Double Paralympic gold medallist and former World Touring Car racer Alex Zanardi today completed his first Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters test for BMW at the Nürburgring.
Italian Zanardi took to the circuit at the wheel of a specially modified gold BMW M3 DTM which had been adapted to suit his needs. The accelerator and clutch pedals were removed from the car and the brake pedal moved to the right to allow Zanardi to brake with his prosthetic right leg. An accelerator paddles was added to the left-hand side of the steering wheel, whilst gear changes were operated by pushing and pulling the shift paddle.
The modifications made to BMW’s DTM car would not be suitable for use in racing conditions, but did allow the former WTCC, Champ Car and Formula 1 star to complete a demonstration drive at the German circuit.
Zanardi has a long history with BMW – he made his return to racing with the manufacturer at the end of the 2003 European Touring Car Championship at Monza. Zanardi stayed with BMW in the ETCC and subsequent WTCC until 2009, when BMW began it’s pull-out from the series. He has since been heavily involved in hand cycling, culminating in his success at the recent London Summer Olympics.
“I am overjoyed to have been given the opportunity to drive the BMW M3 DTM today,” said Zanardi, who was 46 last month. “This is a very special day for me, and one I will always remember fondly. I would like to thank everyone at BMW who has helped make this special moment possible for me. It was a challenge to modify the car to meet my requirements and I am surprised just how quickly the BMW Motorsport engineers managed to complete the necessary modifications. However the guys have done a great job. I had great fun out on the track.”
BMW gave Zanardi a special golden livery on the car for the occasion, to honour the Italian’s two gold medals in paracycling during the recent London 2012 Olympics.
“When I first saw the golden car I was overwhelmed,” continued Zanardi. “I still have a passion for racing. However I’m not sure whether our demonstration drive will be anything more than just that, as the level in the DTM may possibly prove to be too high for someone of my age. As such, my main focus is on something completely different after today’s drive; I felt that the BMW family is still behind me and loves me. They showed that once again today.”
BMW motorsport Director Jens Marquardt praised Zanardi’s determination, adding: “I am delighted we have taken on this adventure successfully with Alessandro Zanardi. For years he has been a valued member of the BMW Motorsport family and is a great role model for us all. Despite his handicap, he approaches every challenge with great optimism and passes every test with flying colours. His medals at the Paralympic Games in London are fine examples of this, as are the four race victories he achieved in the WTCC for BMW Motorsport. As we have seen today, the challenge of driving the technically complex BMW M3 DTM also proved to be no obstacle for him.”
Zanardi’s special demonstration run was being held to celebrate the 40th anniversary of BMW M [BMW Motorsport].