Mon, Nov 27, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Zanardi overjoyed with Formula One test drive

AP , VALENCIA, SPAIN

Alex Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in a horrific crash over five years ago, shows the modified steering wheel of his BMW-Sauber C24-B during a test near Valencia, Spain, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Alex Zanardi never lost the ability to drive a race car.

Zanardi, who lost both legs in a crash five years ago, completed his return to Formula One on Saturday by becoming the first double amputee to test drive an F1 car.

The 40-year-old Italian drove 14 laps in a modified BMW-Sauber C24-B car at the Cheste circuit.

"Alex felt comfortable from the word go, which has also been proved by his lap times," said BMW Motorsports director Mario Theissen, who was the first to embrace Zanardi after the historic spin. "It's obvious that he is no Formula One newcomer. He has not forgot how to drive a race car like this at the limit."

Zanardi lost his legs in a racing crash in September 2001 in the CART series, now known as the Champ Car World Series.

After being lifted out of the cockpit by two crew members, Zanardi could hardly contain his excitement.

"It's fantastic," he said. "When I dropped my visor, the emotions were very heavy. It was pure pleasure being back in a fantastic race car."

"I do understand this is about much more than just driving a race car. To put a guy with no legs in an F1 car is something very special," he said.

"Mentally I was the same driver as before, it was just to be seen technically whether I could connect my brain to the rest of the car. [Today] when I look in the mirror, I like what I see," he said.

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