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4th March 2002
During my time as a marshal, I have seen many brave acts on the race track, impossible overtaking manoeuvres accomplished and the like. But the bravest driver I have seen in recent times has been Alex Zanardi.
After a promising career that started in F1, then went to CART where he became multiple champion, then back to F1 to attempt to complete unfinished business with Williams, and then have to return to CART in America again, he suffered the worst possible injuries when he was t-boned by another car doing approx 200mph when Alex's car spun coming out of the pits in Germany in September 2001.
As a result of this, he lost BOTH legs, something very few people can handle. BUT come December 2001 he was seen in public standing on his prosthetic limbs for the first time in public.
At the recent CART race at Toronto, Canada, he attended the entire weekend for the first time since the accident, meeting many old friends. He also had a car, fitted with hand controls, waiting for him at the airport, and on the Saturday night of the event (Sunday being race day) he was seen at fast speeds driving the course by the marshals present who were setting up for the following day. On realising who they were seeing, they lined the circuit, standing to attention, in honour of him.
The following article is taken from Pitpass.com, and captures the mood of the event.
Alex, you are one brave man and I hope to shake your hand one day.
Former F1 star Alessandro Zanardi returned to the CART paddock last weekend for the first time since his accident during the American Memorial 500.
The Molson Indy Toronto saw Cristiano da Matta win his fourth consecutive race, but it was Zanardi who got the loudest cheers. The Italian received a standing ovation from the Canadian crowd as he waved the flag to start last weekend’s race, and Zanardi later paid tribute to his friends and CART's many fans for the support he has received since last September’s accident.
"I always said I felt loved in America, but through these terrible consequences I felt even more loved," Zanardi told the official CART website.
"It was obviously great to be here with all my friends and it makes me think I must have done something good."
Zanardi and his wife Daniela spent time in the paddock catching up with old friends, and the Italian is already making plans to attend other races this season.
"When I was in F1, I loved the car I was driving, but I didn't enjoy staying around in the paddock or having any relationships with the people as I much as I did in America," Zanardi continued.
"Not because I was winning here and there I wasn't, but simply because it's so different. You could go into someone's motorhome in the evening and have a glass of wine and then race shoulder-to-shoulder the next day and try as hard as you can to beat those same guys."