Alex Zanardi has reacted with some surprise to stories circulating that he has hung up his racing helmet following the end of the 2009 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) campaign – insisting that he is 'still too young and strong' to call it a day just yet.
The popular Italian finished twelfth in the final 2009 WTCC standings, with a clear highlight of victory at Brno in the Czech Republic mid-season – but no further podium finishes throughout, and far too many failures to score at all for his liking.
That allegedly prompted the BMW Team Italy-Spain star to announce his 'retirement' from competition after the Macau finale just over a week ago – but whilst he acknowledges that he is unlikely to be seen in the WTCC again, Zanardi is adamant that he hopes to carry on racing in one form or another.
“Like probably some of you did, I have also read the news of my 'retirement' from the WTCC which has appeared, at various times, on news channels,” the 43-year-old – who lost both of his legs in a terrifying CART accident at the Eurospeedway Lausitz in 2001 – wrote on his personal website. “I feel that a more precise explanation is needed, since the perception from the reported news misrepresents, in my opinion, not only my real thoughts but also the way things happened.
“I have been racing in the WTCC since 2005 as part of a prestigious programme organised by BMW Italy and, despite being certain of giving a lot to the series in terms of communication and media exposure due to a popularity that goes beyond what I have achieved as a sportsman, I recognise that I have also had a lot in return from the series and have found in it the ideal ground to win, with hard work, new challenges.
“The extremely high level of competitiveness, the value of the opponents that I challenged, the beauty of the race tracks we battled on and the difficult task of combining all this with my personal problems make my victories in the WTCC some of the best results I achieved in my career.
“This is the reason why I would be happy to keep on racing in a category that for a driver can be rightly considered as an end point and not necessarily a transition point, but probably – nothing is decided yet – strategic choices of BMW Italy will not allow me to do so.
“I answered a precise question from a journalist in Macau that it's 99 per cent [certain] I will not be racing in the WTCC in 2010. This does not mean announcing my retirement at all, but instead giving an honest answer to a precise question that, avoiding rhetoric, implies a bit of regret for what this will involve.
“I do not know what I am going to do next year. What is certain is that I see myself as still too 'young' and strong to hang up my racing helmet. On the contrary, I hope I can find together with BMW the way to keep challenging, even more directly and without excuses, the strongest opponents – even if this will mean risking getting a good beating... I could not ask for anything better!”