Alex Zanardi has completed a two-day test at Vallelunga ahead of his guest DTM appearance at Misano later this month.
Zanardi, 51, will race a modified BMW M4 DTM as part of his journey to competing in next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in the GTLM category.
The Vallelunga session introduced the two-time CART champion, who is a double amputee, to a new hand-braking system that he will use to slow the car instead of a prosthetic leg.
“The test was great; all went really well and we are heading in the right direction,” said Zanardi, who completed 294 laps over the two days.
“A lot is new, but I am coming to terms with it lap by lap. Thanks a lot to BMW – we’re getting ready for Misano.
“The progress from the previous system to the current one is massive. It would be far more strenuous if I were to continue to brake with my prosthesis as I have done up to now.”
Zanardi explained that it took some time to adapt to the new braking technique, which was introduced after the prosthetic method started causing problems.
The foot-braking system made him sweat more under his prosthetic attachment, increasing fatigue and reducing his sense of the correct braking pressure.
“I admit that it felt very strange to have a completely empty footwell with no pedal box in front of me the first time I pulled out of the garage,” said Zanardi.
“I thought: ‘That’s strange!’ But I have to say, the whole system worked very intuitively for me. I am getting along excellently with it.
“Driving a race car like the BMW M4 DTM is physically very demanding. For me, it would be far more strenuous if I were to continue to brake with my prosthesis as I have done up to now.”
Other adjustments to the conventional BMW DTM car include a centrifugal clutch, a downshift paddle placed on the new hand brake lever, and a ring on the steering wheel for managing the throttle.
Zanardi, who lost his legs in a 2001 CART accident, has tested DTM machinery in the past but has yet to compete in the German championship.
He previously turned laps of the Nurburgring with a modified BMW M3 DTM in 2012, using his prosthetic right leg for braking.