On September 15 2001 Alex Zanardi suffered a horrific crash whilst leading the IRL race at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz. The crash occurred while Zanardi was leading the race in the closing laps. After a late pit stop, Zanardi was attempting to merge back onto the track when he accelerated abruptly and spun into the path of Patrick Carpentier. Carpentier was able to avoid him, but Alex Tagliani, who was just behind Carpentier at the time, could not and Zanardi's car was impacted from the side, behind the front wheel, severing the nose of the car.
Zanardi lost both legs (one at and one above the knee) in the impact and nearly three-quarters of his blood volume, though rapid medical intervention saved his life. Further portions of his legs were amputated during three hours of surgery to clean and facilitate closing the wounds. This would be the end of Alex's open-wheel racing career.
In the years since his crash Alex has gone on to become an inspiration and role model for disabled as well as able bodied people alike. After testing both the Target IRL single seater as well as the Williams F1 race car in 2004 Alex took up full time competitive racing driving a specially modified BMW in the FIA European Touring Car Championship.
Alex also took up handcycling and in 2007 he achieved 4th place in the New York City Marathon in the handcycle division and in 2009 he competed at the Para-Cycling Road World Championships.
In September 2011, Zanardi won his first senior international handbiking medal, the silver medal in the H4 Handbike category time trial at the UCI World Road Para-Cycling Championships and will be representing his country in the 2012 Summer Paralympics.
Now BMW have produced a documentary about Zanardi called "Golden Drreams" as he returns to the scene of his horrific crash only this time driving his self powered hand cycle. A truly inspirational story about a man who is one of life's true inspirations.
Below are two stills from Alex's crash at Lausitz and in both you can clearly see what is left of his legs i.e. nothing.
And finally a Nat Geo doco about Alex's accident, cause, treatment and subsequent recovery:-