Alessandro Zanardi is ‘proud’ of himself for finishing the Rolex 24 at Daytona without any mistakes behind the wheels of the #24 BMW RLL.
Zanardi teamed up with John Edwards, Chaz Mostert and Jesse Krohn to drive a modified BMW M8 GTE car in the GTLM class for his first-ever Daytona 24 Hours outing and saw through the race with 553 laps to be 32nd overall.
They finished ninth in the class after early troubles but most importantly they completed the whole race. Its sister #25 car of Colton Herta, Phillipp Eng, Connor De Phillippi and Augusto Farfus took the class victory in what ended up being a rain-curtailed event.
Even though Zanardi’s car did not win, the Italian was more than happy – and also a bit emotional addressing the media – considering what he had achieved at the age of 52-years and also being an handicap. BMW Motorsport worked hard to prepare the car for him.
“To stay out of trouble is the name of the game at a 24-hour race,” said Zanardi, talking about the challenges. “But in this situation, with these tricky conditions, you know I felt I was more vulnerable than everybody else in the field that is more experienced than I am.
“That goes on top of my personal problem, but I managed not to make mistakes, to drive to a decent level and I’m proud of that. I’m extremely happy for the entire team [though]. And because I am a little part of the team, a little bit of that victory is also mine.
“I’m bringing this back to Italy with me. I’m very proud for BMW. I’m very proud of all the hard work and dedication which is behind this effort. And I’m terribly sorry for the same people who worked so hard and with so much passion in preparing my car, my controls.
“Because then we had the problems we had which is very unfortunate but as I just said: it’s motor racing.” It was a steering column issue on the #24 car when a jolt of the car dropping from air jacks damaged the column when Zanardi was putting the steering in.
The crew were already well behind but fought through to see the chequered flag. Talking about the highlights from the race, Zanardi couldn’t stress on one: “It’s difficult to pin-point one thing. The highlight is what I’m bringing home.
“The impressions of this entire project [that is] from the participation of every member of the team who made me feel really wanted in this adventure and from all the dedication and hard work that was displayed by all the engineers in Munich.
“It was fantastic to go through this adventure with all these people who are real friends. Of course, when it was announced that I would team up with one of the two works cars all my pride came second to the sense of responsibility for what I had to do.
“But having said that it’s been simply fantastic all the way. And on top of everything there was the support that I received from all the American people, fans, IMSA, even competitors down the pit lane – everybody just felt so happy to have me around.
“Of course, that is something which goes well above the sporting result we were aiming for, which unfortunately didn’t come – but that is motorsport.” With the race done and dusted, Zanardi is back home now preparing for a Paralympic campaign.
“It’s time to go back to my training because my muscles are suffering from the lack of exercise,” he said. “I have a Paralympic campaign to prepare for but this was the perfect time for me to take a break from para-cycling and to fill my heart with new enthusiasm.
“I will use the time now to regain my top condition and hopefully have a good season in order to collect the points it takes to go to the Paralympic games in Tokyo.” It remains to be seen which adventure Zanardi next takes up in the world of motorsport.