Q: You enjoyed an overwhelming welcome in the paddock and by the U.S. fans. Does this make you look forward for the race weekend even more?

Zanardi: “Yes, to say the least. I of course knew that it was going to be special but frankly I was not expecting it to be this special. Wow! For the race it will be probably even more. The enthusiasm of the fans for the cars running is already sky high but whenever I was going by for some reason I could detect an even more explosive spark of enthusiasm. People were sincerely happy and joyful to see me going round. And all the ones who had the opportunity to come and say something to me did not hide that at all. They were very, very warm in their comments and encouraging at the same time and respectful. I am very, very touched by the support I have been receiving.”

Q: At the Roar the entire 24-hour team came together at the track. How do you get along with your teammates?

Zanardi: “Great! These guys are terrific. Jesse, Chaz and John are very, very talented drivers, very professional and it’s fantastic and also very helpful to be in such a team, because to be in a team with those drivers is a huge plus. It is inevitable to feel pressure because I would really like to perform at their level and on top of my personal problems, my age and whatever, it’s a question of their talent knowing the car the way they do. I will try my best but so far so good. I’m not so far behind, actually.”

Alex Zanardi will be one of four drivers of the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE during the Rolex 24. (IMSA Photo)

Q: And how about working with BMW Team RLL?

Zanardi: “Every single member of the team, starting from the BMW M Motorsport guys who came from Munich to support and the guys who live here and are a full-time part of the BMW Team RLL organization, is very professional but also excited. You can tell that they are all very, very happy to be here, they are totally dedicated and you can see the passion for what they do. They want to do everything they can to steer luck in our favour because at the end of the day it still is a race, and actually it’s a 24-hour race where there are a lot of things that could go wrong and you can only control it up to a certain point.”

Q: Did your new braking system with the lever prove to be a physical benefit in the BMW M8 GTE?

Zanardi: “Physically speaking it’s incomparable. It’s like night and day compared to what I was doing before. So yes, it helps far more than we expected when we started to investigate solutions to follow that direction. So yes, from that point of view it’s 100 percent a success. Still I think for me to negotiate the things, some of the actions that I have to do, I am still a student. And I hope I can learn some more but I will have 24-hours of time to go through my mental data and to try to develop the right technique.”

Q: What will be the biggest challenge during the 24-hour race?

Zanardi: “To stay out of trouble. Because I have already seen over the course of the ‘Roar’ that when you have a fast prototype coming up and a slow GT in front of you, you are like ham in a sandwich. And you don’t want to get bitten. So staying out of trouble is not so easy.”

Q: When the checkered flag comes out on Sunday, Jan. 27 – what would be the outcome for you to say that you are happy?

Zanardi: “Well, I won’t be totally happy because when it’s over, it’s over. Even if we end up winning the race, I am sure I will regret this special and great adventure being over. So don’t make me think about it – just let me enjoy it.”