Alessandro Zanardi is a motorsport legend. However, the 51-year-old will once again be entering uncharted territory at the end of August: at Misano where he will contest his first DTM race as a guest starter in a BMW M4 DTM. As a “newcomer”, he will still be faced with unfamiliar elements. What are the expectations of his guest appearance? What is the biggest challenge facing a DTM rookie? What is special about the BMW M4 DTM? We have the answers to this question and more, courtesy of genuine DTM insiders: from ITR Chairman Gerhard Berger, Zanardi’s BMW DTM team-mates, Mercedes driver Gary Paffett and former Audi driver Mattias Ekström, to BMW team doctor Dr. Riccardo Ceccarelli. We have put them together in a special “DTM Guide” for Zanardi.

Mr. Berger, what do you expect from Alessandro Zanardi’s guest start in the DTM?

Gerhard Berger: “The DTM is really looking forward to this first at Misano; a night race, the Adriatic coast, the Gianna Nannini concert and, on top of all that, the guest appearance by Alex Zanardi – it is going to be a very special motorsport festival at the end of August! We are really looking forward to it, and are intrigued to see how Alex will fare at the wheel of the BMW M4 DTM in what is a fiercely-competitive field in the DTM. Alex was at Budapest at the start of June to gain an impression of today’s DTM. It was clear to everyone there that he is approaching this with great joy and curiosity, but also with the necessary helping of ambition. As an IndyCar champion and multiple Olympic gold medallist, Alex is renowned for always being as well prepared and motivated as possible whenever he takes on his sporting challenges. This season’s races have shown emphatically that the DTM is a sporting challenge at the highest level.”

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Gerhard Berger
Gary Paffet

Gary Paffett, how does the opposition feel about Zanardi’s guest start in the DTM?

Gary Paffett: “I used to watch Alex racing in IndyCar. He was an incredibly successful and fast driver there until the accident he had at the Lausitzring, which was tragic, really. But since then he has been really inspirational. To come back like he has and to compete at the level he has in many disciplines is an inspiration to anyone and just shows his passion and drive for motorsport and for competing. For him to come and drive and race and compete for one weekend in the DTM is amazing. It is such a competitive series that I think coming in is going to be incredibly tough for him, but he is obviously up for the fight and I am looking forward to seeing him on track at Misano. Again, it’s just really amazing that he has made that sort of choice and has the chance to come and race in the DTM with us.”

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Mattias Ekström, how is it to race in the DTM as a guest starter?

Mattias Ekström: “I thought it was cool to start as a guest driver. I wanted to bid farewell to my fans and was able to put my foot down and have fun without feeling any pressure. The race results were really not that significant.”

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Mattias Ekström
Timo Glock

Timo, what is the greatest challenge when racing in the DTM for the first time?

Timo Glock: “I still remember well that I actually had a really good feeling after the tests. Then I came to the first race – and everything was different. The challenge was not to be put off your stride. Everything is different at a DTM race weekend. The schedule is very tight. You certainly need to get used to that. However, I am sure that Alex will cope well at Misano.”

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Bruno, what distinguishes the BMW M4 DTM from a GT or touring car?

Bruno Spengler: “The BMW M4 DTM is completely different to a GT car. It is developed to the very highest standard. The cornering speeds are great fun, due to the high amount of downforce. It is also considerably lighter. The temperatures in the cockpit are actually lower than in a GT car. It is a bit like driving a Formula car, but Alex knows all about that from former times. As such, I think he’ll have a lot of fun in the BMW M4 DTM.”

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BMW 328i
Marco Wittmann

Marco, how does it feel to drive in your home race in the DTM?

Marco Wittmann: “A home race is always a bit special, because you have a lot of fans and supporters there. All your family and friends are also usually there to support you. There is also a lot more interest from the media. The focus is firmly on you. If you are then successful, it is obviously even more fun. I obviously hope that Alex does well in his home races but, whatever happens, it will definitely be a very special event for him.”

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Philipp, how, as a DTM rookie, are you able to immediately come in and drive at the limit?

Philipp Eng: “I believe that you cannot afford to let yourself be distracted too much by everything going on around you. All you have to do is to drive as fast as possible around a circuit. And Alex can do that with his eyes closed.”

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Philipp Eng
Dr. Riccardo Ceccarelli

Dr. Ceccarelli, what is the best way to prepare for a DTM race weekend?

Dr. Riccardo Ceccarelli: “For Alex, for sure, it will be physically no problem because everyone knows that he is super fit. He competes in para-cycling at the highest level, at the Paralympic Games and the world championships. I also had the chance to see how he behaved in the 24-hour race at Spa . The physical side is the least of problems for Alex. The only thing is that he needs to go back to his previous experience of sprint racing with full attack. It is more an adaptation on the mental side because, at the moment, his experience is in the endurance area, both in para-cycling and in racing. For him it will be about preparing to be mentally ready for qualifying and then going on the attack in a sprint race.”

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