With two intensive days of testing, BMW works driver Alessandro Zanardi (IT) and ROAL Motorsport continued their preparations for the 2014 season. This week (11th and 12th March) they took part in the official test days for the Blancpain GT Series at “Circuit Paul Ricard” at Le Castellet (FR). The Blancpain GT Series consists of two championships, the Blancpain Sprint Series and the Blancpain Endurance Series.
The official test days offered the first opportunity for Zanardi to share the track with his competitors in the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series. In this championship the BMW works driver, who had both his legs amputated, will contest his comeback season with a specially modified BMW Z4 GT3 entered by ROAL Motorsport.
Conditions were good in the South of France, with mostly sunny weather and mild temperatures. The ROAL Motorsport team worked on further optimising the modifications made to the car for Zanardi’s needs. Among others, they worked on the mapping of the special clutch and on the special brake pedal. In addition, the squad used the two days to intensively work on setting up the BMW Z4 GT3, evaluating set-up solutions for qualifying as well as setting the car up for long race distances. In doing so, Zanardi completed successful long-runs on both days.
“Things are going well. But I have to say that for sure it won’t be easy”, Zanardi said. “I was expecting the challenge to be hard, but now I know that this, in fact, will be the case because in the Blancpain Sprint Series I am going to face an opposition of very fast and young drivers. Nevertheless I think we can be there and that we can do well, but for sure we still have to make improvements. In terms of the race pace we are already very close to where we are supposed to be. We are fast on worn tyres, but we still have to find a way to balance the car better with new tyres, in order to put together one good flying lap in qualifying. After this test we will look at all the data we have collected, and I am sure we will be able to learn a lot from what we did in the past two days.”
“For Alex, it was the first test together with the other cars from the series”, added Roberto Ravaglia, Team Principal of ROAL Motorsport. “So far, it is still quite difficult to make a comparison as everybody is running with different conditions. You don’t know who is on new tyres, who runs with low fuel and so on. So it is not easy to judge how competitive we are. But Alex is doing good lap times and I have a good feeling. Between the outings, we also made changes to the car similar to those you do during a race weekend. This helps Alex to learn how the car reacts to these changes, for example when you change the springs and so on, so he gets used to the differences. Overall, I am quite satisfied with the work we have done with him in these two days.”
Zanardi lost both legs in a serious crash while racing in 2001, but only two years later he successfully returned to motorsport with BMW. Among other things, he contested in the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) for several seasons, where he celebrated four race wins. Having won two gold medals on his handbike at the 2012 Paralympics in London (GB) and completed a test in the BMW M3 DTM in the same year, he is now set to contest a full season for BMW for the first time since 2009. Zanardi’s first race in the Blancpain Sprint Series is scheduled for the 21st April in Nogaro (FR).