He has been waiting for this moment for a long time: Alessandro Zanardi (IT) is back on the racetrack. The BMW works driver was at the “Adria Raceway” in Venice (IT) this week, where he completed a successful roll-out in the BMW Z4 GT3, with which he will compete in the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series. The car has been specially modified to meet the unique requirements of the 47-year-old. The first test in his new race car reunited Zanardi with a lot of familiar faces: the Italian drove for ROAL Motorsport in touring car series between 2003 and 2009. He will also contest his comeback season with Team Principal Roberto Ravaglia’s (IT) outfit.
Alessandro, how was your roll-out with the BMW Z4 GT3?
Alessandro Zanardi: “I don’t want to sound too excited, but it was at least as good as I could have dreamt it would be. I am very grateful to Roberto Ravaglia and Aldo Preo of ROAL Motorsport, to Jens Marquardt and to all the people at BMW Motorsport who made this possible. I have a new car that is so nice to drive, I am working with a team of old friends and I am really, really proud to wear the BMW Motorsport colours as a works driver. The roll-out was a good start. For sure we need to further improve the modifications that were made for me. But we already know what changes we need to do. I also need to get a feeling with my “baby” and develop a relationship with it. But now it is only the end of January, we are already at the circuit, we will gain more and more experience and I am pretty confident we will be well prepared for the season.”
Why did you decide to return to the cockpit, and what are your goals for the 2014 season?
Zanardi: “What was driving me was a combination of passion and ambition. Of course, the passion has always been greater than my ambition. Otherwise I don’t think I would have got to where I am today. If you are only ambitious, this does not last very long. Of course I would be happier if down the road I can win a race. I would not be here otherwise. But overall I want to try to finish every weekend knowing that I have done with my team our best in order to achieve the best possible result. There are plenty of good drivers with strong cars and, with the personal problems I have, it would be illogical to believe that I can blow everybody away and win week in and week out. But we are going to try our best.”
Will the fans still see you racing your handbike?
Zanardi: “I can’t stop doing something that I love. Therefore I will carry on with handbikes. The motorsport calendar is well spread over the season and, therefore, it will leave me with plenty of time to do other things, one of which is certainly my activity as a hand cyclist. Of course, I have to accept that I have to make some compromises. But my aim is also to go to the games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. In that season I probably will have to make a choice either one thing or the other, because you cannot prepare for the Olympic Games while you are also competing in motorsport. But 2016 is in two years’ time. Let’s focus on what we have now. What really matters is what I am doing right now, and right now I am very, very happy and excited.”