FOUND! ALEX ZANARDI’S LAST CHAMP CAR

The car Zanardi drove in Germany in 2003 has returned to the country in which it last ran at speed. Photo: Joerg Guenther

THE special hand-controlled Reynard Champ Car that Alex Zanardi drove at the Lausitzring Speedway in 2003 upon his return to the circuit where he nearly lost his life has been located by the Indy Sleuth team.

The car, which currently sits without an engine, is owned by Joerg Guenther and sits in Germany. He purchased it from the United States in 2019.

Zanardi famously drove this Reynard at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz in May 2003, completing 13 laps around the two-mile overall – the same distance he didn’t get to complete in the closing stages of the 2001 race some 20 months earlier.

The Italian star lost both his legs and was lucky to escape with his life after a horrifying accident in the closing stages of that race.

With just laps to go he lost control of his Mo Nunn Racing car heading back onto the circuit after his last pit stop and was hit at enormous velocity side-on by the Player’s car of Alex Tagliani.

Brilliant work by the CART Safety team, Dr. Steve Olvey, Dr. Terry Trammell and the doctors at Klinikum Berlin-Marzahn saved his life and he was able to return to Germany to drive the Reynard in 2003, a car painted in the same red and white Pioneer colours as his 2001 car had been.

In front of 68,000 fans Zanardi made a triumphant return and was flat on the throttle on his first lap around the German circuit, setting a fastest lap that was only half a second from the pole time that weekend!

Zanardi was able to operate the throttle for the car via his left thumb, the clutch with his right hand and brakes with his artificial right leg.

The chassis had been sourced from Conquest Racing (it had started its life in 2002 as a Team KOOL Green car before that team swapped to Lola chassis partway through the season in the wake of Reynard going bust) with engineering support from CART, Cosworth and Rocketsports Racing.

Zanardi eventually returned to racing in hand-controlled vehicles before winning multiple gold medals in hand cycling at the London Paralympics in 2012.

The racing legend was dealt another blow in June last year when he collided with a truck during a handcycle race and was placed into a coma with a long road ahead for his recovery. He has been recuperating ever since in Italy.

Indy Sleuth has been established as an arm of V8 Sleuth to research and trace the histories of chassis that have competed in IndyCar, CART, Champ Car and associated racing.

With over 20 years in the Australian motorsport industry, Noonan is the head of V8 Sleuth. He’s held a range of roles including working in television with Seven and Ten, print media and public relations. With a specialty in Australian motorsport history, he’s known around racing paddocks as ’the Sleuth’ and started his motorsport media career in 1997.