Zanardi: Daytona 24 Hours debut more sweet than bitter despite issues

Alex Zanardi says his first Daytona 24 Hours experience was "by far more sweet than bitter" despite multiple issues leaving his BMW last in the GT Le Mans class

The two Rahal Letterman Lanigan-run BMW M8 GTEs bookended the class in last weekend's rain-affected IMSA SportsCar season opener, with the #25 entry shared by Connor de Phillippi, Colton Herta, Philipp Eng and Augusto Farfus taking victory.

But the #24 car Zanardi shared with Jesse Krohn, John Edwards and Chaz Mostert was plagued by problems that left it 18 laps down on the winning sister car.

Zanardi and his team-mates hit trouble on Saturday evening when their car was dropped off its air jacks in the pits at the same moment that the Italian was attaching his specially-adapted steering wheel with hand controls, damaging the steering column.

That was compounded by a puncture for Krohn overnight that sent the car back to the pits for lengthy repairs.

"I should say bittersweet, but in reality it was by far more sweet than bitter," said two-time CART champion and Paralympic gold medallist Zanardi when asked what his overriding emotion was after the race.

"Of course from a sporting point of view it was a little bitter.

"We were aiming for a result which I believe was technically achievable. The team was strong, as strong as the #25.

"We initially had this bad obstacle that put us eight laps down, and then there was a rush to get back [and] halfway into the race we were only three laps down, so it was certainly possible to change everything around once more.

"The speed was there, it was not a question of not having the speed to deliver, and if we had come back to the lead lap, who knows?"

Zanardi said he was "very happy" for his team-mates in the #25 car and reserved praise for Farfus, who backed up his FIA GT World Cup victory for BMW at Macau last November with a first win at Daytona.

The Brazilian took the lead late in the race by passing Laurens Vanthoor's Porsche and James Calado's Ferrari in treacherous conditions.

"I think even if I had 10 legs I wouldn't have been able to do what Augusto did in the last two hours," said Zanardi. "To me it's amazing.

"I said to him two days ago, 'What you did in Macau in my eyes, is as big as Lewis Hamilton winning the F1 world championship'.

"I think what he did was amazing, and I told him today, 'What you did today is more than what you did then [in Macau]'.

"He really drove the hell out of the car."

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