As you probably already know, living legend Alex Zanardi will be competing at the 24 hours of Daytona race in January aboard the BMW M8 GTE. The Italian driver has already completed a set of tests aboard his specially modified car and he declared himself satisfied with the way things turned out.
In the clip below we get to ride alongside Alex for a lap over at the Daytona endurance track. He also provides some very useful commentary as to which corner he finds most difficult and why, explaining what he has to do in order to keep things fast and tidy. Looking at how he uses his hands, it really is easy to compare him to a drummer as BMW M Motorsport engineers like to joke around. The Italian himself said he feels a bit like Jimi Hendrix and judging by the video, we tend to agree.
“When we started to think about what I would need to drive the car longer in distance in an endurance race, the idea was for sure to forget the legs and to do everything with my hands,” explains Zanardi. Therefore a special system was created for him. The first outing for it was in the DTM, at the Misano race. “In Misano when I was driving the DTM car, I realized that my right hand is so busy,” Zanardi added.
“I could not keep my hand long enough onto the steering wheel to push the radio button and talk to the pit. Because at one point the corner was coming so I had to reach for the brake lever. And it’s more important to brake rather than to continue your conversation. And especially in a 24-hour race you have to be able to report to your pit whatever is happening, the state of the car and so on. When you change something so radical and switch to a brake lever, there are a lot of other collateral items that need to be adjusted. The experience from Misano helped us to implement some different solutions, lay-out of some functions, in buttons and triggers and switches in a different way,” Alex said about the work the engineers and himself are doing right now.
The footage below may make it seem easier than it really is, as Zanardi admits. However, according to him, there are “switches and buttons that I have to deal with while I am driving. There is almost no point where either of my hands are free enough to focus on only one operation. I may have to push a button while my fingers are opening the throttle with the ring behind the steering wheel, I may have to trigger a downshift while pressing the brake lever. I feel a bit like Jimi Hendrix: I play with both of my hands.”