In September of 2001, 2-time CART (now Champ car) racing chamption Alex Zanardi got into a serious accident on the racetrack. It was the EuroSpeedway Lausitz oval, at CART’s first-ever race in Germany. He was leading in the race, with only 13 laps to go, as he came out of the pit lane to re-enter the race, his car spun out and he was hit by another car at over 200 mph.
Thankfully, he survived the crash, but he lost both his legs just above the knees – for a racecar driver, that’s an injury akin to a piano player losing his hands. Most of the racing world thought he would never race again.
But only a year after his accident, with help from CART officials, he went back to the Lausitz track in a specially built racecar with the throttle on the steering wheel – and he completed the last 13 laps from the race that nearly killed him. He hit speeds in excess of 190 mph during that run.
In 2004, Zanardi made his official return to racing full-time in the FIA European Touring Car Championship. On August 24, 2005, Zanardi won his first world series race since his accident. He took further wins at Istanbul in 2006 and Brno in 2008.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Zanardi. We salute your testicular fortitude and testostrogenic tenacity.