Alex Zanardi, a two-time CART Series champion who became an elite Paralympian after the loss of his legs in a racing crash, was seriously injured Friday after a handbike accident in his native Italy.
Zanardi, 53, was competing in a national race for Paralympic athletes when he crashed near the town of Pienza, according to the Associated Press. Those reports said that Zanardi’s bike collided with a truck, and that he had been airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he underwent what medical officials called “a delicate neurosurgery operation.”
Zanardi, who briefly competed in Formula One, claimed two championships for longtime IndyCar and NASCAR team owner Chip Ganassi. All 15 of his victories in the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) series for Indianapolis-type cars came in Ganassi entries.
Zanardi was competing at EuroSpeedway Lausitz in Germany in 2001 when a crash left him critically injured. He lost both legs in the wreck — his right at the knee and his left four to five inches higher at the thigh. Zanardi later wore prosthetic limbs of his own design.
After multiple surgeries and rigorous recovery, Zanardi returned to driving in sports-car series primarily in Europe. In 2019, he returned to America for to drive a BMW in IMSA’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, finishing ninth in the GT Le Mans class.