Reviews, December 2004

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Alex Zanardi: My Story

with Gianluca Gasparini ISBN184 425108 X Published by Haynes, €18.99

A special man with a special story to tell — and he does so with panache. Even up to his final Champ Car season of 2001, Alex Zanardi’s autobiography offers a great tale of motor racing in the 1990s, including major highs and depressing lows. Then he lost his legs in that horror crash at the Lausitzring. That impact and his account of what came after has given Zanardi’s story a context that transcends his sport.

He was always a popular figure in racing, and the energy and humour that drew people to him jumps off the page. But it does take a little while to tune yourself into his style. Correct grammar was clearly not the highest priority for the English translation from his native Italian and at times sentence and paragraph structures confuse, but it would be churlish to criticise. The work is a success because it accurately captures Zanardi’s ‘voice’, which soon begins to work its charm.

His childhood in Castel Maggiore is recounted with an easy warmth — until he abruptly reveals the death of his sister Cristina in a road crash when she was just 15. His bluntness only adds to the work’s heart-on-its-sleeve honesty.

The story of his early forays into karting, his development into a winner and the move into cars is told with great humour. The long slog through Formula Three, then the instant success in Formula 3000 are interesting, but it’s his first dalliance with Formula One that truly grips: dealings with Eddie Jordan, Flavio Briatore and Peter Collins make for almost painful reading.

But at least it meant Zanardi was streetwise by the time he met Chip Ganassi. His back-to-back Indycar titles made him a superstar and those years provide some of his happiest memories. His return to F1 with Williams in 1999 certainly doesn’t, and it is a noticeably short chapter.

Then it was back to CART — and finally the pages dealing with the crash, his recovery and the return to Lausitz to get back in an Indycar. These pages are utterly absorbing and extremely moving, yet lightened with touches of that incredible humour. What a legend. DS

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