Alex Zanardi


Alex Zanardi

Infobox F1 driver
Name = Alessandro Zanardi



Caption = Zanardi in 2007, as a WTCC driver
Nationality = flagicon|Italy Italian
Years = F1|1991 - F1|1994, F1|1999
Team(s) = Jordan, Minardi, Lotus, Williams
Races = 44 (41 starts)
Championships = 0
Wins = 0
Points = 1
Podiums = 0
Poles = 0
Fastest laps = 0
First race = 1991 Spanish Grand Prix
First win =
Last win =
Last race = 1999 Japanese Grand Prix

Alessandro "Alex" Zanardi (born October 23, 1966 in Bologna, Italy) is an Italian racing driver. He won two CART championship titles in North America during the late 1990s. He also had a less successful career as a Formula One driver. More recently, he has attracted widespread praise for his return to competition in the aftermath of a crash in 2001 that resulted in the amputation of his legs. As of 2008, he competes in the FIA World Touring Car Championship for BMW Team Italy-Spain.

Biography

Early years

Alex Zanardi was born in Bologna. His sister was a promising swimmer until her death in an automobile collision. [citeweb|title=Zanardi the brave|url=http://observer.guardian.co.uk/osm/story/0,,766954,00.html|publisher=guardian.co.uk|accessdate=2008-03-06]

Zanardi began racing karts at the age of 13. In 1988, he joined the Italian Formula 3 series, becoming a championship contender by 1990. In 1991, he moved up to the Formula 3000 series with the Il Barone Rampante team, who were themselves newcomers to the series. Winning on his F3000 debut, he went on to score two more wins that season, en route to second in the championship.

Formula One part one

By the end of 1991 he had commenced his career in Formula One. Three starts for Jordan were his reward for a strong F3000 campaign.

For 1992 Zanardi had to be content with guest drives for Minardi, replacing the injured Christian Fittipaldi. In the off-season, he tested for Benetton, but contracted with Lotus for 1993. Zanardi compared reasonably to teammate Johnny Herbert and was important in fine-tuning the team's active suspension system, scoring his first ever F1 point at the Brazilian Grand Prix. However, his season ended prematurely after he suffered a terrible crash during practice for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Still injured, Zanardi missed the beginning of the 1994 season, but he returned in the Spanish Grand Prix, replacing Pedro Lamy, who had been hurt in a testing crash. However, that year's Lotus was highly unreliable, and Zanardi failed to score a single point or qualify higher than 13th. When Lotus' F1 effort collapsed at the end of the year, Zanardi spent a brief time in Sports car racing in 1995, his Formula One career seemingly over.

Champ Car

In 1996, Zanardi made the switch to CART, having won a seat at Chip Ganassi Racing. The team's race engineer Mo Nunn advised Chip against signing him, as he believed Italian drivers were too prone to mistakes. Tellingly, Mo later signed Alex for his own team.

He rapidly became one of the series' most popular drivers. He took pole for his second race, although his first win didn't come until mid-season. In total he won three races in his rookie season, finishing in a tie for second in the championship points (officially scored third as Michael Andretti had won more races) behind team-mate Jimmy Vasser (who did not win after round 6 of the season) and being named Champ Racing Rookie of the Year. He would win the championship for Ganassi in both 1997 and 1998, bringing home twelve victories.

A win came at Laguna Seca for the final race of the 1996 season, where he conducted a highly risky overtaking move at the Corkscrew corner (known to many racing fans as 'The Pass'; the maneuver was banned for future years), on race leader Bryan Herta, having fought his way through the field. After winning a race, Zanardi was fond of spinning his car around in tight circles, leaving circular donut-shaped patterns of tyre rubber on the track; this would eventually become a popular means of celebrating race wins all across America.

Formula One part two

Zanardi's CART success caught the eye of Sir Frank Williams, who inked him to a three-year contract in 1999. In pre-season testing, he was fast; however, everything went downhill from there. Plagued by numerous reliability issues, Zanardi also made a series of crucial errors, his F1 return in Australia a prime example. He was consistently outpaced by team-mate Ralf Schumacher and rumours spread that he would not last long at Williams. A late season up-turn in speed seemed to signal a breakthrough. At both Spa and Monza he looked competitive, but problems cost him a good result. At Monza he had qualified an impressive fourth and briefly held second, but brake difficulties curtailed his pace and he dropped to seventh. The season ended with Zanardi failing to maintain his Monza form; he was dropped for 2000. Jenson Button replaced him.

Champ Car return and Lausitzring crash

The 2000 season was one of reflection for Zanardi. Out of a drive, he considered his options and began to plot a CART comeback. He tested for Mo Nunn and opted to sign to the team for 2001. It was not a successful return; for whatever reason he struggled to rekindle his past form. Then tragedy struck. In by far his most competitive race of 2001, he suffered a horrific accident which ended his single-seater racing career. It happened at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz, located in the southern part of the German state of Brandenburg, on September 15. This was the first major sporting event in the world after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Primary word was that it was to be canceled along with all other events, however it went on as planned, retitled the American Memorial 500.

The crash occurred while Zanardi was leading the race in the closing laps. After a late pit stop, Zanardi was attempting to merge back onto the track when he accelerated abruptly and spun into the path of Alex Tagliani, who was travelling at over Auto km/h|330|0. With Tagliani given no chance at all of avoiding the collision, Zanardi's car was t-boned behind the front wheel, splitting the monocoque in half. The near-fatal collision amputated both of his legs above the knee. Zanardi lost a massive amount of blood, but survived due to the quick actions of the medical teams.

ubsequent life and career

Zanardi was fitted with two prosthetic limbs and began an ambitious rehabilitation program. Dissatisfied with the limitations of legs available commercially, Zanardi designed and built his own bespoke legs, to allow him to compare the weight and stiffness of various feet in order to find the most suitable for racing. In 2002, CART honoured Zanardi by giving him the privilege of waving the checkered flag in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In 2003, Zanardi was not only back behind the wheel, he was also racing again, with the aid of hand-operated brake and accelerator controls. He completed the final thirteen laps at the race track which had nearly killed him in 2001, and did so at highly competitive speeds approaching Auto km/h|310|0. In fact, had he been qualifying for the race that weekend, he would have been fifth. It was a fitting testament to his recovery and persuaded him that a race return was something to pursue.

Zanardi competed in his first race since the accident at Monza, Italy, in a touring car modified to allow the use of his prosthetic feet, finishing the race quite impressively in seventh. In 2004, Zanardi returned to racing full-time, driving for Roberto Ravaglia's BMW Team Italy-Spain in the FIA European Touring Car Championship. The season did not see him score many points, but for 2005 matters were much improved, in a series which became the World Touring Car Championship by adding two non-European races. On August 24, 2005, Zanardi won his first world series race since his accident at Lausitzring. He had taken advantage of the championship's reverse grid system, in which by finishing the weekend's first race in 8th, a driver starts the second on pole. Still, Zanardi had held off attacks from several drivers, and duly celebrated his win with a series of trademark "donuts". He then finished the season strongly. He took further wins at Istanbul in 2006 and Brno in 2008.

Since 2004, he has had his own range of kart chassis, called the Zanardi which has been raced in the European Championships by Martin Plowman. Plowman won the Asia-Pacific Championship for Zanardi just three months after the formation of the company. In 2006, 2007 and 2008, several Zanardi karts took part in the CIK-FIA World Championship and ICA World Cup.

Zanardi returned to a Formula 1 car in late November 2006 at a testing session for BMW Sauber in Valencia, Spain. The car had been specially adapted to have hand controls fitted on the steering wheel. After the drive Zanardi told the main problem he was having was using only his right hand to steer through corners, as his left operated the throttle. [citeweb|title=Driver who lost both legs returns to F1|url=http://www.carsnaps.com/news.php?id=39|publisher=carsnaps.com|accessdate=2008-03-06] Zanardi was quoted as saying, "Of course, I know that I won't get a contract with the Formula One team, however having the chance to drive an F1 racer again is just incredible." [citeweb|title=Zanardi to return to F1 cockpit|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/6100256.stm|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-03-06] [citeweb|title=Zanardi makes happy return to F1|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/motorsport/formula_one/6178832.stm|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-03-06]

In 2007 he achieved a 4th place in the New York City Marathon in the handcycle division. [citeweb|title=Zanardi_4th_in_N.Y.C._marathon|url=http://www.tsn.ca/auto_racing/news_story/?ID=222195&hubname=auto_racing|publisher=tsn.ca|accessdate=2008-03-06]

Zanardi has been married to Daniela (née Manni) since 1996, and they have a son, Niccolò. He has co-written two books based on his life, "Alex Zanardi: My Story" (2004) and "Alex Zanardi: My Sweetest Victory" (2004).

Zanardi and his story have been featured on the HBO sports series Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

Zanardi Edition NSX

Alex Zanardi Edition Acura NSX, basically a Japanese Honda NSX Type S variant, was introduced in 1999 for the U.S. market to commemorate his 2 back-to-back championship wins in 1997 and 1998 in the North American CART Champ Car open wheel racing series. Only 51 examples were ever built, and all were painted New Formula Red to reflect the color of the Champ Car he drove to 2 titles for Chip Ganassi Racing. Number 0 was a press car, while number 1 was a gift from Acura/Honda to Zanardi himself. Number 2 through 50 were sold to the general public through Acura dealerships across the nation.

Complete Formula One results

()

References

External links

* [http://www.alex-zanardi.com Alex Zanardi official website]
* [http://www.f1rejects.com/drivers/zanardi/index.html Full Profile on Formula One Rejects]


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