-- Former Formula One driver and Paralympic handbike champion Alessandro "Alex" Zanardi, who lost both his legs in a CART series accident in Germany in 2001, will return to auto racing this year.
BMW Motorsport says the 47-year-old Italian will drive one of its cars in the Blancpain GT Sprint Series. The BMW Z4 GT3 model will be specially modified for Zanardi.
"From both a human and a sporting aspect, Alex is a role model to all of us. I am sure he will approach this new challenge in the Blancpain GT Sprint Series in the same manner we have become accustomed to from him. You can really sense just how much he has missed competing on four wheels," BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt said in a statement.
Zanardi won two gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics in handcycling, a sport in which the bike is powered by the arms. He tested a BMW M3 DTM in 2012.
"Modifying the BMW Z4 GT3 is a challenge for our engineers. However, we gained valuable experience in this regard when we modified the BMW M3 DTM in 2012, and that will come in very useful now. As far as we are concerned, there is nothing preventing Alex from making a successful comeback," Marquardt said.
Zanardi, who later returned to motor racing in different series before retiring in 2009, will race in six of seven races on the circuit.
"Even after leaving the sport in 2009, I was still a racing driver at heart," he said in the statement, also thanking BMW for giving his this "unique opportunity."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.