Words and Photos by Atif Kazmi for Por Homme
This past weekend marked the 57th running of the IMSA Rolex 24 at Daytona. With the honors that come with winning here, emotions are always high. And not just for the drivers but their teams as well. Whether you’re in the cockpit or an integral part of the pit crew, this is a race everyone’s looking forward to. For BMW Motorsport, tensions were even higher given the team was still healing from the sudden death of long-term Schnitzer team principal Charly Lamm while also prepping for the introduction of former ChampCar champion Alessandro Zanardi to the team’s #24 car.
Zanardi, 52, lost both his legs in a crash in 2001 and was working with a specially adapted steering wheel for the Rolex 24. We were in Daytona to witness his return and got the opportunity to speak with Alex about overcoming the challenges he’s had to face head on. “You become more flexible than you would otherwise,” Zanardi explained. “We all have the talent to do that but most of these talents remain very primitive whereas I had to develop that. For me, I step into the car, drive a few laps, and I normally get ninety-five percent out of what I could. But that final five percent; I don’t know whether it’s going to come along the distance of the race — I hope — but for sure, I will be a much faster driver at the end of this event than I am at the moment.”
Though Zanardi’s first driver change into the #24 car had a few hiccups related to the mounting of his steering wheel, his time on the track was swift and tactical. There’s no doubt the Italian driver would have faired much better had those initial issues not delayed the car and pushed them to the back. We were in the pits to witness his second change into the car around 1am Sunday and needless to say, it was a lot smoother than the first go round.
Rain played such a crucial part in this year’s race which ultimately halted the race on two separate occasions. The first was around 7am Sunday morning and the other happening around noon with just over two hours left in the race.
When the race was suspended due to heavy rain for the second time, the #25 BMW M8 GTE and drivers Connor De Phillippi (USA), Augusto Farfus (BRA), Philipp Eng (AUT) and Colton Herta (USA) were leading the GTLM class. And with the race not able to start, the BMW drivers celebrated victory, the first time since winning at Daytona back in 1976 with the BMW 3.0 CSL.
BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt spoke after the race about how much Alessandro Zanardi’s return electrified the weekend. And he also touched on the passing of Charly Lamm. “We would like to dedicate this success to Charly Lamm. He would have wanted us to fight to the final lap here. We did that – and won it for him.” Both the #24 and #25 cars were given additional livery elements to pay their respects, including text at the rear that read, “Godspeed, Charly”.
Check out more of our visuals from the weekend in the gallery above and look for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to continue onto Sebring mid-March.