Jens Marquardt

IDOL AND INSPIRATION FOR PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD.

BMW brand ambassador and BMW works driver Alessandro Zanardi.

IDOL AND INSPIRATION FOR PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD. BMW brand ambassador and BMW works driver Alessandro Zanardi.

ALESSANDRO ZANARDI IN PROFILE

  • 01 Date of birth: 23rd October 1966
  • 02 Place of birth: Bologna (Italy)
  • 03 Marital status: Married to Daniela, one son: Niccólo

Alessandro Zanardi is a phenomenon - and living proof that there are no limits to tackling a challenge with passion and enthusiasm. 17 years ago, the former Formula 1 driver and two-time ChampCar champion lost both legs in an accident. But that was not the end of his career, but the beginning of an exciting new chapter in his life. Today he is not only successful in motorsport and as a para-athlete, but also idol and inspiration for people around the globe. They call him - even if he does not like to hear it himself - simply "hero."

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The serious accident occurred on September 15, 2001 at the Lausitzring during a Germany guest appearance of the US ChampCar series. Zanardi's racing car turned on the track and was hit with full force by another vehicle. The Italian suffered life-threatening injuries and lost a lot of blood. On the helicopter flight to the emergency hospital Berlin, he had to be revived seven times. After much anxiety and hope, the redeeming news: Although both legs had to be amputated, he has survived. The treating physicians call this in view of the severity of the injuries today as a medical miracle.

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Alex Zanardi
Alex Zanardi

If fate thought to destroy Zanardi's life by this accident, it had made the bill without the Italian. With his contagious zest for life, his iron will and his unbroken ambition, he soon set about making new plans. And so he returned to the race cockpit two years later, in 2003. Together with the engineers of BMW Motorsport, he began to adapt BMW racing cars to his needs as a driver who was both leg amputees. So he successfully competed in the World Touring Car Championship, where he celebrated a total of four victories.

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Even when testing in modified Formula 1 and DTM racing cars from BMW, he was in terms of performance of his physically not affecting colleagues in any way. In 2014, he played his first full season in a BMW GT race car, and another highlight in his motorsport career followed in 2015: in the legendary 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, he teamed up with DTM drivers Timo Glock and Bruno Spengler converted BMW Z4 GT3. The "Dream Team" rode until shortly before the end of the race for a top placement - only a technical defect an hour before the end prevented the dream result. In 2016, he played his first races in the new BMW M6 GT3 and celebrated an emotional and acclaimed victory in the season finale of the Italian GT Championship. In 2018, the next racing adventure was on Zanardi’s list: a guest appearance in the popular DTM touring car series. Together with BMW Motorsport, he developed a new braking system – not longer with a brake pedal which his prostethic leg was fixed to but with a brake lever operated by his right arm. Zanardi was the star of the Italian DTM round at Misano, and impressed once more. In tricky, wet conditions, he raced to a sensational fifth place in Sunday’s race.

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Alex Zanardi

CAREER IN RACING:

With his enthusiasm for ever new challenges, Zanardi discovered another passion a few years ago: para-cycling. Initially, it served only as a training method for motorsport, but soon Zanardi wanted more. He participated in marathon events such as in New York, meticulously dedicated to the development and optimization of his handbike, became part of the Italian national team and set himself a goal: the Paralympic Games of London 2012. They became a triumphal procession for the Zanardi - with two gold medals and a silver medal in hand-cycling. Four years later he repeated this: At the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, he again won twice gold and once silver. He has now collected no less than ten world championship titles.

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Alex Zanardi
Alex Zanardi

But since motorsport and para-cycling were still not enough for today's 50-year-old, triathlon was added as a further discipline - right on the long haul. In 2014 and 2015, he successfully participated in the World Cup in Kona, Hawaii. Both times he remained under the magic mark of ten hours, although he mastered the entire distance alone with the strength of his arms: 3.86 kilometers swimming, 180.2 kilometers cycling by handbike and finally the running distance over the full marathon distance of 42.195 Kilometers with the racing wheelchair. In 2015, he even won his age group with a time of 9:40 hours - in front of all physically unaffected competitors. In September 2018, he finished the “Ironman Italy Emilia-Romagna” in a time of 8:26.06 hours. In doing so, he not only improved his previous personal best by more than half an hour – he also set a new world record. It was the fastest time yet recorded by a triathlet with physical disabilities.

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BIGGEST SUCCESSES AS A PARA-ATHLETE: