Alex Zanardi has been airlifted to hospital in Italy after suffering a serious crash with a heavy vehicle during a national race for Paralympic handbike athletes on Friday.

Initial reports offer only minimal details of the accident that occurred near the Tuscan town of Pienza, except that the 53-year-old racer and former F1 driver was alive when transported in a serious condition to a hospital in Siena.

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The former Grand Prix driver and two-time CART champion lost both his legs in a horrendous crash at the Lausitzring in 2001.

But Zanardi, as brave and courageous as they come, surmounted the adversity to fight his way back behind the wheel of a racing car, supported by BMW in the WTCC and in endurance racing.

However, the best testimony to Zanardi’s fortitude, determination and heroism is his massive success in handbike racing, the Italian winning four gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics.

Motorsport legend Mario Andretti was among the first to react to the worrying news and express his concern on Twitter.

We’ll provide updates on Zanardi’s condition as we learn more and news filters out of Italy. Forza Alex!

Update:

Italian newspaper La Repubblica has reported that Zanardi’s accident, which happened at 5.05pm local time, occurred when the Italian apparently drifted to the wrong side of a public road in a downhill section according to his coach Mario Valentini.

“It happened on a straight downhill, just before the road makes a slight bend,” said Valentini

“Alex slightly crossed in to the other lane. The truck tried to steer but was not able to avoid the impact.”

Siena’s Santa Maria alle Scotte hospital has released a statement in which it says that Alex Zanardi is in a “very serious” condition and undergoing surgery for severe head injuries.

Update:

The latest update from the hospital on Zanardi’s condition:

“The management of health informs that the neurosurgery and maxillofacial surgery began shortly after 19.00 and finished at 21.30. The patient was transferred to intensive care, with a reserved prognosis. His condition is very serious.”

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