The driver change procedure in detail.
This is how the driver change between Zanardi and his team-mates takes place: Zanardi sits on the pit wall and waits for the arriving car. Then he swings himself next to the car on the floor and pulls himself in as soon as his team-mate has got out and put Zanardi’s seat insert in position. The team-mate then helps him buckle up. The steering wheel is changed, which is handed over by an additional, IMSA approved mechanic.
When getting out, Zanardi first pulls himself out of the car and then onto the pit wall. Then when he is behind the pit wall he will return to his wheelchair. Maximum safety is top priority here as well, and the entire driver change is geared up for that. To ensure that Zanardi can exit the danger zone in the pit lane as quickly as possible after getting out of the car, IMSA has also allowed the additional mechanic to close the safety net and door.
Normally, the drivers getting out take care of these tasks. Zanardi doesn’t have to do this, he is allowed to exit the pit over the pit wall during that time. Zanardi and his colleagues complete the driver change in less than 20 seconds – which given the time it takes to refuel there is no disadvantage compared to the competition. “Switching the steering wheel in particular takes a little time,“ explained Zanardi, “but I’m very fast getting in and out and can make up for it there.”
Zanardi’s team-mates confirm this. “I’m certain that we won’t lose any time at all during the driver changes with Alex,” said Edwards. “Sometimes I think that he gets into the car more quickly than me.” Krohn said: “Sure, the driver change with Alex is slightly different from what I’m used to, but it’s incredibly impressive to see how quickly he found the optimum procedure for him. At the start it took us more than 30 seconds, now we manage it in under 20 seconds. Sometimes I even turn around to help him after getting out, but he is already sat behind the wheel.” With all the attention on the perfect pit stop in the shortest time possible,
Zanardi is fully aware from his many years of experience that a 24-hour race is not primarily decided based on the driver change. Which is why he emphasizes: “We always need to make sure that we don’t rush anything, as a mistake during the driver change would be a disaster. We always need to find the right balance between a potential time saving and maximum care during the pit stop.”
— Press release courtesy of BMW