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Zanardi to test for BMW Sauber 30 Oct 2006

Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) BMW Italy-Spain. FIA World Touring Car Championship, Rd6, Puebla, Mexico, 30 July 2006. World ©  Sutton.

Alessandro Zanardi will return to the cockpit of a Formula One car next month when he tests for BMW Sauber at Valencia. Zanardi, who lost both his legs in a Champ car accident back in 2001, will drive a specially modified F1.06.

Zanardi will get behind the wheel as part of the BMW World Final event, which takes place at the Spanish circuit from November 24 to 26. In doing so, the 40-year-old Italian will become the first such amputee to drive a Formula One car.

“Having the chance to drive an F1 racer again is just incredible,” Zanardi told BMW Sauber’s official website. “Formula One is all about the development of speed. Therefore I’m excited to see what has changed since my last Grand Prix in 1999. Formula One is - and will always be - the pinnacle of motor racing. I can hardly wait for the moment, when the V8 engine is started.”

BMW Sauber’s engineers have already modified the F1.06 to suit Zanardi’s unique requirements. The brake pedal has been moved to the right of the cockpit, whilst the gear-shift paddle on the left of the steering wheel has been adapted to act as a hand-operated throttle.

“Alessandro Zanardi is a truly impressive character - with an unprecedented show of will and dedication, he fought his way back into motor racing,” said BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen. “We will give him this chance now, the engineers made it possible. I cannot wait to watch his reaction after the test.”

Zanardi, CART champion in 1997 and 1998, contested 41 Grands Prix between 1991 and 1999, driving for Jordan, Minardi, Lotus and Williams. Following his accident at Germany’s Lausitzring, he made a remarkable recovery, eventually returning to competitive motorsport. He currently races for BMW in the FIA World Touring Car Championship and has scored two wins in the series to date.