Next week, Alex Zanardi will climb aboard his hand-powered tricycle and compete for Italy in the 2012 Paralympic Games
. It’s oddly fitting that the road cycling events will take place at England’s Brands Hatch circuit, where Zanardi last competed behind the wheel of a World Touring Car Challenge (WTCC) BMW 320si in 2009.
Despite losing his legs in a horrific 2001 crash while driving for Mo Nunn Racing in the U.S.-based CART series, Alex Zanardi just can’t seem to slow down. In 2003, Zanardi returned to the scene of his crash, Germany’s EuroSpeedway Lausitz, to complete his “missing” laps in a specially-prepared IndyCar.
From 2005 through 2009, the Italian driver ran in the WTCC series before shifting his primary competitive focus to the sport of handcycling. Autoweek
explains that Zanardi had no idea what pace to run during his very first race; ever the competitor, he noticed that a leading series rider with a reputation for being fast didn’t know how to corner.
In true Zanardi style, the Italian drafted his competitor, biding his time until he was able to execute a pass on the inside of a turn.
Next week, Zanardi will put his competitive spirit on the line to represent Italy in the sport on a world stage.
As for what comes next, Autosport
says that Zanardi is eyeing a return to motor racing. While he won’t rule out driving in WTCC, Zanardi admits returning to the series “would seem like a step backwards.”
One race on his bucket list that he’s never run is the Indianapolis 500, as Zanardi’s back-to-back CART championships (in 1997 and 1998) came at the height of the split between the two American open-wheel series.
While Zanardi calls himself “totally focused on the handbike” for now, he wouldn’t turn down an offer from “someone like Mo Nunn” to compete in the Indy 500, which would be easier on the driver’s body for its lack of heavy braking and tight corners (Zanardi’s thoughts, not our own).
There’s also a chance he’d accept a ride in the DTM series, which has the potential of going worldwide in the next few years. This much is certain: when it comes to racing anything, you can never rule a champion like Alex Zanardi out.