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Alex Zanardi satisfied with adapted BMW GT car after comeback test

Alex Zanardi

Alex Zanardi expressed satisfaction with his adapted BMW Z4 GT3 after his maiden test in the car he will race in this year's Blancpain Sprint Series.

The ex-Formula 1 driver, who is making a return to the racetracks after a four-year absence, tried his ROAL Motorsport-run BMW at Adria in northern Italy on Thursday.

The car has been modified to use the same system of hand controls the 47-year-old Italian used in touring car racing with BMW in 2003-09.

"I don't want to sound too excited, but it was at least as good as I could have dreamt it would be," said Zanardi.

"The BMW Z4 GT3 is a lot of fun: it is powerful and it suits my natural driving style quite well."

Zanardi explained that there was still work to be done adapting the hand controls to the V8-powered Z4 GT3.

"With what we have learned on this first day, we know what we have to do," he said.

"We will now use a brake pedal of a different size and modify the mechanical system with which I control the throttle mechanism in order to allow me to accelerate perfectly out of corners."

The Italian has used a hand throttle on the steering wheel and braked with his right prosthetic leg in the wake of his return to racing after his near-fatal CART accident in 2001.

Alex Zanardi, ROAL BMW, Adria testing January 2014

ROAL team boss Roberto Ravaglia, whose squad (formerly Ravaglia Motorsport) ran Zanardi in the European and World Touring Car Championships, said: "It was a magic day, with Alex coming back to the track and to us.

"When he was going out of the garage it was a very emotional moment: I have to admit that I was close to crying when he drove down the pitlane in our car."

Zanardi completed 150km (95 miles) during the test and, according to Ravaglia, set "really good laptimes".

Zanardi will drive alone in the two one-hour races that make up each Blancpain Sprint Series weekend because of his physical condition.

That will offer no advantage because the tyre-change element of the mandatory pitstop takes longer than swapping driver.

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