With Alessandro Zanardi preparing for a guest appearance at the upcoming round of the DTM championship in Misano, BMW has also made modifications to suit Zanardi as he is a paraplegic, and this year sees some changes that focuses more on hand operation than a solid connection between the pedal and his prosthetic appendages. Testing continues as he familiarizes himself with these new controls, although paraplegics in racing is nothing new as there are even paraplegic drifters (both local and abroad).
Modifications to the M4 DTM are largely to do with control relocation. With only the use of his hands, paddle shifters are a must - although they've been standard on DTM cars for the last few years. The shift paddles have seen some modifications as well, with an additional lever mounted to the brake lever system.
The hand-operated brake system will be something new to Zanardi, and it requires less effort making it easier to operate. The brake lever is to the right of the wheel in the centre console, and the introduction of this system meant the pedal box was no longer necessary. The mechanical advantage of the system increases braking force by roughly 30% over the standard system, needing just 70 kilograms of force to operate versus 100 kilograms to 120 kilograms.
In addition to this, the clutch is swapped out for a drag-racing style centrifugal clutch rather than a foot-operated system. The clutch automatically engages above a certain engine speed allowing for quick starts and immediate engagement - perhaps a mild advantage for Zanardi when getting off the line. The throttle is par for the course with cars adapted for Zanardi in the past, essentially being a ring that is tugged on to manipulate the throttle.