A DTM Series weekend that is already set up to be spectacular under the lights in Misano has just gotten little more magical with Alex Zanardi set to make his debut.
The event takes place 24-26 August and will the thirteenth and fourteenth races of the season.
Zanardi, as a BMW Motorsport ambassador, will be in the cockpit of a BMW M4 DTM that has been adapted to his needs.
The race forms part of Zanardi’s preparation for the 2019 Daytona 24 Hours which he is to contest next January.
Preparation for his DTM debut gets underway this weekend (1-3 June) at round three of the DTM at the Hungaroring where he will familiarise himself with the details of procedures, structures and processes in the DTM.
Test drives are planned for the coming weeks – dates and locations will be announced at a later date.
Zanardi has been behind the wheel of a BMW DTM race car many times. At the Nürburgring in 2012 he completed a test in recognition of winning two gold medals at the Paralympic Games in London.
He has also taken part in DTM race taxis, but starting a DTM race is a first for the Italian.
“I am incredibly excited about racing the BMW M4 DTM at Misano because I always dreamt of adding the DTM experience into my ‘book of best moments’ in my motorsport career. DTM has for many years been one of the motorsport disciplines that are the pinnacles of racing regarding technology, the speed of the car and the level of the competition, which these days is higher than ever,” said Zanardi. “The skills of the drivers competing in DTM and the preparation of the teams are, in my view, as good as in Formula One. They are top of the game and you can’t get any better than that.
“And on the other hand that is what concerns me and will make me to approach this challenge with a lot of respect, knowing that it will be one of toughest things I have ever done in my racing career. I am really grateful that BMW offered to start this project and to all the engineers in Munich who are already preparing the car. I will do my very best to represent them in such a competitive field.”
Zanardi has enjoyed success with BMW for most of his racing career. Back in 2003, just two years after the accident where he lost his legs, Zanardi contested the European Touring Car Championship season finale at Monza.
The next year he took part in the entire ETCC season and between 2005 and 2009 competed in the FIA World Touring Car Championship with BMW Team Italy-Spain ROAL Motorsport.
At Oschersleben on 28 August 2005, Zanardi caused a sensation by becoming the first physically impaired driver to win a world championship race – he went on to take four wins in total in the FIA WTCC.
Since 2010, the Italian has focussed on his other passion, para-cycling winning four Paralympic gold medals and ten world championship titles to date.
Zanardi returned to the cockpit of a race car in 2014 as he contested the entire season of the Blancpain GT Sprint Series in a modified BMW Z4 GT3; with the next highlight coming in 2015 with the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps when Zanardi was joined by Timo Glock and Bruno Spengler but the trio had to retire in the final hour.
The last official race outing for Zanardi was 16 October 2016 as a guest at the season finale of the Italian GT Championship at Mugello where he celebrated a sensational win in the Sunday race.
BMW Motorsport Director, Jens Marquardt said: “Alex Zanardi as a guest starter in Misano – that will be a real sensation in an already spectacular DTM season. The fans can look forward to a fantastic race weekend in Misano: the DTM’s first guest appearance at this track, the first ever night race in the DTM and Alex Zanardi, who as the ‘local hero’ will play his part in making this event a special experience for everyone. Our thanks go to the ITR and our colleagues from Audi and Mercedes-Benz for giving the green-light for this guest start. Our engineers are currently using all their expertise and ideas to work on modifying the BMW M4 DTM to suit Alex’s requirements. We are looking forward to having Alex in our BMW DTM family.”
Chairman of the ITR, Gerhard Berger says he is delighted that such a well-known guest will debut in Misano and that Zanardi will deliver a top performance in front of his home crowd.