Road to Daytona: Successful first test for Alessandro Zanardi in the BMW M8 GTE.

Miramas. BMW works driver Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) has
successfully completed his first test in the BMW M8 GTE in
preparation for the 24-hour race at Daytona (USA) in January. This
week, BMW M Motorsport and Zanardi spent three days testing at
Miramas in the south of France. Although rain meant the conditions
were not ideal, Zanardi was still able to get plenty of laps under
his belt with the BMW M8 GTE. In total, he drove almost 700
kilometres over the course of the three days.


Zanardi used the test to familiarise himself with the BMW M8 GTE. At
the same time, BMW M Motorsport was able to evaluate how the
modifications, developed for his special needs, function in a GTE
racing car. Zanardi uses the same system in the BMW M8 GTE that has
already proven itself on his guest appearance in the BMW M4 DTM at
Misano (ITA) and has been adapted to the requirements in the BMW M8
GTE. Braking is performed using a lever, which he operates with his
right arm. The special steering wheel allows Zanardi to accelerate
using a gas ring and to change gear using shift paddles. The gas
mechanism at the steering wheel, proven in DTM, has been adapted to
the much more complex steering wheel in the BMW M8 GTE. The brake
lever also has a button, with which Zanardi can shift down through the
gears when braking into corners. Based on the knowledge gained at
Misano, the system has been optimised for the BMW M8 GTE.


“I think I made huge progress during this test,” said Zanardi.
“Particularly when you consider that the conditions were very tough.
Miramas is not an easy circuit anyway, and then we had the rain to
deal with too. It was a challenge getting to know the car in these
conditions, and at the same time finding out what I need to do when
whilst driving. However, it was a very productive test. My feel for
the car improved all the time and I soon found out what I need to be
doing with my hands and how I can control the car’s various electronic
functions. We are now very well prepared for the next test at Daytona.
I have to say, the BMW M8 GTE is a real beauty. It was a privilege for
me to take it out onto the track and drive it for so many laps.”


Another part of the test programme was the driver changeover, as
Zanardi will share the BMW M8 GTE with other drivers at Daytona.
Zanardi practiced the procedures with BMW works driver Jesse Krohn
(FIN) at Miramas.


“It is impressive what we achieved,” said Zanardi. “You have to bear
in mind that, as well as the usual driver changeover, we must also
swap the steering wheel. We consistently achieved that in under 20
seconds, and a few times we even managed the changeover in about 15
seconds. When you observe how quickly a ‘normal’ driver like Jesse
jumps out of the car, it is a bit different when you then see somebody
like me getting out. Undo the harness, remove the steering wheel, pass
it to somebody and jump out of the car – all in less than three
seconds. Then turn around, wait until Jesse is in, climb back into the
car, hook my leg into the frame, help Jesse with the radio and
harness, pass him the other steering wheel, close the net and get away
from the car…It is really impressive and looks a bit like a dance. We
will now continue to work on perfecting the driver changeover.”


Also at Miramas was Nathalie McGloin, President of the newly-formed
“FIA Disability and Accessibility Commission”. She used the visit to
speak to Zanardi and BMW M Motorsport about opportunities for
physically impaired racing drivers.


BMW M Motorsport is working closely with the FIA, ACO and IMSA to
gain approval for a car adapted to Zanardi’s needs for GTE races.