Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 1985 500SEC, 1991 190E 2.6.
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Amputee Zanardi completes F-1 return
Amputee Zanardi completes F1 return By PAUL LOGOTHETIS, Associated Press Writer
Sat Nov 25, 3:13 PM ET
VALENCIA, Spain - Alex Zanardi, who lost both legs in a crash five years ago, completed his return to Formula One on Saturday by becoming the first double amputee to test drive an F1 car. The 40-year-old Italian drove 14 laps in a modified BMW-Sauber C24-B car at the Cheste circuit.
"It's fantastic," Zanardi said. "When I dropped my visor, the emotions were very heavy. It was pure pleasure being back in a fantastic race car.
"I do understand this is about much more than just driving a race car. To put a guy with no legs in an F1 car is something very special."
Zanardi, who last drove an F1 car in 1999, lost his legs in a racing crash in September 2001 in the CART series, now known as the Champ Car World Series.
His smiling eyes were matched by the grin on his face when he drove into the garage. He was helped out of the car and immediately embraced by BMW Motorsports director Mario Theissen.
"It's a wonderful day, I'm very happy that we were able to make this happen," Theissen said.
The former Williams, Minardi, Jordan and Lotus driver improved with each lap, dropping his time on the 2.5-mile circuit from 1 minute, 27.2 seconds to 1:21.6.
"We gotta go under 1:20," he told the pit crew upon hearing his final lap-time.
As the weather and his tires became warmer, Zanardi managed it in his second session — just.
He brought his time down to 1:19.9 on his fifth, and final, lap of the afternoon.
"I told you I would show you how fast your car can go," Zanardi said to Theissen. "The guys in the shop did an unbelievable job. I'm sure 90 percent of people watching can't believe we didn't do a test previously."
Zanardi praised the work of his crew after only three prior meetings and four test laps on Thursday.
"Everything was absolutely working to the best — like a Swiss watch," he said. "I'm a little disappointed I can't push it as hard as I like because I'm not conformable sitting in the car."
Zanardi said the main problem had been using only his right hand to steer through corners, as his left operated the throttle.
"The steering wheel is practically on my lap, which is why I can't push as much as I would like to," he said.
Though Zanardi had an unspectacular F1 career, he holds the modern CART record for points in a season — 285 in 1998. He also holds the CART record for most consecutive poles (six), front-row starts (11) and top-three finishes in a season (15).
For his wife Daniella, it was just another day at the track.
"Yeah, this is OK," she said. "This is normal for me."
IMOP, next to keeping the Sauber name alive the second classy move by the BMW team. Teutone