Exclusive INDYCAR Nation News

Zanardi still an inspiration

Kyle Lavigne
| Nov 10, 2011

In years past, the person victorious in the hand-cycling division of the New York City Marathon has gone unnoticed. That’s not to say that the accomplishment isn’t noteworthy, because it is. But, in terms of the American sporting scene, marathon racing gets little, if any coverage, the most being a mention across ESPN’s ticker at the bottom of the screen.

This year, though, has been a different story. The victor in that hand-cycle class has garnered much publicity from his success that weekend. And, his is a name we’re all very familiar with.

To run through Alessandro “Alex” Zanardi’s career would be both pointless and redundant. Those of us who have followed his career are already aware of the facts and figures (two CART titles, 15 career CART wins, and four wins for BMW in the World Touring Car Championship just for reference).

But, beyond that, it was the manner in which he won that made him so popular. It was his daring dive up the inside of Bryan Herta entering the famed Corkscrew at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 1996. It was his stunning drive from the back of the field to pass Gil de Ferran for the lead in the final at Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport in 1997. And, it was his incredible charge from nearly a lap down to pass Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta for the win at Long Beach in 1998.

Zanardi’s “never surrender” attitude behind his driving helped make him a star in his brief three-year stint in the U.S.

In 2001, returning to CART after an unsuccessful stint with the Williams F1 team, Zanardi’s spirit was tested once more. The accident that cost the Italian his legs was one of the most nerve-wracking and gut-wrenching moments we’ve ever seen. It was nothing short of terrifying.

Thankfully, Zanardi escaped with his life and, with the support of wife Daniela and their family, kept his fighting spirit alive. That spirit has been at the forefront of his story in the decade since, as he has returned to a very normal life in spite of the obvious challenges in front him. Nothing was too big and he always figured out a way to overcome whatever obstacle was in front of him

His victory in the New York City Marathon is another epic triumph in his life. The fire was lit four years ago when, only four weeks before that year’s marathon, he entered the race on a small challenge from a friend. He finished fourth in class out of the 53 participants that year, not a bad effort for someone who had only a month’s notice of competing.

Four years later, he is once again at the top step of the podium. And, there doesn’t appear to be an end in site. He stated before the Marathon that his goal is to qualify for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Given his accomplishment in New York, Zanardi is well on his way.

Acknowledging that I have been a fan of Zanardi’s since his conquest of CART, I am both impressed with and inspired by his unwavering spirit and appreciation for life, along with his determination to overcome whatever obstacles are laid in front of him.

The month of October reminded us of the unfortunate realities we sometimes see in motorsports. However, Zanardi’s story is an example of one of its best assets. Motorsport provides a platform that shows us all how far we can go with positive spirit and outlook and an unyielding determination to accomplish whatever it is we set out to do. Alex Zanardi is one of many who have perfectly modeled that very asset.


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  11. 11 hilary 20 Dec
  12. 12 Jeff Downer Indianapolis Indiana 24 Dec
    I came across this post late, but I wanted to say that I have marveled at Mr. Zanardi's activities since his accident and am even more in awe in hearing about this latest accomplishment and his future plans.  Best wishes on the Olympic chase.
  13. 13 Mike Hurst 22 Nov
    P.S.- Thanks to Zanardi I use Barilla products to this day. From their top of the line olive oils and balsamic vinegars to their humble pastas, all sooo good. Nice to see that Barilla still backs his racing. What an inspirational win for all of us! Forza Alessandro!
  14. 14 Mike hurst 22 Nov
    Alex was in a class of his own while we had him in the CART series. At the top of a very talented group of drivers (including everybody's buddy, Jimmy V). This win may be one of his best. Congrats to Alessandro and family.
  15. 15 claudia 15 Nov
    Right on, Alex.  I remember your accident and now I have something else to remember you by. Your inspiration helps all of us with disabilities to keep on going and enjoying life.
  16. 16 richard gaglio 13 Nov
    What can you say about a guy who refuse's to give up at anything. A modern day "Hero" we should all look at, and mold our children into, as he has the will to live. I have followed this guy since his days at lotus, and he was very exciting to watch, and even talk to. I was at the Detroit Grand Prix, in the Barrilla Hospitality Suite talking to him about our favorite Spaggetti. He was truly sincere and very friendly, a true racer!
  17. 17 Brian Tingle 13 Nov

    Congratulations, Alex. You cease to amaze all of us who've followed your career for a couple of decades now. I have no doubt that you'll be successful at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. You're an inspiration to us all!

     Brian, Ashland, OR

  18. 18 TJ racer fam 12 Nov
    Wow. He is truly an inspiration.
  19. 19 george & Liz from Australia 11 Nov

    we'll never forget you man !! 

  20. 20 Don Matson 11 Nov
    Atta Boy Alex!  True Grit!  You da Man!  You are an inspiration for all people.  I can't express the joy I get whenever I read about another of your adventures.  Good Luck in whatever you do next.  God Bless!
  21. 21 JoAnn Woodin 11 Nov
    Alex was "my driver" during his CART career and I was so happy when he didn't let his accident stop him from competing.  Congratulations on your latest achievemet Alex.  I look forward to hearing about your next conquest.  Good luck and God Bless!
  22. 22 John Franco 11 Nov
    Alex, what a inspiration to say the least. From your humbel beginnings to the the pentacle of a sport I love. I am truly in awe. Good luck in your new found open wheeled sport. I too miss you around the paddock and those great burouts on your way to victory lane. But it is obvious you will find the podium whatever do.
  23. 23 Dan in Milwaukee 11 Nov
    Outstanding athlete he is! Congratulations Alex! The best burnout donuts for the race fans I ever saw was Alex in Turn 5 after winning at Elkhart Lake Road America. I was lucky enough to have been there to witness the sight, smell and sound of those perfectly executed donuts in a very small area. In my opinion, Alex is one of the best drivers I've had the pleasure to watch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biolc6FLVws
  24. 24 Dale VanCleef 11 Nov
    I loved watching Alessandro drive.  I loved his book.  He is a true inspiration.

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