Alex Zanardi wins gold in 2012 Paralympic handcycling race
|By Michele Lostia and Sam Tremayne||Wednesday, September 5th 2012, 15:11 GMT|
Former Williams, Lotus and Jordan Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi won gold in the 2012 Paralympic handcycling race around Brands Hatch circuit on Wednesday.
The 45-year-old was competing 11 years after losing his legs - one at the knee and one above - in a horrific Champ Car crash at the Lausitzring.
He previously won silver in the 2011 World Road Para-Cycling Championships, his first medal since moving into the sport following his race-winning spell in the WTCC with BMW.
Zanardi faced up against nine other competitors in the 16km H4 Brands Hatch time trial, and at the halfway mark had assembled a lead of 14 seconds over Germany's Norbert Mosandl.
He continued to ease away from the German over the final eight kilometres, eventually winning in a time of 24m50.22s.
Mosandl finished second, just over 27 seconds down, with America's Oscar Sanchez a further 18 seconds back in the bronze medal position.
"I have been lucky as usual," Zanardi said. "I had a scary moment too, because in the back straight on the first lap the chain went down.
"I told myself 'calm down, put it up, take your time, and go on'. So I did that. I surely lost seven or eight seconds there, but in the end it was enough anyway.
"[21 years ago] I got a pole position but ended up second in the race [at Brands Hatch]. At this track I have scored a second, a third, but I was still missing the top step of the podium, so today we got that.
"In two days we have the road race, on the day of my son Niccolo's birthday, so I'll try to win him a nice present, but frankly I'll try to get that for me too, because in life you always need to be content with what you can do.
"Today I have done the maximum, and it was enough to beat everyone. I'll try that again on Friday, even if nothing can be taken for granted, then we'll see. For sure I can't live without sport. I'm a total addict for sports.
"I'm a person who has had plenty from life and lady luck keeps on adding stuff, so I can only be thankful."
Zanardi was a two-time CART champion, winning what was then North America's premier single-seaters for Chip Ganassi Racing in 1997 and '98.
He made an ill-fated switch to F1 with Williams before going back to North America in 2001.
After recovering from his near-fatal crash in Germany in 2001, he returned to the sport in the World Touring Car Championship with a specially modified BMW 320si.
He won four times, but in 2007 caught the handcycling bug when he finished fourth in the New York Marathon.
At the end of 2009 he gave up motorsport and focused his efforts on qualifying for Italy's 2012 Paralympic team, winning last year's handcycling New York Marathon as part of his preparations.