Alex Zanardi Completes DTM Test at Vallelunga Ahead of Misano Outing

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Alex Zanardi: DTM - Vallelunga Test
Credit: BMW Press Group Global

BMW‘s and Alex Zanardi‘s preparations for the Italian’s DTM Series outing at Misano following a two-day test in Vallelunga.

Over the course of the two days, Zanardi completed 294 laps at the wheel of the BMW M4 DTM which has been specially modified to meet his requirements. The main goal of the test was to adapt as well as possible to the driving behaviour of the car and the way the modifications function.

One such adaption is a hand-operated brake system, as the Italian will not be using his artificial leg – the advantage of this new system is that it requires less effort and is therefore easier to use.

In addition, as with all M4’s Zanardi’s car also has a parking brake which is used to build up preload pressure to allow the fastest possible start. As his fellow BMW drivers, it can be operated via a button on the steering wheel – however it can also be mechanically activated via a lever on the handbrake.

Standard DTM cars have a hydraulic clutch, in Zanardi’s it will have a fully-automatic centrifugal clutch is used instead.  This automatically opens and closes at certain engine speeds and is no longer operated by the driver.

The respective engine speeds are defined by BMW Motorsport engineers as part of their set-up work. For Zanardi, the system means he does not need to use one of his hands to operate a clutch lever.

Due to the DTM no longer necessary to operate a clutch he can use the paddle shit as normal, although moving down the gears is usually associated with a braking manoeuvre Zanardi can downshift using a shirt paddle on the end of the brake lever.

Adopted from GT Cars, Zanardi accelerates using a throttle ring. The continuous ring can be operated with both hands, or just one of them – this has no influence in how the system works.

The steering wheel, including the throttle ring, is in principle the same as those used in GT racing by Zanardi before. Buttons have been adjusted for his appearance.

“The test was great; all went really well and we are heading in the right direction. A lot is new, but I am coming to terms with it lap by lap. Thanks a lot to BMW – we’re getting ready for Misano,” said Zanardi.

“The progress from the previous system to the current one is massive,” said Zanardi. “Driving a race car like the BMW M4 DTM is physically very demanding. For me, it would be far more strenuous if I were to continue to brake with my prosthesis as I have done up to now.”

Zanardi’s problem with the old system was primarily that he sweated too much under the prosthetic leg. This not only led to him becoming exhausted more quickly but also to him losing a little of his feeling for the right braking pressure.

“I won’t be faster, but I wouldn’t had never accomplished all I did at the two days in Vallelunga with the old system. I completed so many laps with a car that I had never driven before, the BMW M4 DTM, and after not having raced for nearly two years. That would just have been impossible with the solution I had before. It’s like I am, from a physical point of view, a different driver.”

Zanardi’s guest weekend at Misano forms part of his build up to the Daytona 24 Hours, however his home outing is far more than just a test.

“It is going to be a huge event for me – and probably one of the most difficult tasks I have ever faced in my motor racing career,” said Zanardi. “In my opinion, the DTM is currently the most fiercely-competitive racing series in the world and the one with the best field – even better than Formula 1. I will try to finish ahead of at least one car. Let’s see whether I manage it. It is going to be tough, but very interesting.”

The DTM is in action this weekend at Brands Hatch with the series heading to Misano later this month, 24-26 August, for round seven of the championship.

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An NCTJ accredited Journalism Graduate covering DTM and the FIA Formula 3 Championship.
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