Munich. The countdown is on: in one week’s time, Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) will start his DTM adventure. The BMW works driver will compete as a guest starter at the seventh round of the 2018 DTM season at Misano (ITA). For Zanardi, it will be two firsts at once; it will be his debut in the popular touring car series and he will drive without his prosthetic legs for the first time. His modified BMW M4 DTM is equipped with a hand-operated braking system. In an interview, Zanardi speaks about his dream to race a DTM car, his impressions of the BMW M4 DTM and his expectations for Misano.
Alessandro, Misano is coming closer – how much is the excitement growing?
Alessandro Zanardi: “It is growing, but the races are still a few days away. I think the excitement will really touch the roof when I get to Misano, when I get to see the other cars, when I get to see the other transporters, when I start to sniff the fumes, hear the noise.”
You’ve driven so many race cars – before your accident and after the accident. Was it a dream to drive a DTM car?
Zanardi: “Yes, in my career I have been fortunate enough to drive beautiful cars, especially in my days in the United States. The single seaters were probably the best among the entire motorsports history I think. We had 1,000 bhp under the bonnet and the balance between what the car was capable of doing around the turns and the acceleration, the top speed you could reach with it, was just fantastic. But I’ve always looked at DTM like one of the things that down the road I want to do in my racing career. I’ve always been very much intrigued by that type of car that in my view looks really sexy and performs incredibly well. So I’m finally having this opportunity and I’m very glad and thankful to BMW for giving it to me.”
You completed a successful test at Vallelunga. What’s your impression of the BMW M4 DTM?
Zanardi: “It is indeed a real race car. It’s made out of carbon fibre; it is created to perform. The suspensions are racing ones, as are the brakes, the engine is a race engine, the gearbox is incredibly fast, it’s manufactured the way you would manufacture a Formula One gearbox for instance. So everything is purely made for racing. And the car does perform like it. Around the turns, the BMW M4 DTM is capable of producing amazing speeds. You can brake basically in the blink of an eye when you go from 300 km/h to taking a second gear corner and the car re-accelerates out of it very rapidly as well. It’s an impressive machine.”
With your arm, you need to apply 60 to 65 kilos on the hand-operated brake lever to brake hard. This is no problem for you?
Zanardi: “I have to apply a pretty good pressure but evidently my arms are strong enough to do that and to do it again the following lap. And when you decelerate at those speeds actually the longitudinal forces are helping you. They bring the weight of your body to lean on the lever anyway, so it’s harder in the garage than it is actually when you do it on the circuit. And my fitness condition, with what I have been doing on my hand cycle in the past few years, does not hurt. It definitely helps.”
What are your expectations for Misano?
Zanardi: “I know quite well what to expect for Misano. I know that DTM these days is probably the most competitive field of motorsports, no doubt about it. Formula One is not this competitive from a driver’s perspective, because the competitiveness out of the car often dictates the name of the game. In DTM, the level of the drivers is incredibly high. The drivers are all good, there are no amateurs or drivers who cannot push the car to the limit. But, on top, all cars performances are really close and often you see the entire field being packed into less than a second. And this of course suggests that for an old guy like me, with the lack of experience I have, with my personal problem, with my age, it will be very, very tough for me to collect a very good result. I will try to get the best out of it, and for sure in any case it will be a very enjoyable experience. The important thing is that I walk away from Misano knowing that I have done my best, and knowing that I did what my friends among the BMW Motorsport family know I can do.”