Zanardi comes out of coma

Alex Zanardi is happy to be alive. The two-time CART champion emerged from his medically-induced coma on Thursday morning and expressed gratitude the crash that cost him his legs didn't cost him his life.

Doctors at the Berlin hospital say Zanardi regained consciousness faster than expected, signalling his recovery is going well.

According to a Honda spokesman, the 34-year-old driver has been chatting with his wife since noon

"It's encouraging the way he's getting better. He was pulled out of the induced coma in phases," said Dr. Walter Schaffartzik, who leads a team of physicians treating Zanardi.

Zanardi had been in a coma since his horrific accident at last Saturday's American Memorial 500, CART's first race in Europe.

Zanardi was placed in the coma to reduce the chance of organ failure, a traumatic reaction to the huge loss of tissue and muscle following the amputation of both his legs at the thigh.

Leading the race with 12 laps left, Zanardi came out of a pit stop aggressively and he lost control of his Honda Reynard. The car spun backward into the path of Canadian driver Alex Tagliani, who smashed into Zanardi's car travelling at 320 km per hour.

Dr. Walter Schaffartzik said he's hopeful that Zanardi will walk again with the use of artificial legs.

"It depends on how his wounds heal, but these days, the prosthetic limbs are quite good," said Schaffartzik.

Zanardi is one of only three drivers to win back-to-back CART championships, accomplishing the feat in 1997-98 for Target Chip Ganassi. Bobby Rahal (1986-87) and Rick Mears (1981-82) are the others.

The 1996 CART rookie of the year, Zanardi has 15 career victories and 10 poles, and set the CART modern-day single-season scoring record with 285 points in 1998.

He is also the record-holder for most consecutive poles with six, front-row starts with 11 and single-season podium finishes with 15.

Zanardi, who was born in Bologna, had two stints in Formula One -- the most recent with the British-based Williams team. He sat out the 2000 season before returning to CART.