Former Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi completed a successful DTM test at Vallelunga ahead of his guest appearance at Misano in a modified BMW car.
The 51-year-old will drive the #9 BMW M4 DTM which the German manufacturer has specially designed for him, keeping his limitations in mind. Zanardi completed 294 laps at Vallelunga this week to prepare for his debut at Misano during August 25-26 weekend.
“The test was great; all went really well and we are heading in the right direction,” he said. “A lot is new, but I am coming to terms with it lap by lap. Thanks a lot to BMW – we’re getting ready for Misano.”
Zanardi made the decision to not use his prosthetic legs for the event which means he will use his hands for braking – a modification BMW had to make. He explained the reasons for that: “Because, technically speaking, of the way the prosthetic sockets works.
“They stay in place thanks to a kind of vacuum effect and this of course does not allow any transpiration. But the limbs are the cooler part of our body. We lose temperature with blood circulation through our extremities.
“So when I wear my prosthetic legs I am like an engine without cooling system. And this doesn’t help while you stay in the cockpit of a race car where the temperature often rises above a decent limit.
“When I was offered to drive DTM in Misano, we had already done sufficient work [to dive with prosthetic] and progress to believe that for me to drive without my prosthetic legs would potentially also help the performance.
“The advantage I get driving this way, physically speaking, gets bigger with every lap. You cannot imagine the difference! I’m therefore sure it’s this will also be a better option for the two one hour races in Misano with the BMW M4 DTM.”
He was nervous going into the test without the prosthetic but his skepticism were gone after it. “I admit that it felt very strange to have a completely empty footwell with no pedal box in front of me the first time I pulled out of the garage,” he said.
“I thought: ‘That’s strange!’ But I have to say, the whole system worked very intuitively for me. I am getting along excellently with it. It is completely different to what I was used to. I won’t be faster, but I wouldn’t had never accomplished all I did at the two days in Misano with the old system.
“I completed so many laps with a car that I had never driven before, the BMW M4 DTM, and after not having raced for nearly two years. That would just have been impossible with the solution I had before. It’s like I am, from a physical point of view, a different driver.”
The Paralympic gold medalist in para-cycling is aiming to finish ahead of at least one car when he makes his DTM debut in two weeks time. “It is going to be a huge event for me – and probably one of the most difficult tasks I have ever faced in my motor racing career.
“In my opinion, the DTM is currently the most fiercely-competitive racing series in the world and the one with the best field – even better than F1. I will try to finish ahead of at least one car. Let’s see whether I manage it. It is going to be tough, but very interesting.”
BMW released a table comparing a normal DTM car and Zanardi’s:
|Detail||Conventional BMW||Zanardi’s modified BMW|
|Brake system||Brake pedal||Hand brake lever|
|Clutch||Conventional clutch, activated by pedal||Centrifugal clutch, activated by motor speed, similar to a scooter system|
|Shifting system||Shift paddles at the steering wheel||Shift paddles at the steering wheel and downshift paddle at the hand brake lever|
|Acceleration||Throttle||Ring at the steering wheel|
|Belts||Standard system: two shoulder belts, one lap belt, two belts between the legs||Standard system: two shoulder belts, one lap belt, two belts between the legs|