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Editorial | Alex Zanardi: a friendship that goes a long way back

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ALEX ZANARDI A FRIENDSHIP THAT GOES A LONG WAY BACK

14 January 2017

Here is a passage from the letter that Alex Zanardi wrote after the launch of the chassis line named after him. Here we find out how the former driver met Chiesa Corse owners Otello and Dino Chiesa, who years after this fateful encounter brought his name back to karting.

“... We’d found out that there was going to be a national race event that weekend in Jesolo and we felt the times were ripe to attempt an “away match”. Actually, it was my father - our improvised team’s manager, one and only mechanic, test driver, timing counselor, you name it - who decided we could make it [...]
We started to do laps, the track was fantastic. At first, the “locals” were spanking us, but by the end of the day the times my mates and I were setting had become quite competitive.

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The next day, when we showed up at the technical inspections, I remember our puzzled looks when the commissioner inquired about our spare engine: “What? It’s allowed?”- I asked, mustering laughs among the drivers waiting in line behind us for their turn.
A nice older man turned to us, offering his respectful and compassionate remarks: “Well, you know, you might need it”. From the looks of it, he was the tuner of the group of kids standing behind us. They must’ve found the whole exchange very funny, because they were laughing and exchanging jokes [...].
A couple of hours later, during the last free practice sessions before the qualifyings, my only engine seized up on me. I was sitting there feeling helpless, looking at my suddenly useless speed-machine, when that same gentleman who’d talked to us at inspections came up and said: “You seized, huh?! Told you that having a spare engine helps!” Then he turned to my father and added: “anyways, we can take a look at it if you’d like. The kid’s strong; it’d be a shame to have him sit the race out”. My father reached out his hand full of hope and the gentleman introduced himself: “Nice to meet you, Otello. Otello Chiesa”.
[...] [T]hey started to work on what was left of my engine amidst a flurry of jokes, file and sandpaper strokes, and toasts - one for every sip of Pignoletto, a typical wine from home that my dad always had a good supply of. My engine came back to life and I won my first national race ever. That evening, glowing with joy, I basked in glory listening to the grownups - my father’s charisma and bottles of Pignoletto always managed to gather crowds under our tent. At one point, Otello Chiesa raised his glass and asked to make a toast: “Zanardi, here’s to your kiddo for winning the race and to me for having the bright idea of fixing his engine and letting him get ahead of my son Dino!”

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