Before September 2001, Alessandro 'Alex' Zanardi was my favorite race driver having won the CART Series (now Champ Car World Series) back to back in 1997 and 98 and returning to Formula One for a brief time with WilliamsF1 before heading back to the CART Series in 2001. Alex raced with the enthusiasm and character that is rarely seen in any motorsport today; especially in the United States. The reason I said 'was' my favorite race driver is due to the horrible crash that nearly took Alex's life and did take both of his legs on September 15, 2001 at EuroSpeedway Lausitz in Germany.
The natural assumption at the time was that Alex would not survive the night in the hospital. He did. Even though he lost a reported 80% of the blood in his body, he survived - resting in an induced coma without sustaining any long term brain damage. The next assumption was that Alex's life as a racer was over and he would live out his life on the wealth he had amassed and spend each day at the side of his wife and son. The world was wrong again. Along with starting a career in European Touring Cars, Alex returned in May 2003 to drive a specially prepared Champ Car with a hand throttle and foot break to complete the laps he failed to finish in 2001 at the very same speedway in Germany.
Since than, Alex has returned to race a full schedule in the World Touring Car Championship driving a BMW 3 series sedan to several wins, 10th place in 2005 and 11th place in the 2006 Championship. He also won the Italian Touring Car Championship with 8 wins in 2006. Since September 2001, Alex has been my hero and much more than my favorite race driver - Alex is an amazing testament to human will and a gleaming example of how stubbornness can drive one to reach levels only dreamed by others. For his stubbornness and prickly Italian personality, Alex was nicknamed 'pineapple' by his crew chief during his days at Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the CART Series.Besides this lesser known distinction, Alex is more widely known as the man behind victory donuts following a race win and the driver behind the wheel of the one of the most famous passes in motorsports history commonly known as 'The Pass' which he made on the final lap at Laguna Seca over Bryan Herta entering and exiting the famed cork screw turn.
Thanks for a great time Alex and providing a nice headline to close out the 2006 racing season.