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FOUNTAIN, Colo. (CBS4) – The revving engine of a race car outside Fountain Wednesday morning was the sound of a major breakthrough in a technology that could one day change the lives of people who are mobility challenged. The man behind the wheel of the 850 horsepower NASCAR Cup race car was German Aldana Zuniga of Miami.

Despite being paralyzed from the waist down, he used a microchip implanted in his brain to drive lap after lap.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s an amazing experience. Since my accident, I don’t have mobility below my waist, so this is my first time driving a car.” Zuniga said.

Nine years after a life-altering car wreck, Zuniga used his thoughts to drive Wednesday. It’s a technological breakthrough pioneered by a team led by Dr. Scott Falci, a Colorado neurosurgeon with Health ONE’s Falci Institute for Spinal Cord Injuries. The group also included electrical engineer Dr. Harry Direen, and Kevin Davis with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

For more than a year, they, along with others, worked tirelessly so Zuniga can communicate between a microchip on his brain and a computer in the car.

“The electrical changes get picked up on that electrode, travel down a cable underneath his skin to a little computer processor,” Falci said.

“When the computer recognizes that particular fingerprint, it knows to send the signal to the computer in our racecar and that computer knows to send it to the throttle and to actuate the throttle,” said Falci.

For now, the technology allows Zuniga to use his thoughts to start the throttle and keep it at a steady pace. He can steer with a specialized helmet that registers his head movement, as well as slow down using a tube attached to the helmet known as a sip-n-puff input.

Because of all that, a task that was once unthinkable is now possible with focus and practice.

“It’s unbelievable to think about being in the car, especially that fast. To be in it and watch how you go through the track smoothly and it responds to what you think, it’s just incredible,” Zuniga said.

According to Falci, the future possibilities for this technology are just as exciting.

“Our goal is not to make race car drivers out of spinal cord injured patients, it’s really to apply this to real-world situations,” said Falci.

“We can use this potentially for driving an electric wheelchair, a golf cart, control a robotic arm, control an exoskeleton device, control implanted medical device. Once we develop that science, that science can be used for all types of systems,” he said.

It’s a finish line Zuniga can’t wait to help cross.

“Technology is advancing, so we have to help do our part in it and make it become available for everyone,” Zuniga said.

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Cristiano Ronaldo transfer war begins as second Saudi club prepare ‘crazy proposal’ for superstar after Man Utd axe

CRISTIANO RONALDO is attracting even MORE interest from Saudi Arabia, according to reports.

The Portuguese superstar, 37, saw his Manchester United contract terminated last month.

1Cristiano Ronaldo is currently playing at the World Cup as a free agentCredit: Getty

He is now playing for his country at the World Cup as a free agent.

And reports earlier this week claimed Saudi outfit Al-Nassr have offered Ronaldo a staggering £173-million-a-year deal to join them in the January window.

They want to try and acquire the five-time Ballon d'Or winner on a two-and-a-half-year contract worth £3M per week.

But they may face competition from local rival Al Hilal - albeit not until the summer.

That is according to transfer guru Fabrizio Romano.

Speaking on his YouTube channel, he said: "There is another club that wants Cristiano Ronaldo.

"This club is Al Hilal. It's true that Cristiano Ronaldo was approached by people close to Al Hilal.

"People at the club are prepared to make another important and crazy proposal.

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"There is one interesting point though. I am told Al Hilal are not able to sign players in January.

"They will only be able to sign players in the summer. That's why at the moment it is complicated.

"In January, that's why Al-Nassr are pushing and they would love to sign Ronaldo but Al Hilal also have an interest.

"The priority of Cristiano Ronaldo remains to have a new club as soon as possible."

Ronaldo previously discussed offers from Saudi during his explosive interview with Piers Morgan before the World Cup.

When Morgan pressed him on the offer from an unnamed Saudi Arabian club, the Portuguese star confirmed "yes it's true" and claimed he turned it down "in that moment".

He was then asked how difficult it was rejecting such a lucrative offer, to which he replied: "It's hard. It's hard. But in the same way, I thought that I was very happy here [at Man Utd]; that I [am] still capable to score goals and make people happy.

"I still believe that I can score many, many goals and help the team because I still believe that I'm still good and capable to help national team - even Manchester United.

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"But if you don’t feel around you that the energy’s on your side, it’s difficult. Of course, the criticism is gonna exists all the time. Ah he’s 37, he’s not the same.

"But I want to see if some guy of my age maintain the level that I show. You’re not gonna teach me that. Nobody is gonna teach me that."

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