DRIVERS: ALESSANDRO ZANARDI

Name: Alessandro Zanardi
Nationality: Italy
Date of birth: October 23, 1966 - Bologna, Italy

Zanardi was 13 when he started racing karts but he made up for his lack of experience with a clear talent and won the European Super A Championship in 1988. Two years later he jumped into Formula 3 and finished runner-up in the Italian F3 series. He also won the one-off European F3 Cup event, held that year at Le Mans. Hired for 1991 by the new Il Barone Rampante Formula 3000 team, he won the first race of the year and added another victory at Mugello to finish second in the International F3000 series behind Christian Fittipaldi.

1991 also saw him make his Grand Prix debut as Michael Schumacher's replacement at Jordan but he then had to endure a dull season as a Benetton test driver in 1992. He did enter three races that year with Minardi but failed to qualify for two of them.

His big chance finally came in 1993 when Peter Collins snapped him up to replace Mika Hakkinen at Team Lotus. In only his second race for the team, in Brazil, Zanardi scored what would end up being the only point of his F1 career. Despite this he was up with his team-mate Johnny Herbert and played an important role in helping the team develop its active suspension. In the end he fell victim to the system and suffered a massive accident at Spa's Eau Rouge and that put him out of action for the rest of the year.

In 1994 Pedro Lamy arrived with cash and Zanardi had to accept the role of test driver until Lamy suffered serious injuries when he crashed in testing at Silverstone and Zanardi returned. The team was by then in decline and at the end of the year Zanardi found himself unemployed.

He raced little in 1995, winning the Porsche Supercup race at Imola, but then headed for America where he was given the chance to test for Chip Ganassi. He so impressed the team that he was hired immediately and scored six poles and three wins in his first year. In 1997 and 1998 he dominated CART, winning the title twice.

In July 1998 he signed a three-year contract to drive for Williams in F1 but it all went horribly wrong. The team quickly lost faith in him and he failed to score a point. In the end he was replaced by Jenson Button.

He went back to CART with Mo Nunn Racing in 2001 but in September was involved in a huge accident at Lausitzring and had both legs amputated. Using artificial legs and hand controls he returned to racing in the autumn of 2003 in a BMW 320i and has been racing successfully in touring cars ever since.

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