Zanardi's CART comeback

At his Champ Car peak, Alex Zanardi won a legion of fans with his acrobatic driving displays, stunning come from behind triumphs and his post-race donuts. But in May this year, simply by driving a car, Zanardi demonstrated why he may be one of the most inspirational racing drivers ever

Zanardi's CART comeback

In September 2001, Zanardi was doing what he did best, and what he was born to do: dominate. After his troubled F1 sojourn, a return to CART hadn't yielded the results all had hoped for. But Zanardi had suddenly rediscovered his form at the high-speed Eurospeedway Lausitz oval, and was a contender for victory all afternoon. But then, it all went horrifically wrong.

Exiting the pits on cold tyres near the end of the race, Zanardi's Reynard snapped sideways, spinning onto the track. With nowhere else to go, Alex Tagliani's machine slammed into Zanardi's car at high speed, shattering the car's survial cell, and leaving many onlookers to assume the worst.

But Zanardi survived - thanks in no small part to the superhuman effort of the CART safety team. Sadly, though, the crash cost him both of his legs. Zanardi's career was over. Or so we thought.

Given his injuries, no one could blame Zanardi if he never wanted to visit the Eurospeedway or sit in a Champ Car ever again. But that's not Zanardi's way. After all, he had displayed no bitterness for his injuries, simply expressing thanks that he was alive. He learnt remarkably quickly how to walk on artificial legs. This was a man who refused to quit.



Which explains why, in May 2003, Zanardi lowered himself into the cockpit of a specially adapted Reynard Champ Car and set off to complete 13 laps of the Lausitzring - the amount of laps he had left to run on that fateful day.

And Zanardi did it the only way he knows how - flat out. This was no mere demonstration run, this was one man pushing himself to the limits, to a huge roar of ovation from the packed grandstand. Lap after lap, the cheers grew louder and Zanardi went faster.

When the 13 laps were done, the fastest lap set by Zanardi would have put him fifth on the grid for the actual race.

Originally, Zanardi was due to drive the Champ Car as a pace car in front of the field, but that plan was changed when Zanardi suggested that he'd be unable to peel into the pits and would want to start the race. Nobody thought he was joking.

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