Former Williams and Lotus F1 racer Alex Zanardi has revealed his plans for the 2011 season. The Italian has a number of races planned for the coming year, but they won’t be at the wheel of a car.

Instead Zanardi will compete in the World and European handbike championships as he seeks to win a place on the Italian team for the 2012 Paralympics in London. Having lost both of his legs in a horrific accident nearly ten years ago Zanardi has dovetailed his motor racing commitments with handbike events in recent years, and now has his eye on the sport’s ultimate prize.

Photo: alex-zanardi.com

After infrequent appearances with Lotus, Minardi and Jordan in the early nineties the Italian endured a torrid season with Williams in 1999, failing to score a single point and ultimately departing the team at the campaign’s conclusion.

But he remains highly respected in the racing world for his achievements in American open-wheel competition. He was CART champion in 1997 and 1998 and is recognised as one of the series’ all-time greats.

Following his F1 nightmare Zanardi returned to American open-wheel only to suffer a life threatening crash at German oval the Lausitzring in 2001, losing both of his legs in the process.

Miraculously he recovered sufficiently to return to racing, competing in a specially modified BMW in the World Touring Car Championship between 2006 and 2009. He scored four race wins with the first of them, rather fittingly, coming in Germany.

During this time Zanardi also became involved in handbikes, his racing prowess proving transferable to the new discipline. After tasting success in a number of events the Bologna native revealed his goal of competing at the 2012 Paralympics in London last year.

Photo: alex-zanardi.com

“This is my new sport passion and it needs much more training than motor-racing,” Zanardi said in a post on his personal website today.

“This year is going to be very important to reach London 2012: results achieved in this season will be crucial and at the beginning of May I will have the first World Cup race in Australia.

“In September the World Championship will be held in Denmark. Up there I will eventually understand if it makes sense for me to keep on racing at this level or if handbike has to remain for me a good hobby and a good way of keeping fit for a new motor-racing commitment.

“On March 20th I will be at Rome’s marathon then on 27th in Treviso. Afterwards, on April 10th, I’m in Milan then on the 17th in Paua and then… I will let you know.”

We at Badger hope you’ll join us in wishing this remarkable competitor all the best in his pursuit of Olympic gold.