Since ROAL Motorsport announced their entry in the Blancpain GT Series at the beginning of this year, numerous drivers have been rumoured to drive for Roberto Ravaglia’s outfit. Now, the announcement has been made. Former F1 driver and Olympic champion Alex Zanardi will drive a BMW Z4 GT3 in the upcoming season of the Blancpain Sprint Series.
The legend is back: Alex Zanardi will be back in a cockpit on a regular basis in 2014. The 47-year-old Italian will race in the Blancpain Sprint Series at the wheel of a BMW Z4 GT3, which has been specially modified to meet his needs. The car will be run by the ROAL Motorsport team of Roberto Ravaglia.
Zanardi - who raced in 41 Formula One Grands Prix and twice won the Champ Car title - lost both legs in a crash while racing in 2001, but nevertheless made a courageous and successful return to motorsport. Between 2005 and 2009 Zanardi entered the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), claiming four wins. In 2012 the Italian took on a different challenge: at the Paralympics in London he won two gold and one silver medal in the handcycling events. But now he will be back behind the wheel of a racing car.
Alex Zanardi can hardly wait to return to the motorsport scene: “Even after leaving the sport in 2009, I was still a racing driver at heart. When I took to the track in the BMW M3 DTM at the end of 2012, I immediately got itchy fingers again. Ever since that moment I have been toying with the idea of returning to motor racing. I am very pleased I can do this with my old friends at ROAL Motorsport.”
Team boss Roberto Ravaglia said : “Alex and I have gone through so much together in motorsport. Therefore, I obviously did not hesitate when the opportunity arose to send him back into action for ROAL Motorsport in 2014. The sprints in the Blancpain GT Series are tailor-made for Alex. We will do everything in our power to give him a strong car, with which he can reproduce the performances and success we have seen from him in the past.”
Stephane Ratel, Founder and CEO of SRO Motorsports Group, commented : “We are delighted that Zanardi has chosen the Blancpain Sprint Series to make his return to top-level motorsport. We have, of course, known him since the days of the Super Racing Weekend multi-series platform, and we are very pleased that he will be part of the ROAL Motorsport team.”
Zanardi will compete solo in his BMW Z4 GT3 during the Blancpain Sprint Series.
“We have adapted the sporting regulations for the Blancpain Sprint Series to allow drivers such as Zanardi to compete alone,” Ratel continued. “Therefore, in the races, he will make his pit stop for the mandatory tyre change as usual, but he will remain in the car. If necessary, a minimum pit stop time will be set. Permission to race alone will be given on a case-by-case basis, but we hope it will encourage other drivers in the same condition to consider racing in the Blancpain Sprint Series.”
The first event of the Blancpain Sprint Series will take place at Nogaro, France, during the popular Easter Cup on April 18th-21st. Before then, the test days will take place at Paul Ricard on March 11th – 12th.