Few autobiographies about former F1 and CART stars would raise as much interest as Alessandro Zanardi’s.
How a man who has achieved so much success Stateside could be unable to mirror the same results in F1 is a mystery that has boggled many fans and pundits alike.
To top it all off, he would suffer one of the greatest tragedies to befall a racing driver – the double amputation of his legs following a racing crash in 2001 – yet it is from this that he has emerged a stronger man with a fascinating lesson to share with us all.
My Story is Zanardi’s own account that traces his early years as a restless child in Bologna’s Castel Maggiore, the tragic death of his older sister, and his passage into entry-level motorsport. The highs and lows of his passage through the ranks are outlined in excellent detail, until he achieved the pinnacle of a Formula 1 debut with Jordan in 1991.
Four part-seasons in F1 neither satisfied his desire nor rewarded his talent, and he crossed the pond to the United States in 1996 and raced in CART, winning the Rookie of the Year honours, and then back-to-back titles in 1997-8.
He was now hot property and was in huge demand everywhere, signing to return to F1 with Williams in 1999. Dramatically, the project failed to gel, and the frank Zanardi will acknowledge that he was as much to blame for its failure as the Williams team was in squandering the talented driver it had at his disposal.
Shown the door after a single, miserable year at Grove, he took a sabbatical and returned to Champ Cars with Morris Nunn’s newly-formed team. After a frustrating season, he finally looked set to return to the winner’s circle at the Lausitzring, and then we all know what happened…
Yet rather than wallow in the self-pity that cane become the crutch of many accident survivors, Zanardi’s innate optimism shone through and he has stunned everyone with his impressive recovery, returning to a successful career in the European and World Touring Car Championships in modified a BMW 320i.
A staunch campaigner for better treatment and access to resources for accident survivors, Zanardi’s next goal is to conquer the London 2012 Paralympics wheelchair marathon, a feat which he will no doubt achieve.
With the assistance of Gazzetta dello Sport’s Gianluca Gasparini, Zanardi offers a frank, honest and humorous portrayal of his rise through the motorsport ranks. The writing style is surprisingly self-deprecating and seemingly devoid of the self-importance that often blinds autobiographies of sports’ stars. He is quick to acknowledge and repeatedly thank his incredible circle of friends – many of whom he has had since his teens – and that of his wife, Daniela (herself an accomplished motorsport competitor and manager).
As far as autobiographies go, this is one of the best I have ever read – a truly interesting, funny, yet incredibly poignant account of his life. It us compelling, moving, and I was absorbed from start to finish.
If you find yourself feeling brow-beaten and frustrated with (frankly) incidental circumstances, refresh your thinking with a few pages of Zanardi’s writing, and you will quickly come to appreciate that many an obstacle can be overcome, no matter how insurmountable they may appear.
Using our unique ‘Chequered Flags’ rating system, we award My Story…
OUT OF A POSSIBLE FIVE.
My Story (Hardcover, © 2004 Haynes Group, ISBN 184425108X) is available at Melbourne Sports Books.