Alex Zanardi won the first of what could be three gold medals at the 2012 Paralympics at Brands Hatch, winning the Hand-Cycling H4 Individual Time Trial by a margin of 27 seconds over German Norbert Mosandl.
Zanardi, who had both legs amputated following a horrific crash at a Champ Car event in Germany 11 years ago, completed the 16km course around Brands Hatch in 24:50.22.
Following the accident Zanardi returned to racing, competing for BMW in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) in a car specially adapted with hand controls taking four wins, plus a third place in the British round of the 2008 season which took place at the same Kent venue that hosts the road cycling events for the Paralympics.
The manufacturer were among many to congratulate the Italian on “making his dream a reality”.
“Congratulations to Alessandro Zanardi on this unbelievable success,” said BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt. “During his time as a BMW driver, he provided us with countless highlights between 2003 and 2009 – particularly, of course, with his four victories at the wheel of the BMW 320i and BMW 320si WTCC in the WTCC. Alex is an outstanding athlete and a perfect example of what can be achieved with dedication and commitment.”
Zanardi can add further medals in both the H4 Road Race on September 7 and the H1-4 Team Relay the following day.
Target Chip Ganassi team boss Chip Ganassi who Zanardi achieved many victories and championship wins in Champ Car with added “Nothing Alex does surprises me anymore. He is a tremendous person and true ‘racer’ at heart. Whether it’s Indy cars or hand bikes, Alex has always been a terrific competitor. We all know he showed that talent when he was part of Team Target here in America, but today he showed the rest of the world his truly invincible spirit. I have had the good fortune to share many victories with Alex over the years but I don’t know that I have ever been so proud of him.”