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DTM: Zanardi Secures Fifth in One-Off Outing for BMW

Alex Zanardi BMW DTM Debut 3.jpg

Former Formula One driver and double amputee Alex Zanardi shows the old magic with an incredible fifth place finish on his one-off DTM debut at Misano.

The legend that is Alex Zanardi added another notch to an incredible list of life achievements last weekend, the 51-year-old scoring an exceptional fifth place finish on his debut race meeting in DTM machinery at the Italian Misano circuit.

Racing under floodlights for the very first time, the DTM would be home for the weekend to Zanardi as the former Lotus and Williams Formula One driver took advantage of an opportunity to sample the specially adapted BMW M4 DTM as guest driver for the German brand, stepping into the series for the first time and continuing a long and rather successful association with the Bavarian marque.

Alex Zanardi BMW DTM Debut 2.jpg

With a limited number of guest driver opportunities throughout the year handed to DTM teams this season, BMW took the opportunity to enter a specially adapted M4 for double amputee Zanardi at Misano, the 51-year-old IndyCar champion and WTCC race winner having long held a desire to try out in the fastest touring car category in the world.

Expectations of a solid result started low for Zanardi, having spent several years away from regular driving as the Italian looked to build up his successful Olympic career (having won an gold medals in two Paralympic games as well as multiple world championships), however as usual the flamboyant Italian proved once again only a fool would discount him from achieving a remarkable result, even if his fifth place finish on Sunday came as a surprise to the driver himself:

“This is the best joke of the weekend,” said Zanardi of his team radio message following the end of the race. “Come on, you’re kidding me! I am an old man, you cannot tease me this way.”

“I am very happy with this result and at my age, I won't get too many more opportunities to celebrate racing successes like this. I had a very good racing speed and wasn't sure what to do when slower drivers kept appearing in front of me!

“Seriously, I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity by BMW. They always believed that I could do it.

“This trust is a great gift – and I am happy that I was able to vindicate that. Many thanks to the DTM family too, for welcoming me with open arms.

“I will always have a place in my heart for this weekend. It has taken me 51 years to experience it – but at least I got that chance.”

Alex Zanardi BMW DTM Debut 4.jpg

Despite the exceptional result, it is fair to say that Zanardi didn't quite achieve fifth place on outright pace alone, the second race in Misano having been run under difficult wet conditions and an inspire tyre strategy having played into the BMW drivers hands - Zanardi staying out on wet tyres later than his rivals avoiding the need to pit again to change from slicks once the downpour restarted. Regardless of the circumstances, keeping pace with other more experienced drivers, staying out of trouble and fighting right to the end of the race all prove that Zanardi still has what it takes to compete at the very top of the motorsport tree.

The word legend is used all to often in motorsport, however with Zanardi I think it entirely fitting. If this man doesn't inspire you, then no one will.

Alex Zanardi BMW DTM Debut 5.jpg
Alex Zanardi BMW DTM Debut.jpg

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Zanardi is already scheduled to race in next January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in an adapted BMW M8 GTE.