Ex-F1 driver Alex Zanardi has set a new world record for a disabled athlete en route to fifth place overall at the Ironman Italy Emilia-Romagna.
The multiple Paralympic & world champion competed against a 2700-strong field consisting mostly of able-bodied athletes and completed the Ironman in a time of 08:26.06, smashing his own world record by over half-an-hour.
His previous record, a time of 08:58.59, was set in Barcelona last year and was the first time a disabled athlete had beaten the nine-hour mark.
The feat consisted of a 3.8 kilometre swim in the Mediterranean, 180 kilometres of cycling with his handbike and a 42.2 kilometre marathon distance in his race wheelchair.
“The new world record and fifth place overall – that was just fantastic,” said Zanardi.
“The secret of success in an endurance triathlon is learning to divide your energy up. Surrounded by nearly 3,000 other athletes, you have to do your own thing, concentrate on your own plan from the start to the finish and stick to every detail.
“I have also made some improvements to my equipment. I have a new swimsuit and needed less than an hour. 58 minutes was much better than I had expected.
“I have developed a new seating position for my handbike, designed purely for speed, and I have also improved my technique in the race wheelchair. This all added up and led to this success.
Two-time CART champion Zanardi continues to show no signs of reducing his schedule, and the BMW-affiliated man added that he will be turning his attention to motor racing: “But now I am concentrating totally on motor racing again. It is a great privilege in my life being able to switch back and forth between disciplines.”
A few weeks ago, Zanardi competed as a guest driver in the DTM series at Misano, where he took advantage of the changeable weather conditions to take a remarkable fifth-place finish for BMW in a car modified for his disabilities.