A former Formula 1 driver will be at Brands Hatch next week aiming to win races, but not the kind you might expect.
For that man will be Alex Zanardi. The Italian lost both of his legs in a horrific accident in a Champ Car race in Germany in 2001, but made a successful return to racing in the World Touring Car Championship. And since 2007 he has been taking part in handcycling, winning marathons in Venice, Rome and New York.
Now he’s aiming for gold medals in the Paralympic Games, and will be competing in familiar territory with the London 2012 Road Cycling events all taking place at the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent from Wednesday 5 to Saturday 8 September.
“The course couldn’t be better, it’s fantastic,” said Zanardi, who experienced the Brands Hatch layout during a test event in July.
“Knowing the circuit better than anybody else I thought I would know where to negotiate braking points, where to slow down and take the right lines but in reality the course is so wide that you never even cuddle the brakes other than the first corner that goes onto the outside section. I really enjoyed it, it is fantastic.”
A handcycle is one of four types of cycle used in the Paralympic Road Cycling, together with a tandem, a tricycle and a bicycle. There are three types of races: Road Races, Time Trials and Team Relay. Zanardi is set to compete in all three types of racing in handcycling, with the Men’s Individual Time Trial on Wednesday 5, the Men’s Individual Road Race on Friday 7 and the Mixed Team Relay on Saturday 8 September.
According to Brands Hatch, the Paralympics are expected to attract the biggest global audience for the circuit since its final Formula Grand Prix in 1986, with 214 athletes from 42 nations expected to take part and compete for 32 gold medals. The course uses part of the Grand Prix circuit as well as the surrounding roads, and Brands Hatch has been described by the International Cycling Union as the ‘best Paracycling venue of all time.’
“The Paralympic Games Road Cycling at Brands Hatch will be a unique and momentous occasion and I’m looking forward to seeing hundreds of world-class athletes competing here next week,” said Jonathan Palmer, the Chief Executive of MotorSport Vision, owner and operator of Brands Hatch.
“Brands Hatch actually began life as a cycling venue in 1926, so it’s fitting that the sport returns here on such a grand and prestigious scale as part of London 2012. It will be a real highlight of the whole history of the circuit.”