Alex Zanardi has conducted his first test with BMW Team RLL ahead of his debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona next month.
The 52-year-old Italian, who will share the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE with Jesse Krohn, John Edwards and Chaz Mostert, worked through a “comprehensive” development program at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday.
Zanardi will drive the GTLM-class M8 using a specially modified steering wheel fitted with a ring for controlling acceleration, along with a hand-operated lever that enables the two-time CART champion, who is a double-amputee, to brake.
The Saturday test included a continuation of the driver change practice that Zanardi carried out last month during his first run in the BMW at Miramas.
He will need to insert his tailored steering wheel each time he gets into the cockpit when swapping with one of his non-disabled co-drivers.
Like the Miramas test, Zanardi’s run at Daytona was affected by wet weather conditions, although he described the experience as “extremely positive”.
“During the long day of testing we faced quite a few challenges,” said Zanardi, who shared seat time with Edwards.
“There was the rain, I had to learn the car, I had to learn the circuit, and then again had to learn the circuit in the dry because I did not run with slicks until I went out in the dark in the evening.”
“Of course it was difficult to negotiate all the braking points and all the different lines in the dark and the last thing I wanted to do was to make mistake and to damage the car.”
Zanardi said he felt “very welcomed” by Team RLL and was “impressed” by the scale of the Daytona facility.
His only previous race at Daytona was on the full oval course in the 1997 International Race of Champions, while he has yet to compete on the 3.8-mile infield layout used by the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“Overall I am extremely satisfied with the outcome, with what I have personally learned,” he said.
“I think all that we did was very useful, we were able to complete the programme and bring home a lot of useful information.
“So, all in all, it was a very positive day for me, the team and BMW M Motorsport – and we will progress from it.”
BMW also gave seat time to Connor de Phillippi, Tom Blomqvist and Colton Herta, who will share the sister No. 25 RLL car with Phillipp Eng in the Rolex 24.