks I’ve ever faced in my motor racing career.
“In my opinion, the DTM is currently the most fiercely-competitive racing series in the world, and the one with the best field – even better than Formula 1. I will try to finish ahead of at least one car. Let’s see whether I manage it. It’s going to be tough, but very interesting.”
Left: Alessandro Zanardi at the wheel of his specially modified BMW DTM M4, with the large brake lever in the foreground. Below: During testing in Italy, Zanardi completed 294 laps in his hand-controlled M4 DTM F82 car.