CHAMPCAR/CART: Alex Zanardi press conference, part III

Cart Media Teleconference Presented By Worldcom An Interview With Alex Zanardi May 28, 2002 Part 3 of 3: The state of open wheel racing, Zanardi's foundation Q Question for you. Have you had time to watch what is going on in open-wheel...

Cart Media Teleconference
Presented By Worldcom
An Interview With Alex Zanardi
May 28, 2002

Part 3 of 3: The state of open wheel racing, Zanardi's foundation

Q Question for you. Have you had time to watch what is going on in open-wheel racing in the states and I wanted to know what your take on the future of open-wheel racing is in the U.S. form of open-wheel racing?

Alex Zanardi: Yeah, I mean, obviously I am always tuned to any form of racing, and especially with what happens in America, either Champ Cars or IRL or NASCAR, you know. I have the possibility to watch that through the satellite and I actually watched the Indy 500 the other day and it's good.

It looks like IRL is certainly gaining power, but unfortunately Champ Cars is actually losing a little bit. And I really hope that Mr. Pook can turn it around and I wish him the best because CART, it's a great series, and this war, it's just sad.

I mean, I am not the first one to say what I am saying, but the cars that I drove in all my years in America is by far the best car I have ever driven. I am not saying the one I drove for Chip or the one I drove for Mo, that kind of car, that kind of chassis with that kind of turbocharged engine, with that kind of chemistry between power and control, that kind was just fantastic. And you know, if you would have to have Olympic games for motor racing, that's the kind of car that would have to be picked because that's the kind of car that would allow everybody to be, more or less, in the same situation and so that's what's out of motor racing you could really call the closest thing to sport, pure sport.

Formula One is not sport. Formula One is only intense competition between teams where the competition is really the research, the technology. Because nobody could win if they wouldn't have a Ferrari or a McLaren or a Williams, you know, and with having Champ Cars, everybody could win a race and still at an amazingly high level with cars that are competing and making - producing a super exciting show.

Unfortunately, this is not sufficient because this message has to be sent out to the fans in a way that the fans can really understand that and I think in the past few years message was sent out in the wrong way. The series was not advertised in the best possible way, and so that's why you know, the interest has gone down because quite frankly, I think CART could have survived the loss of the Indy 500. When I came in 1996, the interest - especially over here in Europe - was incredibly high and again, you know, technically speaking, there's nothing wrong and there's no reason why this series could be well known around the world; not only in the United States.

So, to answer your question, I watch everything, and I hope there's a lot of fans will watch and still watch IRL, CART, NASCAR, everything, because it only takes a remote control and you can watch everything. Not only one series.

Q Thanks, Alex. I will keep trying you next week.

Alex Zanardi: Thank you.

Q You talked about the inspiration and the friendship that you had. We had Jimmy Vasser on Race Line Radio not long ago and he talked about what a tremendous inspiration you had been to him and to all of your friends. And the fans as well. Just talk a little bit about some of the support that you have had from the fans because I know the mail you have been getting and the emails have probably just been overwhelming, talk about some of the support you have had and the good wishes from the fans you have had from up there?

Alex Zanardi: Actually there's a story on the CART web site that David Phillips wrote when he came here last week just before the Monaco Grand Prix, there on the morning in which I turned the first check that with the first amount of money that the Alex Zanardi Foundation has been able to raise, thanks to the support of the fans, mainly, and thanks to the support of a lot of people, especially in the CART community.

While I was able to raise quite a lot of money for the first six months of existence of this foundation, $85,000 which I donate to another foundation because, obviously, my foundation was at the beginning. This is only the very beginning. I still have not precise objective, whether instead the foundation, called the (World Association to Aid Children), which is the foundation that Prince Albert is running, and which was founded by his mother, Princess Grace, and they have precise objectives.

One of their objectives was to complete a school and the first assistive pediatric center that they are building for kids in Madagascar and with the money that I donate them they are going to be able to finish all that.

So this is a very exciting thing I have been involved with and this was only thanks to the support of all the people that were in touch with what happened to me and they love me. So now that I can see - now that I see I can do something like this, I am actually going to get even more involved.

I have been on television in the recent months, more than the prime minister really in Italy. So what I have started to do because I was feeling so busy that at one point I said, that's it, I can't carry on like this. And so I said I am going to try to sell myself, at least if it's got to be a job at least I want to be paid. And all the money that I made I just turned it into the foundation. And I have been able to raise some good money myself. So this is actually an exciting thing which is not really costing me much, and I have been able to help somebody.

People, I guess, the fact that I was a little popular before my accident, you know, and draw a lot of attention from the media, the fact that I kept smiling had increased this attention because people couldn't believe that a guy that lost both his legs had some reasons to smile. And so that interest continued. That's why I have been on television and in the papers very, very often. That gives me also the chance to relate with people in a better way because now when I see somebody, you know, they know which kind of reaction I had already, even if they hadn't seen me after the accident because they have read the magazines so they have seen me on television. And when I bump into them, they always pat my back and they you know, they kind of cheer me and they say, man, you know, you are really something else, you are doing really well, and whatever -- in any case, they welcome me with a smile, if you understand what I am saying, which helps me much, much more than, you know, than somebody that comes there and says, "Ooh, I am sorry, Alex, sorry what happened to you," whatever. And then it's me I have to cheer this guy up because I say, no, it's not that bad, come on, look, I can also dance, I do this and I do that. Because I don't want to waste any time, you know, with the sad face or whatever. I like to smile and I like people to smile back to me. So this whole deal of this popularity at least it helped me a lot in that respect.

Q A lot of people sure do miss your smile, Alex. Any way that you can get up to Canada you have scores and scores of fans in your country. If you are ever in Vancouver or the new race in Montreal you better stop and talk to us because you have a lot of people who love you on this side of the boarder.

Alex Zanardi: Thank you.

Merrill Cain: We did have a couple of e-mail questions from people who couldn't join us on the teleconference today. Do you have a web site that deals with the charitable effort, a way for people to donate money.

Alex Zanardi: Well, actually I am going to -- well this is a good opportunity. I was going to call CART and try to get all the information sort of connection, a link with our web site, and counting on the fact that my friends of CART are going to be probably excited with that idea. I can just welcome everybody to stay tuned and wait for that link which will take you into the web site and probably tell you the full story. Because I actually want to have, you know, pictures on the web site with what has been done with - where the money has gone and I want all the people that have been able to help me a little bit, to know exactly where the money went.

Merrill Cain:  We'll look forward to seeing if we can get a link hooked up
with CART.COM.  We'll go from there.

Q Great to be with you today. Best of luck to you.

Alex Zanardi: Thank you, Bill.

Q Good to hear your voice.

Alex Zanardi: Thank you.

Q When you pulled that drive that made you a Champion in racing, is it that same inner drive and competitive nature that you had that's allowed you to overcome what has happened to you?

Alex Zanardi: Well, I don't think so. I actually think it's true the other way around. I guess - I don't think - I think being a man of sport for a very long time certainly tuned my temper, it tuned my character a little bit, has trained me to hold my emotions and act in a very rational way, and take decision very, very rapidly as you would have to do when you would drive a race car at a really high speed.

But I guess if you get good, good results, it's because somehow you have the ability to do a better job than other people sometimes, you know, people that have - they have themselves a particular ability to compete in that event. So I think that you are correct that it's strong enough to succeed in doing a better job than a very selected opposition. And so that, I think with the same - in the same respect, you know, that's - you know, it's not that I am reacting this way that I am trying to overcome my misfortune, and what I have done in sports helps me. I think that's my character, and if it's somehow quality what you are trying to describe, it's the same quality that's helping me today that has helped me in the past win some races.

But I can assure you that I have a lot of weak points and a lot of bad habits too. (Laughs) I am not a perfect man. I only try to do my best.

Q There are things within myself that limit my ability to do things and sometimes I get discouraged and I look to other people or to other things in my life to maybe say okay that I am better here. Do you feel that sometimes do you go through that?

Alex Zanardi: Absolutely. Yeah, many, many times I look at other people and I say, you know, not necessarily in the sense that if he's done it I can do it too, but even in the sense that you know, if somebody, if he acts in a certain way when everybody seems to go wrong, then you can take that as an example, it gives me strength, it gives me, you know, inspiration, and yeah, I do look at other people a lot, and I get a lot of help.

Q Finally some believe that the good Lord put certain people in certain positions because he wants that person to be an example or that person to have a special place in life. Do you believe that?

Alex Zanardi: I don't know. Not really. I think the good Lord is really busy doing other things, and in this life, in this world, on this little planet we have to find our own way sometimes. Just bad luck, so some obstacles along the way, and it's not necessarily - it's not always by ability that we surpass these obstacles. Sometimes we surpass these obstacles just because we're lucky enough to turn the wheel before the obstacle comes on our way, and sometimes we actually are steering onto it, you know, you can't predict life.

And yes, I do believe in God. I do believe there has got to be something that ultimately will be there to judge what we have done in this life. But I don't think, you know, I don't think that's what happened to me was so to make people think about it. It was just bad luck, and you know, that's my conclusion.

Q Thank you, Alex.

Alex Zanardi: My pleasure.

Merrill Cain: That will just about wrap it up for our teleconference today. A CART transcript will be coming out shortly.

Alex, we can't thank you enough for joining us on today's call.

Alex Zanardi: Can I say a final thing?

Merrill Cain: You sure can.

Alex Zanardi: I just want to congratulate Paul Tracy in winning the Indy 500 because in my heart he's the one that won the race, and this is another example to testify how, you know, you got to be lucky sometimes to win. But he did not have the best car, but he was just carrying his car around at every corner and driving the hell out of it, and you know, as much as I like Helio, I wanted Paul - I wanted to see Paul win the race and unfortunately it didn't happen, but it was not certainly not his fault and in my heart, I think he's the winner.

Merrill Cain: I am sure a lot of people share your opinions on that, Alex. We appreciate you sharing them with us.

We all are looking forward to seeing you at a CART event this season.  We
hope we do get the chance to see you out there.  We wish you the best of
luck.  We really enjoyed spending time with you this afternoon.

Alex Zanardi: It was my pleasure.

Merrill Cain: CART gets back into action with the Miller Lite 250 at the Milwaukee Mile this weekend. This weekend also marks CART's season debut on the CBS television network with the race broadcast scheduled to get underway Sunday at 12:30 P.M. Eastern Time.

Thanks to all who participated in today's call. Have a very good afternoon.

-cart-

Alex Zanardi, Part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi
Teams Williams