Alex Zanardi survived the 'big one' in 2001, when he crashed at the Lausitzring in Germany, just days following the tragic events of 9/11. The Italian, who won the CART championship in 1997 and 1998, has never given up though despite losing both his legs, and he is now back racing, competing competitively in the European Touring Car Championship.

While in London last week, promoting his autobiography, Alex Zanardi - My Story, obtained permission to published some excerpts from his book, and what follows is the first of three that will be appearing on over the next few weeks. What better place to start, that with that fateful day on September 15. Over to you Alex...

"How many people everyday are victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? I'd raced my whole life, and the accident happened during what was probably going to be my last season. Was it destiny? Who knows? It happened and I move on with what I have left, and I'm just happy to be here able to tell this story.

"[Alex] Tagliani tried to avoid me, but he had very little choice. He could have gone around to the right and passed me from the outside, but he would've probably hit my engine or crashed against the wall, which one's survival instinct prevents. The second option was to pass on my left on the inside of the turn. Had we been very, very lucky, we could have hit the sides of the cars, which would have made a lot of noise but would not have hurt anybody. Unfortunately, I did my stupid pirouette and kept spinning until Tagliani was faced with hitting my car in the side at 320kmh.

"This meant I was struck at the most vulnerable part of my car by the nose of his, which is one of the most robust and pointed parts of the vehicle. I was hit between the front wheel and the middle of the car where the only protection for my legs was the bodywork. No matter how well designed, the bodywork couldn't resist such an enormous impact.

"It happened in an instant. Part of the car stayed with me, and the other part left, with parts of me in it. I can't remember anything and don't know if I realised what was happening to me. While re-watching the images from the crash I can see, I tried to do what most drivers do after a minor accident: open the visor and take off my seatbelt. For a few seconds, the accident didn't seem that bad. If the car hadn't split in two, I would have had to have absorbed all the energy from the impact. Instead, the front end of the car took the impact and I hardly felt a thing - my helmet didn't even have a dent. I must have realised something though when I looked in front of me and saw no front to the car - and no legs..."

Extract taken from Alex Zanardi - My Story courtesy of Haynes Publishing. Copyright: Alex Zanardi and Gianluca Gasparini 2004.

Alex Zanardi - My Story is available in all good book stores now, priced ?18.99. Alex's autobiography will also be available in the shop, in the book section, from tomorrow [Wednesday, October 20th].