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Soup of This Day #71: A Car Crash In The Blue

September 20, 2011

Alex Zarnardi at Brands Hatch in 2008
Alex Zarnardi at Brands Hatch in a BMW 320si WTCC car – Photo: Kevin Bowman, 2008. Kevin Bowman is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

This post is a dystopic mix of a live blog from Sunday night’s Spurs vs Liverpool game and a review of motorsport.

Partly because I can and partly because both sides of the post involve a car crash. The Liverpudlian 1 is metaphorical though.

Liverpool kicking off against Spurs at White Hart Lane. Both sides have stumbled of late, Liverpool going down to Stoke 1-0 while Spurs conceded 5 against Man City. Liverpool have started sans faithful Labrador Dirk Kuyt and have gone with Andy Carroll up front. Interesting. By which I mean, I don’t think it’s a good move.

Alex Zarnardi was born in 1966 in Bologna, Italy. By the age of 13 he was racing karts and by 24 he was racing F1. Talented, he was always thereabouts but luck seemed to hold him back. A serious accident in 1993 put a halt on his career and when he returned in 94 it was to bear immediate witness to the dissolution of the Lotus outfit.

His F1 career temporarily derailed and after a year mucking around in racing purgatory, Zarnardi headed across to the US where Chip Ganassi gave him a drive in a Champ car. Thought unreliable and prone to making mistakes Zarnardi made the lie of this Italian racer stereotype by winning the CART series in 1997 and 1998. His reward was a return to F1 via a 3 year deal with Williams.

Liverpool a goal down early. Modric on 7 mins with a beauty from 25 yards that curled into the top corner. Bugger.

It wasn’t meant to work out though. Zarnardi was frequently outperformed by his teammate, a cardinal sin in motorsport’s cutthroat premier category. He was axed before the 2000 season began. In 2001 Mo Nunn signed him up for CART once more and he was back in a Champ car. It was a season, mostly of struggle. By Round 15 of 20 he was well down the ranks, finishing no better than 20th for 8 races.

For Round 15, held at EuroSpeedway Lausitz, Germany, though nobody would be talking about Alex Zarnardi’s problems. It was September 15th, 2001 and at the 1st CART race to be held in Europe, everyone was reeling from the events in New York 4 days earlier. There had been some thought to cancelling the race but the organisers went ahead with it, renaming it the 2001 American Memorial and donating $500,000, the equivalent prize money, to the WTC Relief Fund. There was a pause before the race and most participants probably reasoned that carrying on was their personal stand. Still, minds would have been across the Atlantic.

This looks ominous. Liverpool being ripped asunder here. Freaking miracle it’s only 1-0.

Maybe Zarnardi’s was too. Leading the race late, he exited the pit lane with a fraction over 12 laps to go and lost control when he appeared to get on the throttle early. His car spun and Alex Tagliani could not avoid him, spearing into the side of Zarnardi’s machine and shearing off the front portion from behind the wheels to the nose.

Danny Agger off injured. Sebastien Coates makes his debut for the Reds. Leave your Coates on. It’s warmer.

I was watching the race live at the time and like a lot of motorsport fans don’t mind a crash or 2, as long as nobody gets hurt. This time though, anyone who saw that crash knew that Zarnardi was hurt bad. I couldn’t watch the replays and the commentator sounded sick to his stomach.

Liverpool down to 10 men. Charlie Adam got a 2nd yellow for a tackle that, while not malicious, was late and ill-advised. Not really ambiguous, that.

Zarnardi lost both legs from at least the knees. He also lost 3/4 of his blood. Only prompt medical attention kept him alive long enough to get to hospital in Berlin. There he lost more of his legs but got to keep his life. Woken from a coma after 3 days Zaranardi contacted Tagliani while still in hospital to let him know that it wasn’t Tag’s fault.

It’s now 10 years later and Zarnardi is this bitter, broken guy sitting quietly in the corner right?

Hell no.

HT: Spurs 1, Liverpool 0. Liverpool, down to 10 men, are going to need a reversal of form to get anything out of this match. They have been comprehensively outplayed and that was before they lost midfielder Charlie Adam.

Alex Zarnardi returned to motorsport. The dude got prosthetic limbs made and when they didn’t quite allow him to drive the way he wanted he designed bespoke jobs that did. He subsequently drove touring Cars professionally, competing in the World Touring Car Championships from 2004-2009, 3 times winning races. In 2006 he got into a modified F1 car for a BMW Sauber testing session.

Liverpool now down to 9 men. Martin Skrtel sent off for being an idiot. There’s probably a more technical reason but even the normally sober BBC have described his actions as ‘braindead’.

Australian MotoGP rider Casey Stoner has less to overcome than Alex Zarnardi. Last year he was wiped out by a mystery illness that turned out to be lactose intolerance. This year he’s presumably on the soy milk and is in pole position to capture the 2011 title. This weekend just gone he took his 8th win extending his lead to 44 points with 4 rounds remaining. A crucial decision awaits him. Or at least his family. The 2nd last round is in Japan and Stoner and championship rival Lorenzo have previously said they will not attend due to safety concerns with the Motegi circuit being within 100 miles of the Fukushima nuclear plant. Lorenzo has since announced he’ll race the event while Stoner has said he will only compete if his family are ok with it.

It turns out that removing the extra 2 men has created much more space on a crowded pitch. Sadly only Spurs seem to have the manpower to take advantage. They’ve scored twice in the time it’s taken me to brush my teeth. My teeth do feel clean even if Liverpool are now down 3-0.

In other Australian motorsport news veteran Holden legends Mark Skaife and Craig Lowndes have teamed up to win the L&H 500 at Phillip Island. The V8 Supercar race serves as a prelude to the big 1: The Bathurst 1000. Held in October, the race is an endurance test around the iconic Mount Panorama circuit. Skaife and Lowndes are the defending champions on the Mountain and both have serious pedigree on it’s slopes, Skaife having won it 6 times and Lowndes 5 times. Interestingly, this year the biggest race in Australian motorsport will be broadcast on the Speed channel in the US, introducing a new market to the 6.2km undulating circuit and its resident kangaroos.

Tim Wakefield up against the Rays tomorrow morning and that last Spurs goal had Liverpool stopper Pepe Reina handling a Jermain Defoe shot like it was a knuckleball from the 45 year old Wake. If it’s high let it by, if it’s low let it go and if it’s on target apparently you fumble it out to Emmanuel Adebayor to crash home.

Craig Lowndes was the 1993 Australian Formula Ford champion before he went on to Bathurst glory. 7 years later another Aussie driver got his start in the same series. Will Power has a name for racing, possible even better than that of American Scott Speed. F1 pilot Speed’s name would have edged it if he’d had more… well… speed and had actually won stuff in F1. Will Power on the other hand has lots of… well… power and the lad is 11 points clear with 3 races remaining in the 2011 IndyCar Series. Will spent 2005-2007 in a Champ car as part of the CART series. In 2008 he moved to IndyCar when the two rival series merged.

Liverpool have lost their previous 3 trips to White Hart Lane by 2-1. At least they haven’t repeated that – They’re now 4 down without reply. Unless you count getting 2 men sent off as a reply, which it is of sorts.

Alex Zarnardi won’t be competing with Will Power in Champ cars though. In 2009 he retired from the World Touring Car Championship and he’s since focused on a goal outside of motorsport. In 2007 he was 4th in the New York Marathon driving a hand-cycle. In 2009 he won the Venice Marathon and then in 2010 the Rome edition. He’s now stated his desire to compete for Italy in the 2012 Paralympics.

Since Kenny Dalglish returned to manage Liverpool in February of this year no Liverpool player had been sent off. Until today. Perhaps a sign of a lack of steel? Although 2 in 1 game is probably overkill.

It’s over with a 4-0 win to Spurs. Liverpool dreadful.

My favourite Alex Zarnardi moment of all came in 2003, a scant couple of years after the accident that robbed him of his legs: Zarnardi got into a Champ car and finished the 13 laps at the EuroSpeedway that he missed out on in 2001. He did so at an average 310kmph (193mph). Had he been officially qualifying for that weekend’s CART race at EuroSpeedway Lausitz he’d have started 5th on the grid.

That’s some drive.

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