LAUSITZ (Germany): Former Italian speedster Alex Zanardi has no fear of returning to the racetrack where he suffered a horrific crash that claimed both his legs.
The former CART and Formula One driving star will serve as grand marshal May 11 for the Champ Car race at EuroSpeedway in Lausitz, Germany.
It will be Zanardi’s first visit to the track since the accident on Sept 15, 2001, in which he spun on cold tires leaving the pit lane and was struck by Canadian Alex Tagliani’s car at nearly 322kph (200 mph). The impact cut Zanardi’s car in two and he lost both legs above the knee.
“Obviously, there will be something going through my mind,’’ said Zanardi, who now walks with the aid of prosthetics.
“I wouldn’t be human otherwise. But, quite frankly, I feel that psychologically, the accident is definitely behind me.’’
Zanardi nearly died from loss of blood and was hospitalised in critical condition for several days.
Once he regained consciousness, though, his wife, Daniella, said he immediately told her he would walk again.
“I just feel very lucky that Mother Nature made me like that,’’ Zanardi said. “I’m a very optimistic person.’’
Still, there were times when Zanardi did feel down.
“I have no problems to admit that just after the accident when I came home, when I found myself sitting in the wheelchair playing with the remote control from the television, I felt kind of miserable sometimes,’’ he said. “I also thought about the days where I could just go out, fool around or for a ride with my bicycle and things like that.
“But I stayed very little on that attitude.’’
Going to the German track isn’t daunting for Zanardi, either.
“I don’t think the feelings that I will have driving into (the track) with my rental car will be feelings of fear,’’ he said. “I’m still going to be very proud to go back to that place and probably this time leave the place with a smile on my face.’’
Even before he got his artificial legs, Zanardi was back to some of his favorite hobbies, such as driving a car and going boating.
Since he has been able to walk, the upbeat Zanardi has taken up snow skiing again – with the aid of a specially designed sled – and has been driving go-karts.
“Whenever people stop me on the street and they pat my back and they say: ‘Alex, we admire you so much, you’re such an inspiration for us,’ or things like that, I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless.
“From my position, all I can say is that I’m a guy that is trying to put his life back together, because we only have one life and to waste even a minute of it, indeed, it’s a waste of time. It’s stupid.’’ – AP