Multiple World Touring Car Championship title winner Andy Priaulx has paid tribute to fellow BMW driver Alex Zanardi after the Italian revealed he is unlikely to be on the grid next season.
While he insists he isn't looking to retire from racing, Zanardi has said he is '99 per cent' sure he won't be in the WTCC next year – with BMW expected to downsize its works involvement for the 2010 campaign.
The Italian has been a fixture on the grid since 2005 having battled back from the injuries he sustained during a Champ Car race in Germany back in 2001 – using hand controls in his car after losing his legs in the accident that almost cost him his life.
Zanardi has picked up four victories during his time in the series, the first of which came at Oschersleben back in 2005 when he was joined on the podium by Priaulx who admitted he would be sad to see the former F1 ace move on.
"The word legend is often used in motor racing circles but I believe few can truly be called this,” he told The Sun
. “However, the one person who is top of my list of true legends is Alex Zanardi. I cannot imagine what strength of character you would need to go through what he suffered. When I complain I am working too hard or feel tired, I just have to think of the everyday challenges that face Alex to make me realise how lucky I am.
“I have had some emotional moments but I don't think any can match standing next to him on the podium in Oschersleben when he won his first touring car race. It was a privilege and an honour to be alongside him. I don't think there was a dry eye at the track.
“Our sport will be the poorer without him. I am very sad to think he will not be there racing alongside the rest of us. I suppose all good things have to come to an end. But this is truly the end of a magic era. All I hope is that Alex will still find a place in motor racing. I have a feeling his competitive nature will not keep him totally away from the sport he loves and the people who admire him so much."