NUERBURG, GERMANY (NOVEMBER 08, 2012) (REUTERS) - Some two months after winning two gold and one silver medal at the LondonParalympics, two-time CART racing champion and former Formula One driver Alex Zanardi sought a new challenge on Germany's Nuerburgring race track on Thursday (November 08) when he tested a BMW M3 DTM.Zanardi won the CART racing titles in the USA in 1997 and 1998. But he lost his legs, and nearly died, in a horrific crash in 2001 when he lost control of his car out of the pitlane and was hit at high speed by another competitor at Germany's Lausitz track.
Canadian driver Alex Tagliani ran into him at more than 350 kph (220 mph).
Three years later in 2004 he was back on track, racing a BMW car in the European, later World, Touring Car series, achieving his first win in 2005, and following it with three others before his retirement from the series.
He turned to racing hand-powered cycles for rehabilitation and soon found a fresh challenge culminating in his Paralympic success.
BMW invited him to test its German Touring Car series (DTM) title-winning car. Winning the DTM series in 2010 helped launch the Formula One career of Paul di Resta in recent years.
According to BMW, Zanardi and BMW Motorsport engineers evaluated the possibility of him driving the car safely.
"As a result of these discussions and tests on the car, the decision was made to start organising this drive," BMW said in a statement.
According to the German automaker, Zanardi is "the first leg amputee to drive a DTM car."
The Italian is testing the DTM car for the experience but there is a possibility he could race it next season if successful.
Recalling the lead-up to the Games in London, Zanardi told reporters at the Nuerburgring race track that "people stop me on the street, they don't know much about Paralympics sports and they say, 'I know, you are going to London and win everything,' just because I'm Alex Zanardi."
"But.. to a certain degree I take this with a lot of pride but I also know that it's not that simple. It wouldn't have been that exciting for me if it was easy to do."