CART Champ Car Teleconference Transcript: Alex Zanardi Part 2 of 2 Q: One question focusing on the actual racing this year. I don't know how closely you follow it but I'm sure you're aware that Sebastien Bourdais has been very, very quick...
CART Champ Car Teleconference Transcript: Alex Zanardi
Part 2 of 2
Q: One question focusing on the actual racing this year. I don't know how closely you follow it but I'm sure you're aware that Sebastien Bourdais has been very, very quick in the early going this year but hasn't managed to win a race yet, and I'm harkening back to your first year in Champ Cars where you were very quick from the get-go, but didn't manage to win your first race until Portland. Do you have any sort of reflections on it, some of it was bad luck partly and some of it impatience?
Zanardi: Absolutely. I see a lot of similarities. Like my third-ever race in Long Beach I basically got beat because it took the fuel and I had to take fuel and stay out more laps. I didn't know. I simply didn't know the way it was working, and I just kept pushing really hard and I arrived behind Bobby Rahal which I thought was traffic for me since the blue flags were out. I thought what he would do, he would let me go like you would do in F-1, and for once, I was the one that was supposed to be waived by, but good old Bobby he turned across my front wing, that was it. It's easy then from the point of view of someone who knows about the series, oh, he shouldn't have waived, put the blame on the guy that probably looked impatient. But it's something that you have to learn. It's a learning curve and I'm sure Sebastien has a lot of talent and he will learn when it's time to use it and when it's time to hold it because that's the way that the races go. At the end of the day, even PT learned to be very patient, so never say never. I always said that if I was PT -- one day, Paul Tracy would be the first guy hired and I still feel that way, because I think Paul is super fast and he seems now to be really determined to win the No. 1 for next year, so I wish him the best.
Q: I would suspect a reunion with at Lausitzring may be emotional for you.
Zanardi: Well, for sure. It was very emotional even last year when they came it Toronto because -- well, let me tell you a little story. I met with all of the guys that they rescued me first and they all this tears in their eyes and I couldn't -- I mean, I could understand more or less why but the message was not that clear until we closed the door and I sat on that medical room they have on their transporter with Terry Trammell, which was in Toronto last year and I took my legs off because he wanted to see how well everything healed on my legs. And then at one point he was looking at me and we were talking and we were having one of these instants of silence where you just finish a sentence, finish one particular question and we are just looking each other in the eyes. And he looked at me and he just fell down in tears and he said, "Alex, from tonight, I am going to sleep." And at that point I understood how emotion it must have been for some people that are so professional, so prepared, so good at what they are doing, but nevertheless, they see friends driving these cars and you can never be prepared to see a friend in such terrible shape as I was when they rescued me the first time. That particular moment made me understand in a blink of an eye, I saw I saw everything they went through that day, and that was a very touching moment for me. We will live that again probably together in Lausitz, but I hope this time we will be cheering each other behind a glass of red wine.
Q: We talk about making a positive out of a negative and you had a horrible negative which you've turned into an inspiring positive. I know you are just living your life, but yet you've become such a huge symbol of inspiration to people, and not everybody was blessed with that Zanardi optimism gene, but what has that been like? I suspect you've been contacted -- I know people who were not even racing fans who are now Alex Zanardi fans are being drawn to the sport and are so inspired by your courage. To know that the things you do inspire lesser-equipped people to deal with their situations, what's that been like?
Zanardi: It's very difficult to answer this question because whenever people stop me on the street and they pat my back and they say: "Alex, we admire you so much, you're such an inspiration for us or things like that," I don't know what to say. I'm speechless. From my position, all I can say is that I'm a guy that is trying to put his life back together, because we only have one life and to waste even a minute of it, indeed, it's a waste of time. It's stupid.
I think every one of us has a lot of energies in his reservoir which come out when it's needed. Hopefully and thankfully, not a lot of people have to find out how much energy they have in store, but I've met a lot of people who have similar problems to mine and despite the fact that they wouldn't think they were able to, but they still smile. They still come back to a very enjoyable life. They are still trying to improve and to get better. Obviously, the difference is that I am in the magazine, and as I said, my ugly face is on the television often and they aren't. Now, if with my attitude, I can energize somebody to do a little more, well, this is a great compliment. I thank you for it, but obviously I don't feel I'm doing this. I'm just trying the best to lead the best possible life and. But of course if you say with my actions, sometime I do that, obviously the only way I can comment on that is by saying I'm very proud that people tells me that. I wish I could be an inspiration for my wife. She would treat me with a little bit more respect. (Laughing).
Q: You have so many stories to tell and obviously everyone loves hearing them. Have you ever thought of doing a biography or anything like that?
Zanardi: Thanks for asking this question. The answer is yes, and as a matter of fact, you won't have to wait long because I'm not working; I'm almost done with the book that is going to be my biography. The book is going to be published in Italian in mid-June, I would say near the end of mid-June. I won't have to wait long to get the English version because I think the editor has already sold and agreed and sold the rights to an American publisher the rights to do that. So it will take some time, I guess, with the translation, but eventually you're going to be able to read it.
It's a very simple story, but because of that, I think it's a winner. I mean, at least for me it is because I really wrote it with a lot of sentiment, with a lot of feelings and I've read the biography from sportsmen which were very good stories, but you could clearly tell that they were not written by themselves. There was somebody that had done sort of an interview and had wrote the story on their behalf. For me, I want to do something like this. I'm definitely a big, big part in the book. I wrote a lot of -- I wrote basically everything myself together with a friend and I think that's why it really feels like my own creature.
Q: I have a friend around the age much 16 suffered the exact same injury that you did, and he was a sportsman and used that injury to create new legs and ways that he could ride his motorcycle and hunt and now has a driving business. Is it sometimes that you and gentlemen like my friends are people that sometimes get called on to do extraordinary things just because of circumstances?
Zanardi: Honestly, I don't think so. For some people it definitely works that way. I've met a lot of people who wore not involved in any sports before and after they lost one limb, they start to play tennis or ride bicycle or do things like, this maybe just to prove to themselves that they could do it.
I honestly feel very happy with what I've done with my life. I have raced fantastic cars throughout many years and I've been able to enjoy great satisfaction at many different levels. I've driven in the best competitions and sometimes I've brought home the big cup. I've done a lot of things before the accident. Now when I drive a go-kart race, people cheer me or they talk about it more than when they used to talk about when I won a world championship in Champ Cars. I understand that, but for me, the time I won in Champ Cars certainly has much more meaning than it has to drive a go-kart race, even if I don't have legs now. I think people takes for granted that everything has got to be super difficult for me now; and therefore, whenever I move a finger, I have a sort of ovation and everybody is clapping.
But in reality, I mean, it may not be easy but there's always way a to achieve something if you really want. Yeah, obviously I concentrate and focus on doing things that I still like to do, and this is because it's a little more difficult for me, but I don't see myself doing more than I used to do before. Simply now I always make news when I do it.
Q: Your return to Germany, will walking on that racetrack almost make everything in your life come full circle since this injury?
Zanardi: No, no, I don't think so. Because honestly, that moment, psychologically, it happened a very, very long time ago. So mentally, I've walked around that circuit already a year ago, at least.
Q: You brought up earlier in the conversation your go-karting exploits and I was surprised that you will be joining the likes of other champ car drivers, past and present, who have come up with their own signature lines. What have you asked out of CRG as far as modifications made for your own personal kart, and have the karts you've been driving been shifters or non-shifters?
Zanardi: Honestly, we are in the process of deciding all of the things. We haven't figured everything out but I guess this will also come with a little bit of time. I will drive the car myself and I will come up with a request to personalize the chassis a little bit. The intention is to build one chassis for 100CC class and for the shifter as well. I hope this answers your question.
Q: The kart races you have run, did you have to adjust your style to be able to run that equipment?
Zanardi: Obviously it's a little more difficult to find what the exact seating position which means to find the right weight distribution because the legs that I am currently using, they weigh a little less than human legs. That makes the weight distribution shift the weight distribution a little bit towards the back.
Besides, with CRG we are currently working on a new fuel tank which will allow me to sit much more comfortably. And third, we are working on a new brake system which again will allow me to brake efficiently and that hopefully will solve the handicap that I have in my previous go-kart experience. When I did my last go-kart race, I qualified 45-thousandths behind the guy who won pole. And after the race after simply two or three laps, I was done because the brakes that they gave me were just too hard to be activated with my hand, and after two or three laps, my arm was hurting so badly that I simply could not slow the car down anymore, and that's why I took a loss in position and I finished sixth.
But other than that, I guess it is exactly the same, which is what delivers the message. And if you get the way to let that message arrive and operate exactly the same kind of action, I don't see why I should be any slower now than when I'm driving with my hands than before when I was driving with my feet. It's just a question of, again, finding a solution which will work for me.
Q: What kind of training are you in now? Do you have a different regimen than last year? Obviously you are making tons of progress from the last time I saw you.
Zanardi: My friends, they always ask me, have you done some bodybuilding or something like this, because my arms and my shoulder since the days have grown quite a lot. And I don't do anything, I use my arms a lot. I recently bought myself a pair of canoes, which we go out, me and my wife when we have time, we live on the sea, and so on beautiful days like today, we take the canoe and we go out. Obviously, to power the canoe, you use your arms.
Or at home, I have built a little gym on which I have placed machines that I can use. I've bought, also, a bicycle that my wife uses, but I also have a treadmill on which I go. I've been reaching the speed of nine kilometers per hour, which is pretty respectable for a guy that can't run, only walk. And I use what they call the roller, it is basically that machine that you operate with your arms, you just roll your arms around.
But this is not the reason why my muscle has grown. It grows because I walk with canes. Because every time I have to make a step or climb stairs, I have to use my arms to pull myself up or to push myself up. I use my arms almost 24 hours a day and that's why I've built a couple of arms that looks like I look like a baker, you know.
Q: It's all part of being healthy, I assume?
Zanardi: From the waist up, I look like a real Italian macho.
Q: You're back on your boat and I hope your brother-in-law is cleaning the boat now for you; you're skiing and go-karting. What's next on your wish list?
Zanardi: Well, recently I've been invited to do a tour from a guy that pushes bicycle out of the only leg he has got. He wants to take me into tandem, you know, one of these bikes with two seats and two pedals. But I am not so sure I want to do it because he said he wants to drive, so I don't like to be the passenger.
Q: I hope you put some jokes in your book.
Zanardi: I wrote a piece -- recently I went in for a trip to England and on the way back I was writing things on my notebook, and that I went through it and I read it again and I couldn't stop laughing. And everybody turned around and looked at me like I was the biggest idiot on this earth, I was laughing on my own. There is some stories that are really pretty funny. I hope in the translation they will come out adds funny as they sound in Italian.
Mauk: Let's bring to a close our weekly teleconference. We appreciate everybody joining us today and again, Alex, thank you very much for joining us and we look forward as does everyone to seeing you in Lausitz on the 11th of May.
Zanardi: See you then.