Alex Zanardi turned laps for the first time since winning two gold medals at the Rio Paralympic Games, as the BMW works driver prepares to make his racing return.
The 49 year old Italian, who now holds four golds to his name in hand cycling, drove the BMW M6 GT3 for the first time at Mugello.
Zanardi is currently preparing for the upcoming Italian GT Championship finale at the same circuit, marking his first race appearance in over a year. His last event was the 2014 Spa 24 Hours, driving a modified BMW Z4 GT3 with Timo Glock and Bruno Spengler.
The Mugello test enabled Zanardi to acquaint himself with the more recent M6, which carries the same special handheld acceleration and braking system he has used in the past.
BMW engineers on hand at Mugello to help Zanardi dial himself in and to interpret the set-up of the car.
Despite encountering the numerous challenges one would expect when driving a new car, Zanardi enjoyed the test and is evidently relishing his return to the sport.
“That was a first for me in many different ways”, he said. “It was my first time in a race car for more than a year, my first time in Mugello for many years and my first time in the BMW M6 GT3.”
“The outcome of this test was excellent. The car worked well and we were able to fully concentrate on the set-up. The braking mechanism I use worked well and it was relatively easy for me to reach the speed I expected to reach. I’m very happy with the result of the test day.”
“Now we have some work to do with the engineers from BMW Motorsport. We will analyse the data we collected to finalize our preparation for the racing weekend.”
Zanardi’s successful single seater racing career was cut short by a freak accident at the Lausitzring in 2001 which resulted in a double leg amputation.
His re-ascent to the height of competition has been observed in the hand cycling community – where he is an eight time world champion – and of course in the motor racing world where he has achieved hero status.
Between 2005 and 2008 Zanardi contested the World Touring Car Championship with BMW, before taking a six year break to train for the London Paralympics.
In 2014 he returned to the cockpit with the help of the German manufacturer in the Blancpain GT Series, in a partnership that continues to this day.