Alessandro Zanardi made a successful return to Brands Hatch with a stunning drive to fifth in the Blancpain Sprint Series.
Zanardi, who won Paralympic gold at Brands Hatch in 2012, started the second hour-long race from down in 17th in the ROAL Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3 and not only had to battle his on-track rivals, but had to work hard to keep cool under the Kent sun.
“Man it was tough,” said Zanardi. “At least with the handbike I could breath. It was literally like a pan fire. At the beginning of the race it wasn’t that bad because I had my cooling stuff, which was working, but then 25 minutes into the race it was arrivederci, so I just had to fight in the car. It was one of the toughest things I have done on wheels, either three or four. But we can make it better because there is a bigger bag available for cooling. Even if the car goes up five kilos that will turn into bigger tenths for us if I can cool my body down. One funny thing about the result is I hate number 17. In Italy it is the unlucky number. I even like number 13, but I guess at 47 years of age it is about time to get rid of this type of superstition.”
The Italian started the qualifying race from sixth on the grid, but contact on the first lap saw Zanardi drop down the order. He worked his way up to as high as eighth and was right on the pace, before a spin at Clark Curve beached him in the gravel and brought out the Safety Car. Two pitstops later, Zanardi had to settle for 17th, for laps off the lead at the finish.
“I managed to stay out of trouble in turn one, but then in turn two I was on the outside and I think somebody hit the Ferrari and threw it up against me,” explained Zanardi. “It was a racing accident, typical first or second turn. I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Other than that the car was still good and I was doing my race. The performance was there, especially when we corrected the tyre pressures at the pit stop. But unfortunately on that lap I was close behind the Lamborghini and I thought the corner was over, but I just understeered a little wider onto the marbles and it was just everything happened in the blink of an eye. Basically the car understeered over the marbles, I checked the throttle, lost the back and hell broke loose. You don’t get any points by being fast, You get points by finishing in the top ten.”