Imola: Alex Zanardi weekend summary

IMOLA, MY IMOLA, LET ME SAY THIS... I was just a ten-year-old boy when a day my uncle Paolo went to visit us at my house. He did not stay long, he was in a rush because he had to go to the Santerno's circuit where he would have been ...


I was just a ten-year-old boy when a day my uncle Paolo went to visit us at my house. He did not stay long, he was in a rush because he had to go to the Santerno's circuit where he would have been volunteer marshal.

A kiss to my mum, a slap on the back to my dad and when he was about to say goodbye to me, the unexpected program change: "Sandrino, do you wanna come? But you have to stay behind the barrier and behave!".

A look to my dad to seek his approval and in less than ten seconds I had my shoes on to go out with my benefactor.

I will skip pointless rhetoric, but my dream began behind the barriers of Rivazza. Over time it has changed in shape and details that my child fantasy imagined it, but at the end of the day it came true with a success career that, even if now it rounded the mark, it did not reach the definitive chequered flag yet.

Well, maybe I do not have the same enthusiasm of the first years, but when I have the luck to live a weekend like the one just gone, all the energy and the desire I always had comes back and I tell myself that it is worth carrying on, that at the end of the day, let me be a bit arrogant, I also deserve it!

The weekend has been tough, but I was expecting this. Respond to fans' expectations came to support all Italian drivers and in particular myself, has been certainly exalting but difficult to put together with all the commitments we had for the three racing days (by the way, I'd like to tell you that Eurosport friends followed me throughout the weekend and created a special that will be broadcast tonight at 23.10 Italian time).

Together with all the media and promotional events on Saturday evening I had the pleasant duty to drive guests on the "taxicar" specifically prepared with my special handles. The best moment was definitely when I had on board my friend Vittorio Podestà that, as some of you will know, recently infected me with the passion for Handbike.

To be honest, the motivation of being there was not just promotional, I had a race to run, actually two races!

Things did not start to the best. Very quick in free practice, I knew I had to organize my qualifying in function of the slipstreams that at Imola can be worth up to almost a second per lap.

Andy Priaulx offered to collaborate with me and Sergio Hernandez, my team-mate, and my Team Manager Roberto Ravaglia suggested the strategy: "Alessandro, today you are going that fast that you will be in Q2 even if you lap in reverse, therefore you have to sacrifice the first set of tyres to slipstream the others and then with the second Sergio is in front and you will be third, with the agreement that if the three of you get into Q2 Priaulx will slipstream both of you for the only good trial".

The strategy was right, shame that, due to a red flag first and to the fact that we had to wait into the pits to restart afterwards, when I was about to start my good lap I got the chequered flag! I cannot describe how angry I was, I kept pushing just to satisfy my ego and in the first two sectors I was eight tenths faster than my only lap scored!

Anyway, perhaps it has been better this way because in race one, at the front, the usual contact happened and I managed to avoid the chaos at the last second by cutting on the gravel trap. Well, from twelfth at the start I found myself fifth and, after overtaking Tom Coronel, I got a fourth position that was better than what expected on the eve.

On the starting grid of race two I felt the great enthusiasm of fans and the expectation that built up for my forthcoming race due to my good result in the first race; everyone was calling my name from grand stands, people on the grid wanted a picture with me or simply shook my hand and wished me luck.

It has been difficult to find the necessary concentration, but when I switched on the engine for the formation lap, alone in my "office", I set off aware of my capabilities.

At the green my start was quick. The Motorsport and my technician Joe Schmidler prepared a brilliant clutch for me, but the good old Sandrino at 42 still has good reflexes and from the fifth position I could have attacked Hernandez, second, if he were not my team mate.

We got some risks during the first laps with Alain Menu in front slowing everyone down a bit and with the spotlight chasers of race one pushing from behind.

Yvan Muller, in a good recovery, used well his engine but when he overtook me and my team mate exploited skillfully the bagarre which Menu was forcing us in. When I was overtaken by Tarquini I realized that in this moment their Seat have an un-fillable advantage under the bonnet.

I understand Gabriele when in the press conference tries to put some eyewash to listeners and talks about the fact that in the first laps, with fresh front tyres Seat had an advantage that had to be exploited to countercharge the comeback of rivals at the end of the race, but these are just tales. I had four new tyres, but I did not expect them to help me defend myself in the straight from my nice fellow countryman that in fact managed to overtake me in a brutal way with a speed difference that if used by his Seat in every lap, every acceleration, well I think they would give us two seconds per lap...

Anyway, I finished fourth, I moved the classification and I am happy.

Driving a BMW is always nice, but doing it at Imola is even more exalting.

There is just a bit of regret about racing in a championship whereby rules are necessarily different for the different participants, since they are permitted to enter cars so different each other. Perhaps, or better probably, my moaning are just a biased version of the story, nevertheless this discontent is spreading in our paddock and in a moment of objectively great difficulty, this risks to endanger the future of WTCC.

We will see, I do not want to be the jinx, on the contrary I hope an agreement can be reached among constructors destined to last and to rule with more equity in such a way allow us to talk only about sport and not about ballast and boost limits.

After the satisfaction obtained on Sunday at Imola we start a period of relative rest from races, during which I will anyway have a lot of commitments less... "playful".

My next race will be on three wheels, with the handbike, precisely at the Venice marathon next 25 October. After this we will have to fly to Japan and I hope that in exchange of a travel that I really do not like, I will at least be able to update further my classification with a good race...

We will see, that's it for now, a big hug, ciaoooooo


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About this article
Series WTCC
Drivers Andy Priaulx , Alex Zanardi , Tom Coronel , Yvan Muller , Sergio Hernandez , Roberto Ravaglia , Alain Menu