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Alex Zanardi

Alex racing again

This was written in 2003 and since then Alex has gone from strength to strength in European and World saloon car racing.

The former grand prix driver who lost his legs in a horrific accident at the Lausitzring, Germany, made his comeback to motor racing October 2003 at the wheel of a specially adapted BMW 320i.
 
The Italian, who won two American Champ Car titles, drove for the Ravaglia Motorsport BMW team in the European Touring Car Championship at Monza, Italy, and says he will be back in full-time return to racing next season. 
 
“I may not be competitive at first but I believe at the last race I would be competitive enough to win,” said the 36 year old.

“The other drivers are very good, but I am too. 
 My racing career is behind me professionally, I have a lot of trophies on the shelf and financially I did well too, so I am only here to have fun.”

BMW have worked on the optimum set-up of the car for Zanardi`s particular needs, including a hand-operated clutch and accelerator, but initial designs were flawed.    “The brakes were like a switch,” Zanardi said.  “Either I was full on the brakes, or I had my face against the screen, so we tested something different.”

His return to the cockpit has been a hard-fought process, but the Italian says that he does not want to become an icon for disabled drivers in the sport.  “I am a positive and optimistic person, but I am only trying to put my life back together to how it used to be.”

 An article just after Alex`s accident - courtesy  of Champ Car News
ZANARDI LOOKING AHEAD CART  - News Article | Sunday, October 7, 2001 By Robin Miller

As devastating as his injuries were, Alex Zanardi knows that with prosthetics he`ll be able to walk, possibly run and maybe even ski or drive a race car again. But the two-time CART champion is only focused on one thing as he recovers from losing both legs three weeks ago at Lausitz, Germany. “People have been saying, ‘Alex, with today`s technology, nothing is impossible. You can ski again and you can drive a race car again.` But I`m not dreaming of anything like that,” said Zanardi, speaking Saturday morning from his room in Berlin`s Marzahn Hospital. “I`m just thinking about standing up. You know me, I was always up for any challenge, but I`m not thinking about racing or skiing. I just want to be able to stand up, walk over to my son and put him on my shoulder. “That`s my dream right now.”

The popular 34-year-old Italian sounded upbeat and made it very clear he`s thankful to be alive following his life-threatening injuries during the closing stages of the American Memorial on Sept. 15. He lost 70 percent of the blood in his body and only quick thinking and reaction from CART`s Simple Green Safety Team saved his life. “I don`t remember anything, not even warm-ups,” said Zanardi, whose car was cut in half by Alex Tagliani.
 
“I haven`t had the desire to look at the tape of the race, but I know I can be thankful that Terry (Trammell), Steve (Olvey) and the CART crew were there. “They saved my life and I can never thank them enough. I feel very fortunate that I`ll be able to live a normal life with my wife and watch my son grow up.”

Zanardi`s injuries also included fractures of his pelvis and a concussion, but everything is healing nicely. “I have no pain and my right leg, what`s left of it, is just fine,” he continued. “But my left leg is still open because I had some infection and, until it`s gone completely, they won`t close it up. “I`ve been getting around in a wheelchair and going to physical therapy.”

Zanardi understands his road to recovery will be challenging. “I have a lot of work, a lot of therapy and rehabilitation ahead of me, but my No. 1 goal right now is to learn to walk again,” he said. “That sounds exciting to me right now. Obviously, it`s boring to most people, but just being able to walk again is something that will make me happier than you can imagine. “One day, this will all be a memory and I can`t wait for that.”
During his four-year CART career, Zanardi cultivated a big fan following with his exciting style and personable demeanor. His trademark became the smoking doughnuts he`d do in his Target car after scoring one of his 15 victories.
 
Alex and wife, Daniela, have been inundated with letters, cards and e-mails from all over the world. “I`ve received so much mail and it`s such a show of love from people that it`s somewhat overwhelming,” he said.

“It`s the toughest time, right now, but all these people have made Daniela and I feel so good.”