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Alessandro “Alex” Zanardi (Italian pronunciation:
He won two CART championship titles in North America during the late 1990s. 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 2003 and 2009.
Switching sports, Zanardi took up competition in handbiking, a form of paralympic cycling, with the stated goal of representing Italy at the 2012 Summer Paralympics. In September 2011, Zanardi won his first senior international handbiking medal, the silver medal in the H4 (Handbike) category time trial at the UCI World Road Para-Cycling Championships. In September 2012 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 2012 he was included by International Paralympic Committee into the London 2012: Top 12 performances list.
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 bespoke legs, to allow him to compare the weight and stiffness of various feet in order to find the most suitable for racing. In 2002, CART honoured Zanardi by giving him the privilege of waving the checkered flag in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In 2003, 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 2001, 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 was a fitting testament to his recovery and 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 quite impressively in seventh. In 2004, 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 2005 matters were much improved, in a series which became the World Touring Car Championship by adding two non-European races. On August 24, 2005, 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 duly 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.
BMW returned to the DTM for the 2012 season with the M3 DTM, which is based (visually at least) on the contemporary BMW E92 M3 Coupe. Three teams lined up on the grid for BMW. Canadian driver Bruno Spengler recorded the first DTM win for BMW in 20 years at the second race of the 2012 season, held at the Lausitzring circuit in Germany. Spengler then went on to claim the 2012 drivers championship. BMW claimed the 2012 manufacturers championship with 346 points, 11 points ahead of Audi and 17 points ahead of Mercedes-Benz. BMW Team Schnitzer earned the 2012 teams championship title. All three of these titled were clinched by BMW at the last race of the season at Hockenheim.
Throughout its history, BMW cars and motorcycles have been successful in a range of motorsport activities. Mainly before World War II, BMW motorcycles were winning e.g. at the Isle of Man TT. Apart from the factory efforts, many privateer teams enter BMW road cars in Touring car racing. BMW also entered cars or provided engines in Formula One, Formula Two and sportscar racing. BMW is currently[when?] active in ALMS, the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), the Superbike World Championship and the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (German Touring Car Championship).