The legendary Alessandro Zanardi will return to racing in 2014. He will race a ROAL Motorsport Z4 GT3 in the Blancpain sprint series.
Zanardi, who lost his legs in a CART race at the Lausitzring in 2001, returned to racing two years later, running a BMW 320i for Roberto Ravaglia’s team. He went on to win four World Touring Car Championship races for BMW, retiring in 2009. He had begun handbike competition by then; he went on to win two gold medals in the 2012 Paralympics.
Zanardi always retained his close ties to BMW Motorsport. Along the way he tested a specially outfitted BMW Sauber F1 car in 2006, and tested a BMW DTM car in 2012.
Now, Ravaglia’s ROAL Motorsport team, working with BMW Motorsport, is building a hand-controlled Z4 GT3 for Zanardi.
Zanardi said, “Even after leaving the sport in 2009, I was still a racing driver at heart. When I took to the track in the BMW M3 DTM at the end of 2012, I immediately got itchy fingers again. Ever since that moment I have been toying with the idea of returning to motor racing. Together with BMW we have looked at various options. I am even more pleased that it has worked out with my old friends at ROAL Motorsport. I would like to say a big thank you to BMW for this unique opportunity.”
BMW motorsport director Jens Marquardt said, “Alex is back! I cannot express how delighted I am that one of the greatest heroes in the history of BMW Motorsport is returning to the cockpit of one of our racing cars. From both a human and a sporting aspect, Alex is a role model to all of us. I am sure he will approach this new challenge in the Blancpain GT Sprint Series in the same manner we have become accustomed to from him. You can really sense just how much he has missed competing on four wheels. Modifying the BMW Z4 GT3 is a challenge for our engineers. However, we gained valuable experience in this regard when we modified the BMW M3 DTM in 2012, and that will come in very useful now. As far as we are concerned, there is nothing preventing Alex from making a successful comeback.”
The Blancpain series includes both endurance and sprint races. Zanardi will compete in six of the seven sprint races, beginning on April 21 on the Circuit Paul Armagnac in Nogaro, France.—Brian S. MorganBack to News