Ex-F1 driver and Paralympic champion Alex Zanardi seriously injured in crash

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Milan (AFP)

Ex-Italian Formula One driver Alex Zanardi, who won four Paralympic gold medals after having both legs amputated in a motor racing accident, was seriously injured on Friday in a crash while competing in a handbike race in Italy.

Zanardi collided with a truck while participating in one of the stages of the 'Obiettivo tricolore' relay race in Tuscany, the AGI news agency reported.

The 53-year-old was airlifted to hospital in Siena where he was reported to be in a "very serious condition," AGI said.

"Alex lost control of the handbike, rolled over twice and collided with a trailer truck. The collision was terrible," Mario Valentini, coach of the Italian Paracycling National Team, told Corriere Della Sera newspaper.

Zanardi was a former Grand Prix driver who won the CART championship in the United States twice before having both his legs amputated following an accident on the Lausitzring track in Germany in 2001.

He went on to win won four gold medals on his handbike in the 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games, and two silver medals, and ten world championship titles.

"I am so anxious and frightened about Alex Zanardi that I'm holding my breath. I am his fan. I am his friend," tweeted former world Formula One champion Mario Andretti.

"Please do what I'm doing and pray pray for for this wonderful man."