Alex Zanardi will be competing in motorsport again for the first time since he suffered severe injuries as a result of an accident two years ago. The Italian lost both legs when he was competing in a round of the American ChampCar Championship at the Lausitz EuroSpeedway on 15 September 2001. Now, he'll be back in business again for BMW in the FIA European Touring Car Championship (ETCC) on 19 October 2003. In Monza, Zanardi will be the third pilot in the BMW Italy-Spain Team managed by Roberto Ravaglia driving in the final race of the European Championship. He will be piloting a BMW 320i specially adapted to his requirements.
In the race two years ago, Zanardi was in the lead. He pitted 13 laps before the finishing line and then lost control of his car just after the exit. There was a bad crash with another car and the former Formula 1 pilot spent several days on the danger list.
"Two years ago I escaped death by a whisker," commented the 36-year-old from Bologna. "Although the situation was really bad at the time, I set myself the goal of leading a normal life again at some time in the future. Today, I can walk, I swim, I go skiing, and on 19 October I will complete my vision by competing seriously in a race. I should like to thank the entire BMW Team Italy for this fantastic opportunity and for all the energy that has been invested in the engineering that was necessary for me. I also have to thank the company Fadiel for their inestimable cooperation. I believe that sometimes in life it's difficult to regain your courage after a stroke of bad luck. If I manage to keep pace in Monza in October, I shall have reaffirmed my faith in myself: where there's a will, there's a way."
The engineers from Ravaglia Motorsport have converted a BMW 320i for Alex Zanardi. He can accelerate on the steering wheel and the clutch is operated on the gear shift.
Team manager Roberto Ravaglia is totally committed to the project: "When Alex came to us and said he wanted to drive a BMW, we immediately put all systems on go to provide full technical support. We have already seen some exciting performances from the telemetry data. His performance is particularly impressive when you reflect on the obvious difficulties and the lack of training. That motivates the team to prepare the car in the best possible way."
BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen is enthusiastic about the project: "It's an honour for us that Alex is able to make his dream come true in a BMW. We are extremely happy to provide him with the support of all our expertise and engineering skills. His project reflects the BMW Motorsport philosophy of always searching for new frontiers. Whatever the result of the race, Alex has already won through as far as I'm concerned."
Alessandro Zanardi will turn out for some promotional laps with the BMW 320i in Monza on 25 September and he will also be available to answer questions from the media on this occasion.