Home Automotive Reference Engineering and Motorsports Alex Zanardi - My Sweetest Victory


Two-time Champ Car World Series champion Alex Zanardi knows a thing or two about victory, having won in nearly every level of auto racing that he has competed in from his first karts to the turbocharged 750hp Champ Cars.

So to have the Italian title his autobiography My Sweetest Victory in reference to his comeback from a horrible accident in Germany that cost him both of his lower legs speaks volumes about where the priorities of one of the world's great race-car drivers lie.

The new book, published in America by Bentley Publishers and co-written by Gianluca Gasparini, is every bit as engaging in print as the affable Zanardi is in real life ? and is often as frank and earnest. Zanardi takes the reader on a journey through his childhood where he and his father first started dabbling in go-karts , and tells many chuckle-inducing stories about how he first made his name in the local karting circles not with his pure speed, but with his propensity for putting whatever stickers he could find on his karts.

Those stickers helped Zanardi get his first sponsorship deal, which leads to one of the more memorable stories of the early chapters. Turns out Zanardi's sponsor/tire manufacturer gave the young prodigy a set of tires at a race that proved to have performed much better than anything he had gotten from the manufacturer to that point. But when Zanardi went back to his patron to tell him that he had gotten the tire recipe right, he was told that only nine sets could ever be made like that again ? since the manufacturer had accidentally cut part of his finger off during the making of the tire and the dismembered digit wound up in the tire!

Zanardi is brutally honest about all parts of his racing career, periodically admitting mistakes that he made in his rise to stardom, and refusing to pull any punches against those that he feels wronged him along the way. Fans of certain Champ Car drivers will be less-than-pleased with Zanardi's assessment of their talents while the Italian sheds brilliant light on the off-track personalities of drivers like Greg Moore, Jimmy Vasser and Tony Kanaan.

Without making it blatantly obvious to the reader, Zanardi weaves the subplot of the love of his life, Daniella, into the fabric of the book. From the time the two met in the early stages of Alex's career, their paths became undeniably intertwined, resulting in the relationship that shapes both of their lives every day.

As one would expect, the latter third of the book deals with the terrible accident in EuroSpeedway Lausitz that forever altered the destiny of the hard-charging Zanardi. He points no fingers at anyone for the accident and is lavish in his praise for the Champ Car Safety Team, the emergency doctors on site that got him to Berlin and saved his life, and the doctors in Berlin that helped get him back on his feet.

He is graphic in his explanations and provides the reader with an inside look at what he went through in not only getting out of his bed after the accident, but getting upright and then getting back into the mainstream of life. The inimitable Zanardi spirit displayed behind the wheel comes through in every chapter of the book, and the fans that cheered him to unlikely victories like those at Laguna Seca in 1996 or in Cleveland in the rain, will be equally charged to read of each individual triumph that led to him climbing back in a race car.

His momentous return to the Champ Car scene in 2003 is recreated in great detail, with Zanardi talking about how the entire project came to fruition, including the discovery he made while playing with a relative's kart that likely saved the entire project. He admits to having concerns about making his return to the track in a hand-controlled Champ Car, but also describes nearly every facet of the weekend including his feelings upon seeing all of his long-time friends in the Champ Car community again.

The book also gives readers an unexpected bonus as he describes some of his most recent racing successes, as he returned to racing this season in a European Touring Car series in a hand-controlled BMW. He takes his fans back to the track again, starting with the season opener in which some of his old friends made a surprise trip to see him make this new sojourn into his racing career.

Racing does not consume Zanardi's life, nor does it consume his book, as he regales his readers of stories of his childhood friends, as well as tales of mischief when those friends got together later in life. He also tells of the boundless joy that his son Niccolo and his family bring to his life, a joy that played a major role in sparking his remarkable comeback not only to racing, but to the everyday mainstream of life.

The book gives readers a valuable look at the character of a man that survived a terrible accident, although one gets the impression that Zanardi would provide inspiration to many even if he had never spun onto the track at EuroSpeedway Lausitz. Fans of Champ Car racing, Alex Zanardi or of athletes in general will doubtless enjoy the book, but the book is not just for racing fans.

Alex Zanardi: My Sweetest Victory is a great read for anyone who believes in the strength of the human spirit, or those that need a gentle reminder that anything and everything can be overcome with the right mixture of attitude and effort. The book is available now at bookstores and can also be ordered at www.bentleypublishers.com.

Read this review at http://www.champcarworldseries.com/News/Article.asp?ID=8573