FORD/BRIDGESTONE CHAMP CAR NEWS -- ZANARDI AWARDED LAUREUS WORLD COMEBACK OF THE YEAR AWARD
INDIANAPOLIS (May 18, 2005) -- Two-time Champ Car titlist Alex Zanardi has won another prestigious award for his amazing courage in returning to racing after losing both of his legs in an accident nearly four years ago. The 38 year-old Italian was presented the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award at The Laureus World Sports Awards which honors the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen from around the globe. Zanardi's return to competitive motor racing in the European Touring Car Championship has won him nomination for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award for two years running. Last year's Award was won by World Cup skiing hero Hermann Maier from Austria.
At the emotional presentation, Laureus World Sports Academy member and former Champ Car and Formula 1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi said: "I would pay special tribute to Alessandro Zanardi. To achieve what he has done and come back to racing is an awesome achievement. Physically it has been challenging, but the mental pressures must have been enormous. I am full of admiration for his courage and his determination".
Zanardi, who won back-to-back Champ Car titles in 1997 and 1998, then moved to Formula One with the Williams team. In 2001, Zanardi returned to Champ Car with his former engineer Morris Nunn in a season that ended prematurely by his tragic accident at EuroSpeedway. Two years later, Zanardi returned to Lausitz oval where he completed the final 13 laps of the 2001 event in a specially-prepared Champ Car that featured throttle controls that could be operated by hand. Zanardi averaged more than 194mph during his laps after having just one short practice session the day before.
Zanardi returned to motor racing in October 2003, where he finished seventh in the European Touring Car Championship race at Monza. Last year, he completed a full season in the championship, racing at speeds of up to 240kmh and has already signed to race again in 2005. He drives a specially adapted BMW in which the throttle is mounted on the upper part of the steering wheel, the brake pedal has been shaped to prevent the driver's artificial limb from losing the grip and the clutch is actuated through a button on the gear lever.
Dr. Claudio Costa, who has overseen his rehabilitation since the accident, says: "Alessandro Zanardi is letting all the people in his condition know what they can do. His example sends a message to humanity."