“The system we had in place at that point allowed me to be quick, even for a number of laps. But to be honest, it was really difficult to sit in the car for a long time, to really be of any assistance to my team over the duration of a 24-hour race,” says Zanardi. As he has no legs, he lacks important extremities, which help to cool the body through blood circulation. Furthermore, the close-fitting shafts of his artificial legs do not allow any perspiration: “Every time I climbed out of the car, I was thoroughly baked through.”
It was clear to Zanardi that he would be able to drive for far longer and feel more comfortable in the car without his prostheses. As such, he sat down with the BMW M Motorsport engineers in Munich and came up with a completely new system: a system that would allow Zanardi to operate everything with his arms and hands. This would have been an issue in the BMW 320i in 2003, due to the H gearbox, however, the modern transmission in today’s GT racecars and the now established centrifugal clutch opened up new possibilities. This was initially tested in the BMW M6 GT3 and then given its first acid test, which it passed with flying colours when Zanardi made a guest appearance in the DTM at the wheel of the BMW M4 DTM at Misano in August 2018. All of this was leading up to one goal: Zanardi’s start in the BMW M8 GTE at the 24 Hours of Daytona.