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Alex Zanardi determined to match BMW Daytona 24 Hours team-mates

Alex Zanardi admits he feels some pressure to match his BMW team-mates on his Daytona 24 Hours debut, but believe he is reasonably close to their pace

Despite his relative lack of experience with the BMW M8 and the need still to acclimate to a new hand-operated braking system, the two-time CART Champ Car champion and gold medal-winning paralympian hero was within one second of his fastest Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team-mates in the 'Roar Before the 24' test.

Double CART Champ Car champion Zanardi lost both legs in a shunt on the Lausitzring oval in 2001.

Having made his subsequent comebacks in European-based series such as the World Touring Car Championship, this year's IMSA SportsCar Championship opener will mark his first race in the United States - where he rose to fame in CART - since that crash.

Zanardi described his BMW co-drivers - full-time IMSA racers John Edwards and Jesse Krohn plus guesting Supercars star Chaz Mostert - as "terrific" and emphasised his determination to match them.

"Jesse, Chaz and John are very, very talented drivers, very professional and it's fantastic and also very helpful, because to be in a team with those drivers is a huge plus," said Zanardi.

"It is inevitable to feel pressure because I would really like to perform at their level and on top of my personal problems, my age and whatever, it's a question of their talent knowing the car the way they do.

"I will try my best but so far so good. I'm not so far behind, actually."

Where Zanardi once used his prosthetic legs while racing, operating the throttle with hand controls but using a modified foot brake using pressure applied from his hip, BMW has switched him to a hand operated braking lever.

This lever also has a button with which Zanardi can simultaneously downshift the gears. Acceleration is still governed by a ring around the steering wheel.

Asked how much difference this new braking device has made, Zanardi was very enthusiastic but admitted he is still working to make its operation second nature.

"Physically speaking it's incomparable - it's like night and day compared to what I was doing before," he said.

"It helps far more than we expected when we started to investigate solutions to follow that direction. From that point of view it's 100% a success.

"Still for me to negotiate some of the actions that I have to do, I am still a student. I hope I can learn some more but I will have 24 hours of time to go through my mental data and to try to develop the right technique."

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