Alex Zanardi, in a BMW Z4 GT3 modified to his needs, was respectable in the first free practice session at Circuit Paul Armagnac Friday.
Nogaro (FR), 18th April 2014. BMW works driver Alessandro Zanardi (IT) has definitely returned to racing: with the first free practice today, he has started the season opener of the Blancpain Sprint Series at Nogaro (FR). This highly competitive 2014 championship is the stage for Zanardi’s comeback to motorsport after a break of four years. The 47-year-old races a BMW Z4 GT3 modified to his needs and entered by ROAL Motorsport. After an intensive preparation period over the winter, Zanardi and ROAL Motorsport are now ready for the first round of the season.
Zanardi used today’s first free practice to get acquainted with the “Circuit Paul Armagnac” in the South of France. He and the team learnt the special characteristics of this track and based on this information, they will continue to set up the BMW Z4 GT3. Zanardi finished the first free practice in 12th as second best BMW driver. Weather conditions were good with sun and warm temperatures.
“Overall, it was a good start”, Zanardi said. “P12 is not too bad, considering that the others have more experience and probably know the circuit a little bit better. We did many laps and learnt a lot of things today. Now we will analyse all the information and use it to further improve tomorrow. This is my first race weekend after a break of four years, but so far it is not yet ‘serious’, it is just fun for me to go out and play with the car and try to make it better. I think tomorrow in the afternoon, when we finally go into qualifying, it will be different and I will have butterflies in my stomach. But that is what I call passion, because if I would not care about it, of course, I would not get nervous. The secret is to try to harness the emotions and to turn them into something positive.”
“I am quite happy, everything was going well. Alex did not have any problems during the session so he was able to do many laps and work on the set-up of the car”, added Roberto Ravaglia, Team Principal of ROAL Motorsport. “You need to consider that it is a new circuit for our team – and more or less also for Alex, as he last raced here 25 years ago. So in the beginning, when everyone went out on new tyres – according to the regulations you have to use your fresh tyres in the beginning – he could not make full use of them as he still had to learn the circuit. This is why he lost a bit of time to the others in the early part of the session. But then he was doing a pretty good pace, and I am confident he can be much better tomorrow.”
In total, the first round of the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series goes over four days. Tomorrow, Saturday, will see the second free practice and the qualifying practice. On Sunday, the 60-minute qualifying race is on the schedule and on Easter Monday, the 60-minute main race will be held. Usually, two drivers share duties in one car, but the regulations allow handicapped drivers like Zanardi, who had both legs amputated, or category Bronze drivers over the age of 30 to compete alone.
BMW Group PressClub Sport