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Champ Car Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Champ Car

Champ Car Media Conference

Alex Zanardi
October 27, 2005


ERIC MAUK: Welcome everyone to a very special Champ Car media teleconference where we are joined by two-time Champ Car World Series champion, 15-time race winner, a man that needs little introduction to everyone on the call, Mr. Alex Zanardi. Alex, thank you very much for joining us today.

ALEX ZANARDI: It's absolutely my pleasure and I wish to say good morning to everyone connected right now.

ERIC MAUK: Alex, a great book. We've talked about it many times before, but it has had great success. It's gone through a second printing of that. If you could, talk about the reception you've gotten from that book and how things have gone between the time you've written it and now?

ALEX ZANARDI: Well, first of all, let me thank Champ Car and Bentley Publishers for offering the teleconference. It's a great pleasure to have this kind attention from you guys. It's been a while since the accident. And once again, I get great pleasure to be connected with you. Of course it's fantastic for me, the reaction that we've had from the crowd, the people, the readers of my book when it got first released. I was very, very happy that I finally found a great publisher in Bentley Publishers to have my book translated in American and to have it out in the U.S. with a different title, because the Italian version of the title is untranslatable. The question was what we should call it and it just came out of my mind, quote, "My Sweetest Victory", although the real title should be "My Sweetest Victory So Far" because I'm still racing and I'm still out to look for challenges and that's what I love for -- that's what I live for, excuse me. And that is why I believe, you know, it should really be called "My Sweetest Victory So Far." Nevertheless, it is a very simple book, nothing special, simply my story written in a way, to my view, it's kind of funny. I believe in the book there are some very ironical moments, together with some difficult moments of my racing career. I am sure all the drivers have a lot of great stories to tell, but my story, it is so particular and so unique of this kind because I had that terrible accident four years ago, without which I probably would not have wrote a book. What did I want to put in that book? It was simply my story. In other words, what you get there is not my accident, is not my recovery after the accident, it is simply my life. And the accident in the book, it is simply, you know, one chapter, as it is in my life, it is a chapter of my life. It is not, you know, all about the accident itself. Anyway, to cut the story short, I hope you will enjoy it and I want to thank the journalists for having been so nice and supporting the book. And maybe after if they could help us a little bit more going towards Christmas this year.

ERIC MAUK: It's most definitely a great read. And I can assure everybody on the call that has not read it yet, you will never look at the way go-cart tires are made in the same vein ever again after reading that. Also, Alex, you'll be pleased to know we've been sitting here for four minutes and I have gotten requests from journalists on the call to get copies of the book. We'll open it up from the media, so I would ask that you limit it to one question for Alex and one brief follow-up.

Q. When might we have a repeat of your appearance at the Toronto race? Any chance we might see you at a Champ Car race any time soon?

ALEX ZANARDI: As you know, I'm a busy man right now. I haven't gave up yet, although I have some gray hair growing. I'm still thinking that I can drive a race car fast enough to win and to have success and that's why I'm currently quite busy with the WTCC wishes, the World Touring Car Championship, driving for the BMW team Italy Spain. We actually had a pretty good season, because our expectation was not that great. And you know, we ended up winning the Italian Championship together with one race off the World Championship, so we're very, very happy with that. We still have one race to go in Macau, China, on November 20th, and I will come to the States right after that race for a promotional tour, which for sure will include some promotional activities related to the book, as well as for my sponsor. And certainly I will be a guest on some television programs which are currently under organization. Let's put it that way. So I can't really answer you this question, but I have so many friends in the United States that for sure I want to go to one of your races and I want to see once again my friends and not only enjoy a beautiful and spectacular race, but also have the opportunity to see some of my old friends and spend some time with them.

Q. Any time you can get away, I think I speak for everybody when I say that we would all be overjoyed to see you again, as we are just to talk with you today. I guess if I'm permitted one follow-up, then let me just ask: The different contraptions and everything that enable you to race the BMW now, has that become pretty much -- obviously it probably has become second nature to you now, almost to the point where I assume you don't even really, you don't really think about it too much when you get in the car and drive. Is that correct?

ALEX ZANARDI: Well, as briefly as I am capable, we've covered certainly a lot of ground from the word go, which was in 2003. It's quite difficult for me because when you sit in a car you take for granted that the pedals, the gear lever, the steering wheel, everything is in the right position. And you take for granted this is the way it's supposed to be. I sat in one historical car and I can tell you it was awful to drive because the gearshift was in between my legs and the throttle was on the right and the brake was on the left and the clutch was in the middle, and the steering wheel was in a terrible position. Why did they place the controls in this way? But the answer is very simple, it was from 1940 or something like this, and at the time they hadn't figured out yet what was best. So me, as a handicapped person, I'm the only guy on tour that is using this prosthetic leg that is 15 inches off a residual limb to press the brake pedal. For that, of course I had to come up with solutions that are absolutely unique in this kind. So the point is what I said before, not only do I not have all the answers, I don't even know what the question is most of the time. Of course, I believe if we've been able to enjoy some success it's definitely because we've taken it in the right direction, but we haven't got to the end yet. I mean, there's still some improvement to be made, which I believe in some circumstances they could help me to improve my performance even more. Not everywhere, not overall, because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to win races, I wouldn't have been able to be competitive. But the bottom line is to this day, I am still a very vulnerable driver. I mean, for me it takes much more concentration to take the race car around its limit, and sometimes it's easier for me to make mistakes, to lose control of the car. And when I do, to regain control of the car is even more difficult. I'm telling you, I'm pretty busy inside that cockpit. Nevertheless, it's certainly becoming very familiar for me to drive that way. And even when I talk about my race car, and you know me, and I talk a lot about it, with the engine, and I try to simulate. You know, despite the fact that Italians, they talk quite a lot, it's basically my instinct. When I say, I come out of the turn and I go for the power, normally a driver would simulate that by putting his foot down to the floor. And the reality when I simulate that, it is so natural for me now to play with my finger and pretend I'm pulling my ring that is under the steering wheel, you know. So it is quite an instinctive movement right now, but still I believe everything is improvable.

Q. I know when I last saw you, you were struggling with the mechanical controls on that car. What have the guys done, what has the team done to make it more drivable for you?

ALEX ZANARDI: In fact, I was struggling with the throttle. That's the way it works. This is the way it works. It's sort of a fly-by wire, but the difference is that normally, like in the Formula One car, you have electrical which leads the signal of whatever you move, whether it's a pedal or a ring under your steering wheel, and then through a wire, transfer this signal to something that operates the butterfly on the engine. Now, in a Formula One engine you have an activator that opens the butterfly for you. In my car, what FIA allowed us to use, was basically the standard electronic motor that opens the butterfly in the Standard 320 BMW car. That is a very good mechanism, but it's made to last probably something like 500,000 miles, you know. Therefore, they had to put some meat on it, you know. It's a pretty heavy mechanism. When you try to operate that mechanism, as fast as it takes to race the car, basically the mechanism starts to vibrate, and the reason why is because of the weight. Basically you try to make that movement operate the butterfly very rapidly. It builds up an inertia where if you go from zero to full power you have no problems, but if you go from zero to 50 percent, the mechanism trying to operate fast, will not then stop at 50 percent, will overshot that point and probably go to 62. And then the system understands and says, oops, I've gone too far. But then it takes it back, but then goes to 42, and then up to 58, then it goes down to 46, and on and on and on until it finally settles at 50. But because of that problem, basically that interferes also with the engine management because, you know, due to the certain position of the throttle, the engine management also decides how much fuel to let go into the engine, how much ignition, how much this and how much that. I mean, my engine was really working badly when that throttle mechanism was starting to shake, to vibrate that rapidly. So the only option for us to use it at an acceptable level was to slow it down to the point it would stop vibrating. And that is excellent for our old use, no problems at all, but when you're trying to race that car and every thousandth of a second counts, I was under the impression that mechanism was not allowing me to race to the best of my and the car's ability. That's why we recently built inside the team, a totally mechanical throttle. And we aspired actually in building this mechanism to the way the BMX, the bicycle, acrobatic bicycle, the brakes of this bicycle works, where you can pull the brakes, but you have a mechanism with sort of a wheel bearing in between that allows you to turn the steering bar 360 degrees. And we built this mechanical throttle, and since I've been in the car, I've never been out of the top 6. It may be a coincidence. I'm not saying that was the greatest difference we found so far, but it was certainly a big plus and something that allowed me to be not only more competitive but to have better feedback from the throttle itself and to drive the car better with more confidence.

Q. I know that you wouldn't get in a race car unless you thought you could win a race. What was the reaction when you won from the pole? Were there people absolutely amazed that you could win in such a competitive series, when you won in Oschersleben?

ALEX ZANARDI: Well, first of all, let me say it's nice to hear your voice, and thanks for the question. It was a big relief, because, you said it, I mean, probably if I would have doubt the possibility to climb the highest step of the podium once again, I would have never got into it. I knew the day of my waking up, after the coma, after the accident, that I was the same driver as before, but I didn't know whether technically I could have been that type of driver anymore, because -- one thing is to think, okay, it's time to brake. One thing is to have everything it takes to operate the brakes. When I drove the car the very first time with the system that I'm currently using, I knew it would have been a long road, but I knew there was some to work on and we would get there eventually. And then of course in racing, even if you have everything Mother Nature gave you in the first place, you have to accept that sometimes other drivers could be better than you, could do a better job. So it's not just a question of overcoming the adversity and be able to drive to the same level as the others, that you are automatically going to win a race. It's a little bit more difficult than that, especially when you're competing in a championship where basically the entire field is basically based on official manufacturers, very good drivers. It's really, really difficult to win races in our championship. When I won that race in Oschersleben, it was a great relief, because I knew after that day that deep inside I was probably the only one that was sure that this could happen. And I could tell this any time I qualified for a race. I could measure that by how many pats on my back I would get. People were sincere and incredibly touched with me just scoring 8th place or 7th place or 6th place or being in the Top 10 in qualifying. Everybody probably thought that was absolutely the best a guy in my situation could get, especially in the field where all the drivers competing, you know, against me are so good and so talented. And that is nice. Don't get me wrong. I really appreciate people appreciating my effort in overcoming my personal problems, but nevertheless, it was probably my biggest limit, because any time I would qualify maybe in the Top 10 and I would jump out of the car and say, I've got a problem, the car is understeering or the car is oversteering, nobody would really take me that seriously. They would probably think, okay, we'll look at it, but then they would probably think, well, what can you do more. You know, after all, I mean, you've got to be happy with what you have. Of course you've got understeer, everybody has under steer. But with your problems, the fact that we've been able to place you in the Top 10 is already a miracle. We have to be really happy with that. I mean, this is not a criticism. This is simply underlining what the reality being up to that point. After that, all my guys, the mechanics, all the team members, the engineers, and probably the entire WTCC community realized all of a sudden that it was definitely not the case. You know, especially my mechanics, my team members, they said, well, then really, it is possible. It can really be done. Wow. Previous to that day, nobody believed that. Also, people worked so hard to get me a car to drive, that spent days and nights of hard work to get me the best possible car they could. But once again, you know, I'm not saying that from now on I'm going to win every race, but I can tell that now my boys are really trying harder because if I qualify in the Top 10, they are starting to ask me, why didn't you qualify 8th, why didn't you qualify 7th, why didn't you qualify 6th, why aren't you in pole position. That's what I want to hear from them. That's what I want to see from them, is the anger that I want to get out of the people I work with. Because despite the fact that I'm an old fart and almost close to my 40s, I'm in this business because I believe I'm talented enough to still win races if I get given the right car to do the job. I hope that answered your question.

Q. Yes. You're on your way to becoming the 21st Century Galileo. You worked on the car, you got a ski seat, what else have you been designing lately?

ALEX ZANARDI: As a matter of fact, just one hour ago I had to run because I didn't pay attention to the time. I was in the shop fixing one of my legs. I had one of my legs in my hands. And my mechanics, they were laughing because I made such a mess. I took all this leg apart and they saw I couldn't get it back together. But finally I got it back together, especially because it's my primary leg, my primary left leg. I was wearing a spare one to be able to do some fixing to it. I don't know. I don't know what next is yet to come. I would like to win some more races. I would like to enjoy some more satisfaction. Right now my near future is still with BMW in the WTCC Championship for the next season, and probably also for the following one. I may be too old to continue. I don't know. At that point I will find something else to keep myself busy.

Q. I had a technical question, if you could ask that first. And that is, are you using your legs at all in driving?

ALEX ZANARDI: Yes. The way I'm driving -- you mean to drive the race car?

Q. Yes.

ALEX ZANARDI: Yes. The way I'm driving is very simple. I operate the throttle with basically with a ring that is under the steering wheel, so I pull it with my fingers. The clutch mechanism is on the gear lever itself. I have a small lever that operates electronically, an electrical motor that opens the clutch pump. And for what concerns the brake, the brakes are absolutely standard, racing standard, what all the other drivers are using up to the top of the brake pedal. At that point, basically, the only difference is that I have a sort of a second shoe mounted on the brake pedal itself that traps my prosthetic foot. And then by pressing down with my hip and using my mechanical knee as a simple joint, I put pressure on the brake pedal. That is the way I utilize the brakes.

Q. My other question was, this is one of these Barbara Walters TV questions, and that is, in the future, if your son decides he wants to race, what will you say?

ALEX ZANARDI: I will be happy. But I don't think -- at least for that type of sport, I'm going to be satisfied. Because he took too much after his mom and he's a very precocious kid, he doesn't seem to have any interest for driving a race car. I hope he will find sports that he likes and I hope he will try to be serious in terms of putting all his energies into trying to succeed in a sporting activity, because I think this is what changed me, to be able to play sports for so long in my life, for the better, definitely for the better. I don't think I would have been the type of guy I am if it hadn't have been for my sporting activity. This is not to say that I'm the best guy, but simply to say I probably would have been much, much worse had I not been a race car driver.

Q. Well, you were the best.

ALEX ZANARDI: Thank you very much.

Q. Since you've done the book, have you had much experience with persons with physical challenges considering you to be an inspiration to them?

ALEX ZANARDI: Well, thanks for the question, and thanks for using such nice words in describing me, especially from a guy like you that comes from a field where you have so many great drivers. Yes, it happened. Actually, here in Italy now, I am known much more for what I've done after the accident than for what I did previously in terms of -- as a race car driver. This is simply because after the accident, I believe that a lot of journalists came for the simple beauty of having to report what happened. And they came to my -- next to my bed in Berlin to where I was recovering, and they saw a guy that was smiling. And they probably thought, well, he's out of his mind. I mean, this guy probably lost his mine after accident. We'll come back and check later whether he's laughing. They came back and back and back, and it made sort of a chain reaction to the point where, especially the first year after my initial recovery, a year after the accident, my popularity in my country grew greatly because I was invited to a lot of television programs and I was interviewed by a lot of journalists, and I became known much more as, how can I say, as -- I don't know, as Alex Zanardi the man rather than Alex Zanardi the driver. This has helped me a lot to a certain degree, because for a handicapped guy, life could be very tiring. Because ironically, normal people tend to get a situation of embarrassment where they don't know what to say when they discover the handicap. It's actually up to the handicapped guy to maybe joke about it or take the drama way; in other words, to make the person they have in front more comfortable with the overall situation, to bring them back to the right distance where you can communicate. And this, for me, with my popularity now, it's no longer a problem, because people, especially in this country, they now what I've gone through, and they actually know I'm not a bad guy, he's put his problems totally behind him and probably didn't work very hard to do that type of action. It is in my nature and in my character. The other side of the coin is that a lot of people believe that I'm sort of a heroic guy for what I'm doing and they don't understand I simply have to thank Mother Nature, because it is simply genetic the way I was born, the fact that I'm an optimistic guy, a positive guy who always sees the bottle half full rather than half empty. And this is what's helped me the most, of course together with the fact being a man of sport I was used to challenges. And to a certain degree I actually enjoyed very much this challenge of getting back to a good level of life in terms of doing the best possible rehabilitation and gaining the best independence out of my prosthetic legs that could be gained. So when my book came out, a lot of people went to buy it probably because they were probably thinking that in that book was my secret, my inspiration to how I end up doing things that to their eyes were so incredible. And that is why, you know, I probably surprised people by simply writing my story and nothing different. And I believe it would have been too rhetorical to do anything different, because everything I've done so far I only did it for me. I didn't do it to prove to other people that I'm sort of a superman, but more than everything, simply because I just believe this. I believe that anybody in my situation could do it. And I've seen through the road of my recovery a lot of people that in my situation have done similar things to what I'm doing today, they just don't have their ugly face in television as much as I do, you know. But other than that, there is no difference. So this is what I actually try to tell to people when they ask me, "Alex, how do you do this? Can you give me a little bit of your courage?" Because the reality is you don't need Alex Zanardi to show you the road. If you're searching for inspiration, you just need to open your eyes and we're absolutely surrounded with cases that could be very, very inspirational for us all, that we don't necessarily need Alex Zanardi to show us the road. Having said that, it is a fact that I could be very inspirational for people that have problems to the same nature of mine. Because, of course, that was the case for me when I was sitting on the hospital bed. I wanted to know more from patients that had gone through the road that I was about to take, rather than the same words from doctors that -- okay, they were very well prepared, the argument was certainly really great, but after all, at 5:00 I could see them going home on their legs, you know. Where if a guy in my situation wearing prosthetic legs would be next to me and would tell me, Alex, you know, you can do it, it's going to be hard, but you can do it, those words would be very sufficient for me to believe him because of course he was proving that with the facts, nothing other than that. I always try to take a little bit of the drama away, not because I'm a false modest, but simply because I do believe that it is necessary to pass on the message that what I've done, what I have achieved is not because I'm sort of a superman. I am certainly a very stubborn guy and certainly a very, very optimistic guy, but a lot of people can do -- can have the same results. Actually anybody, everybody can have the same results. I hope this answers your question.

Q. Thank you for being a champion as a human being, and we'll continue to enjoy your career.

ALEX ZANARDI: Thank you very much.

Q. A lot guys have covered the ground that I was looking for, but I did want to ask you: I'm sure your wife was very supportive as you were talking about the desire to get back into a car as you went through your recovery. But when you really sat down at the kitchen table or whatever and said, Honey, I'm really going to do this, what was that conversation like?

ALEX ZANARDI: Well, actually, that happened much, much earlier than the kitchen table, because that happened exactly the day where the doctors went to my wife in Berlin, I think it was six days after the accident, and they said to Daniela, they said, Listen, Daniela, it's about time we let him wake up, and we want him sufficiently awake to be able to understand what you're saying to him, but not completely awake because we don't want him to understand on his own what had happened to him. It's very, very important that we decide who is going to tell him what happened. Daniela, of course, immediately had no doubt in her mind and said, "No, I'm going to tell him." So they let me wake up. They reduced the amount of drugs they were feeding me, and about six hours later, you know, I start to wake up. And Daniela was next to my bed. In very little time I went from total confusion, from being sure basically -- my brain was kind of connected already, but I couldn't open my eyes and I couldn't think rationally, so I was kind of thinking in the second part of my brain that I was dreaming, that that couldn't be real, because it was too confused. It's like when you're dreaming and you're trying to put away that dream because the sensation overall was so terrible. I had noise in my ears. I had pain in my body. I had like a ring in my ears. So finally, it wasn't very long until I start to hear my wife calling my name. It took me really, really a lot of energy to kind of connect my brain with the outside reality. So I answered her and I say, "Yeah, what's the matter?" She explained in a very sweet way what had happened, that we were in Germany, that I had an accident, exactly in these words, that I had been sleeping for almost a week, that I've been in a coma for a week, that I was very close to losing my life, but now everything was okay. I was at that point already very concerned that she was too concerned about me. And I said immediately, "I'm fine Daniela. I'm fine." She said, "No, Alex, I have to tell you something more. In the accident you lost your legs. You lost both your legs," But Dr. Costa, which is a dear friend of mine, as well as being the doctor, the founder of the Mobile Clinic that follows the World Championship Bikes, a lot of you I believe heard his name before. Well, she said to me, "Dr. Costa has been here, he's measured your legs, and he said that you're going to be able to wear a type of prosthetic legs that allows people in your situation to work and to have a normal life and to do a lot of things. So he's absolutely sure that you're going to be all right in this point of view." That, for me, was enough, in the sense that, okay, it wasn't the best thing I wanted to hear, that I had lost my legs, but nevertheless -- I mean, I don't know why, I mean, this is the incredible power of human nature, but in my mind, immediately, that was not that bad of news really. I could see myself already trying to do something more than what I had been doing up to that point for people in my situation. I mean, at the time I didn't know exactly which kind of screw you would need -- I didn't know it was the four millimeter screw that you would need for the prosthetic legs, but I could see myself playing with my prosthetic legs in a way. Once again, I can't tell you why, but in that moment it wasn't that terrible of news at all, especially because I felt so bad overall. I had so much pain that the fact that I had lost my legs was definitely the last of my problems. So the only thing finally I said to my wife, I said, "Honey, we're going to be all right. Don't worry. We're going to take care of this problem, but we've got other problems." I said, "The only thing is, are you really sure I'm not going to die? Because I feel so bad." She said, "Yeah, the doctor ensured me you are okay." I said, "Yeah, that's what matters. But don't worry we're going to be all right. But right now let me sleep because I'm tired." I went back to sleep thinking I was going to be all right, I was going to be okay. This is funny because one day I was watching a movie before the accident, which is "Born on the Fourth of July" with Tom Cruise. And in one part of the movie it's basically after the Vietnam War, basically he'd lost both of his legs and there is a scene in the movie where you can see he is in a wheelchair without his legs. I remember me thinking while I was watching that movie, Wow, I wonder what I would do if something like this would happen to me. And the answer was kind of immediate, you know, I would kill myself. I could never bear something like that. In fact, when it finally happened in reality to me, I never even went close to think, what kind of life is expecting me from now on, this is it, now it's over, poor me. I never felt pity for myself. And once again, I don't believe that I really deserve any sort of congratulations for that, because this is, once again, simply genetic. I'm lucky to be that way. I'm lucky my mother made me like that. I'm lucky to be an optimistic guy. But the thinking has to do also with some hidden energies that come out whenever they're needed, because I've seen a lot of other people have the same type of reaction I've had. So that's the final hope that I want to give to anybody listening. I've tried to transfer it, writing my book, "My Sweetest Victory," in a very normal way, but in a very real way, simply what it is, nothing else than what had it been for me.

Q. Did you ever have a discussion with -- you probably said, "I'm going to go back racing," but did she take it seriously right away or did you have a follow-up later on, saying, "I'm going out with my BMW friends and we're putting a car together"?

ALEX ZANARDI: Well, racing, it could be many things. If I would say, "Honey, I want to drive the Indy 500," she probably would have something to say about that. If I would say I want to go and race in Long Beach, she wouldn't be that happy, but if she knew that that's exactly what I want, she would let me do it. If I said, "I'm driving a car with BMW in the WTCC," she's going to say, "Well, Alex, if this is what you want, I'll go with you," because she's been involved in motor racing for a very long time with me. She's always been sort of my manager, and she is a very smart woman and she understands what I'm doing today. Yes, for sure it's more dangerous than playing golf, but it's not the most dangerous thing you can do on earth. There are a lot of things by far more dangerous than I'm doing. Just to give you an example, last year in the Imola race I had a big accident, you know, and the journalists that were there, they literally run towards my wife to ask her reaction after that accident. And the question was, "How did you feel when you saw your husband having that type of accident?" She said, "Well, you know, it's okay. It wasn't that bad." But in reality she didn't know what to say because she was watching Valentino Rossi in the bike race. She wasn't paying attention to me. This is to tell you, if she was doing that, she must have been not that nervous, you know, about me driving the race car.

Q. You're frankly more inspiring off the track than on. Thank you very much.

ALEX ZANARDI: Thank you very much.

Q. A hypothetical question, but probably one that a lot of people are thinking in the back of their heads as they follow the Champ Car World Series. Alex, if the situation presented itself in a favorable way and you thought you could be competitive and you thought it might work out. If somebody in the Champ Car World Series decided to offer you a ride in a Champ Car race, would you jump at it?

ALEX ZANARDI: Well, I think romantically I would want to say yes, but if the answer was really a question, I would have done it already, because technically I believe -- actually, I believe it's easier to do it technically speaking than logistically speaking. The bottom line is that if I'm not driving that type of car, it's not because I don't have legs anymore, but simply because I don't have the right age anymore. Let me explain to you that. I'm 39 years old. I've had my share of success. I've got a lot of fantastic trophies that represent memories for me, things that I'm so proud of. I won two championships, and that of course is fantastic, in the United States. But more than that, I've won races that are so memorable to my mind because, of course, when you you've got the best car and start at pole position. I'm not saying anybody could race, but really when you have the best car and when you come back and win, it's not that easy. So in these few days that I was able to enjoy my career, I was certainly quite a strong element in that race. But that was a period where motoring for me was absolutely the highest thing in my priority list. My race would not start when the flag would be waived. My race would start immediately as soon as the checker flag would be dropped from an event, immediately I would be mentally on to the following event. And I've got to be amble enough, especially with myself to admit that I'm not prepared to race at that level, a 20 races championship, with all the things that go along with it, with all the dedication that goes to prepare the car, and I don't have the energy to do that anymore. I mean, for me, to come and live again in the United States, leave all the things I have here for racing, is intriguing but is not enough for me to do it. So it would be absolutely wrong for me to take that sort of challenge when I know that I would be facing drivers in the best period of their racing career and absolutely as talented as me. So I can't beat them, you know. It is as simple as that. I may be as talented as they are, but I wouldn't be dedicated as much as they are. Once again, I'm 39 years old. I have a beautiful wife, I have a great son, fantastic son, and I want to spend time with him. I want to enjoy my nice house. I want to enjoy my car. I want to enjoy my boat. And more than everything, I don't want to get to the final event of my championship and feel sick of my race car. The championship is just about to finish, the one that I'm doing right now, and I'm still very excited about going to Macau and compete once again. But this is a 10 races championship, BMW is asking me in very literal in terms of public promotion, and more than anything, the shop is based a few miles away from where I live. So I have to go do a seat fitting, if I have to go to my engineers, if I have to go and spend a little bit of time with my boys, because that is also very, very important, to gel correctly with the team, it took me very little effort. So to take those in consideration, what I'm doing today is about the max I can do myself, if I want to do something well. If my desire was just to prove to people that I can still drive a Champ Car and take it around the circuit, yes, I could do it. But if you are a racer, you only race if you know that you can race 100 percent. If I have to compromise, I better stay home and let other drivers do that. Having said all that, there is one part inside me, Alex, that would love to tell you this is my next plan, this is what I'm going to do next, this is what I think I can succeed in doing.

ERIC MAUK: Alex, I know you're a busy man, so we'll let you get back to your many pursuits. Thank you for joining us from Italy today. And again, always a pleasure to talk to you. Let me be the first to invite you back any time we can do anything with you at Champ Car World Series. I would love to talk to you again love to see you again.

ALEX ZANARDI: Thank you for having me and of course I want to thank Champ Car and Bentley Publishers once again for organizing this teleconference. Let me take the opportunity to apologize if I've been -- if I have told too much and I haven't given everybody listening the opportunity to ask their question, but this is me. I can't change myself. Once again, thank you very much to you all and hopefully we'll talk to you soon.

ERIC MAUK: No apologies necessary. Best of luck to you, Alex, and please pass it along to Daniela and Niccolo.



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