Alessandro "Alex" Zanardi born 23 October 1.966 is an Italian racing driver and paracyclist.
He won two CART championship titles in North America during the late 1.990s.
He also had a less successful career as a Formula One driver.
More recently, he has attracted widespread praise for his return to competition in the aftermath of a crash in 2001 that resulted in the amputation of his legs.
He returned to racing less than two years after the accident, competing in the FIA World Touring Car Championship for BMW Team Italy-Spain between 2.003 and 2.009.
Switching sports, Zanardi took up competition in handcycling, a form of paralympic cycling, with the stated goal of representing Italy at the 2.012 Summer Paralympics.
In September 2.011, Zanardi won his first senior international handcycling medal, the silver medal in the H4 category time trial at the UCI World Road Para-Cycling Championships.
In September 2.012 he won gold medals at the London Paralympics in the individual H4 time trial and the individual H4 road race,followed by a silver medal in the mixed H1-4 team relay.
On 11 September 2.012 he was included by International Paralympic Committee into the London 2.012.
Alex Zanardi was born in Bologna, Italy, as the son of Anna and Dino and moved with his family to the village of Castel Maggiore on the outskirts of the city when he was four.
His sister Cristina was a promising swimmer until her death in an automobile collision in 1.979.
Zanardi began racing karts at the age of 13. He built the kart from wheels used from a dustbin and pipes from his father's line of work. In 1988, he joined the Italian Formula 3 series with a fifth place as his highest finish.
In 1.989, Zanardi took two pole positions and three podiums despite suffering from his team switching to unleaded fuel which reduced the engine power in his car.
In 1.991, he moved up to the Formula 3000 series with the Il Barone Rampante team, who were themselves newcomers to the series.
Winning on his F3000 debut, he went on to score two more wins that season, en route to second in the championship.
Zanardi had his first taste of Formula One at a test session at Paul Ricard where he drove a Footwork. By the end of that year, he had commenced his career in Formula One.
Three starts for Jordan were his reward for a strong F3000 campaign.
For 1.992 Zanardi had to be content with guest drives for Minardi, replacing the injured Christian Fittipaldi. In the off-season, he tested for Benetton, but contracted with Lotus for 1.993.
Zanardi compared reasonably to teammate Johnny Herbert and was important in fine-tuning the team's active suspension system, scoring his only F1 point at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Zanardi suffered an injury when an elderly motorist collided with his bicycle knocking him off and ran over Zanardi's left foot leaving several bones broken.
Despite this, Zanardi raced in Germany but spun out.
However, his season ended prematurely after he suffered a terrible crash during practice for the Belgian Grand Prix where he suffered a concussion.
Still injured, Zanardi missed the beginning of the 1.994 season, but he returned in the Spanish Grand Prix, replacing Pedro Lamy, who had been hurt in a testing crash.
However, that year's Lotus was highly unreliable, and Zanardi failed to score a single point or qualify higher than 13th.
Sports car racing
With Lotus Formula One having folded, Zanardi took time to race in Sports car racing.
His first meeting was at a Porsche Supercup event at Imola.
Zanardi later raced at a four-hour event at Donington Park where he and Alex Portman retired with eight minutes remaining despite leading by over a lap.
The pair managed to finish 4th at a wet weather race at Silverstone.
He felt that finding a race seat would be easy with Formula One experience but no teams took any interest.
However, Reynard Commercial Director Rick Gorne managed to secure Zanardi a test drive at Homestead with Chip Ganassi Racing. Zanardi officially signed a contract on 23 October 1995.
The team's race engineer Mo Nunn advised Chip against signing him, as he believed Italian drivers were too prone to mistakes.
He rapidly became one of the series' most popular drivers.
He took the pole for his second race, although his first win didn't come until mid-season.
In total he won three races in his rookie season and five pole positions, finishing in a tie for second in the championship points (officially scored third as Michael Andretti had won more races) behind team-mate Jimmy Vasser (who did not win after round 6 of the season) and being named Champ Racing Rookie of the Year.
He would win the championship for Ganassi in both 1.997 and 1.998, bringing home twelve victories.
A win came at Laguna Seca for the final race of the 1.996 season, where he conducted a highly risky overtaking move at the Corkscrew corner (known to many racing fans as "The Pass"; the maneuver was banned for future years), on race leader Bryan Herta, having fought his way through the field.
After winning a race, Zanardi was fond of spinning his car around in tight circles, leaving circular donut-shaped patterns of tyre rubber on the track; this would eventually become a popular means of celebrating race wins all across America.
Post-amputation motor racing career
Zanardi was fitted with two prosthetic limbs and began an ambitious rehabilitation program.
Dissatisfied with the limitations of legs available commercially, Zanardi designed and built his own custom legs, to allow him to compare the weight and stiffness of various feet in order to find the ones most suitable for racing.
In 2.002, CART honoured Zanardi by giving him the privilege of waving the checkered flag in Toronto, Canada.
In 2.003, Zanardi was not only back behind the wheel, he was also racing again, with the aid of hand-operated brake and accelerator controls.
He completed the final thirteen laps at the race track which had nearly killed him in 2.001, and did so at highly competitive speeds approaching 310 km/h (193 mph).
In fact, had he been qualifying for the race that weekend, he would have been fifth. It persuaded him that a race return was something to pursue.
Zanardi competed at Monza, Italy, in his first race since the accident in a touring car modified to allow the use of his prosthetic feet, finishing the race in seventh.
In 2.004, Zanardi returned to racing full-time, driving for Roberto Ravaglia's BMW Team Italy-Spain in the FIA European Touring Car Championship.
The season did not see him score many points, but for 2.005 matters were much improved, in a series which became the World Touring Car Championship by adding two non-European races.
On 24 August 2.005, Zanardi won his first world series race since his accident at Lausitzring.
He had taken advantage of the championship's reverse grid system, in which by finishing the weekend's first race in 8th, a driver starts the second on pole.
Still, Zanardi had held off attacks from several drivers, and celebrated his win with a series of trademark "donuts".
He then finished the season strongly.
He took further wins at Istanbul in 2006 and Brno in 2008 and 2009.
At the end of the 2009 season he announced his retirement from the WTCC.
Zanardi returned to a Formula One car in late November 2.006 at a testing session for BMW Sauber in Valencia, Spain.
The car had been specially adapted to have hand controls fitted on the steering wheel. After the drive Zanardi told the main problem he was having was using only his right hand to steer through corners, as his left operated the throttle.
Zanardi was quoted as saying, "Of course, I know that I won't get a contract with the Formula
One team, however having the chance to drive an F1 racer again is just incredible."
Since 2004, CRG has made and sold a range of kart chassis bearing Alex Zanardi's name. Zanardi chassis have been raced in the European KF1 Championship and World Championship as well as in many other racing events worldwide.
Dutch driver Nyck de Vries won the CIK-FIA Karting World Championship in 2010 and 2011 with Zanardi karts.
In November 2012 Zanardi tested a BMW DTM touring car, completing 32 laps of the Nürburgring.
He later admitted that the test had rekindled his interest in motor racing, and in January 2014 it was announced that he would return to motorsport in the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series season, racing a BMW Z4 GT3 for Ravaglia's ROAL Motorsport outfit.
In 2007 he achieved 4th place in the New York City Marathon in the handcycle division, after only four weeks of training. He has since taken up handcycling in earnest, and competed at the Para-Cycling Road World Championships in 2009.
He stated that he was targeting a place in the Italian team for the 2012 Summer Paralympics.
In 2009 he won the Venice Marathon in the category for the disabled, riding his wheelchair in one hour, thirteen minutes, 56 seconds, and won the Rome City Marathon in 2010, in a time of one hour, fifteen minutes, 53 seconds.
In 2011, at his fourth attempt, Zanardi won the New York City Marathon in his handcycling class.
On 5 September 2012, Zanardi won a gold medal in the men's road time trial H4 at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, finishing 27.14 seconds ahead of Nobert Mosandi.
Two days later, he won the individual H4 road race, ahead of Ernst van Dyk (South Africa) and Wim Decleir (Belgium), and then a silver medal for Italy in the mixed team relay H1-4 on 8 September 2012.
The bike used by Zanardi was constructed by Italian racecar constructor Dallara.
Before the games in London, he expressed interest in returning to auto racing for the 2013 Indianapolis 500;while this failed to pan out, at the event he was presented with his 1996 CART Laguna Seca-winning car by Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
In December 2012, Zanardi was named one of "The Men of the Year 2012" by Top Gear.
Zanardi has been married to Daniela (née Manni) since 1996, and they have a son, Niccolò (born 7 September 1998).
He has co-written two books based on his life, Alex Zanardi: My Story (2004) and Alex Zanardi: My Sweetest Victory (2004). Zanardi and his story have been featured on the HBO sports series Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
Zanardi is a long time best friend of fellow driver Max Papis.
He and Papis raced in Italy at carnivals, fairs, etc. Zanardi is deeply Christian and sponsored Papis' sons Marco and Matteo Papis as a godfather when they were baptized.
Zanardi's helmet is silver with a blue shape around the visor.
The chin area is grey with a silver grid, a yellow line runs across the back of the helmet near the blue shape of the visor, a red line runs under the top and there is a pineapple on the rear (an allusion to his nickname).