Racing legend Alex Zanardi thought his BMW team was playing a prank on him when they informed him of his fifth place finish at Misano. The 51-year-old two-time CART champion, ex-Formula 1 racer and multiple handcycling champion made a one-off appearance in the series on home soil in Italy last weekend, driving an additional BMW entry.
The team of engineers over at the Motorsport division set up a special BMW M4 DTM model that was specially modified for Zanardi, to allow the double amputee to race to his full capabilities. Zanardi was braking using his hands, instead of his legs. The brake lever is located to the driver’s right, in the center console area. The brake lines have been extended and laid from the foot-well to this lever.
Zanardi qualified last for both races, and after coming home 12th out of 13 finishers in race one, but took advantage of the rain and race strategy to come at the top of the pack. Several drivers were forced into making two pitstops to switch between wets and slicks, but Zanardi was one of the few drivers not to react too quickly when the circuit briefly dried early in the race, meaning he only needed to make one mandatory stop.
But the best part of the weekend came at the end of the race when Zanardi was told about his great finish over the in-car radio.
“This is the best joke of the weekend,” he said. “Come on, you’re kidding me!
“I am an old man, you cannot tease me this way.”
“I am very happy with this result and at my age, I won’t get too many more opportunities to celebrate racing successes like this.
“I had a very good racing speed and wasn’t sure what to do when slower drivers kept appearing in front of me!
“Seriously, I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity by BMW. They always believed that I could do it.
“This trust is a great gift – and I am happy that I was able to vindicate that. Many thanks to the DTM family too, for welcoming me with open arms.
“I will always have a place in my heart for this weekend. It has taken me 51 years to experience it – but at least I got that chance.”