Double amputee Zanardi to test drive BMW-Sauber


Wed, Nov 01, 2006 - Page 19

Alex Zanardi, who lost both legs in a horrific crash five years ago, will return to Formula One next month in a test drive with the BMW-Sauber team.

Zanardi, who drove in 41 Formula One races, lost his legs in a crash on Sept. 15, 2001, in Klettwitz, Germany. He was racing in the American Memorial 500, a race in the US-based CART series.

"Of course, I know that I won't get a contract with the Formula One team," the 40-year-old Zanardi said.

"However, having the chance to drive an F1 racer again is just incredible," he said.

Zanardi drove his last race in Formula One in 1999 with Williams. Despite twice winning the CART season title, his best finish in Formula One race was sixth place.

Zanardi will drive the modified BMW-Sauber on Nov. 24-26 in Valencia, Spain. He will be the first double amputee to test an F1 car.

Zanardi has been driving for BMW in the World Touring Car Championship, winning twice.

"With an unprecedented show of will and dedication, he [Zanardi] fought his way back into motor racing and now proves in the WTCC [European Touring Car Championship] that [he] is able to win races at the highest level," BMW Motorsport director Mario Theissen said.

"It was rather a joke when he asked me at the beginning of the year if he could do an F1 test with us. ...We will give him this chance now. The engineers made it possible. I cannot wait to watch his reaction after the test," he added.

Zanardi returned to the German track three-and-a-half years ago and drove 13 "ceremonial laps" in a modified car, reaching speeds of 313kph prior to a CART race.