June 23, 2006

Today In Automotive History

1996 Zanardi wins first CART Indy race

Alessandro Zanardi, former Formula One driver, won his first CART Indy car race in Portland, Oregon, in his Reynard-Honda. Zanardi made a name for himself in his native Italy by winning the Kart racing championship in 1985 and 1986, followed by the European Karting championship in 1987. His performance earned him a spot on the Alfa Romeo Formula Three team. Zanardi performed well in F3 competition, finishing second to Christian Fittipaldi for two consecutive seasons. His strong finishes attracted the attention of a handful of Formula One teams. But Alessandro's successful run stalled during his three races with F1 Minardi, and failed to improve the following season in an underpowered Lotus car. His slow decline scared teams off from the driver many once thought to be the sport's next superstar. Zanardi left European racing and took up Indy car racing. His driving style immediately gelled with the high-speed ovals. Zanardi suffered a high number of crashes in his first two years on the CART circuit, but he had his fair share of spectacular results also, earning himself Rookie of the Year honors. After a successful campaign in 1997, Zanardi blew away the rest of the Indy car field in 1998, winning seven races and taking the points championship. Having regained his confidence and eager to take on a new challenge, Zanardi returns to F1 racing with the Williams team in 1999. Now a seasoned veteran, it will be interesting to see what Zanardi, once highly touted for his passing ability, will be able to accomplish for Williams.

Posted by Quality Weenie at June 23, 2006 07:00 AM | TrackBack