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Motor Racing Legends: Ayrton Senna

Posted in Motor Racing Legends by Wheels Near U Team on the October 27th, 2007

Ayrton SennaFollowing last weeks look at the motor racing legend that was Jimmy Clark, this week we take a look at Ayrton Senna. Senna is the forth motor racing legend in this series and started life in Brazil. His tragic end at the San Marino Grand Prix left a resounding mark on Formula one racing.

Born 21st March 1960 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ayrton Senna da Silva was the son of a wealthy Brazilian landowner. He started his life fascinated with cars, from a very young age he showed signs of his future career. Senna was diagnosed early on as having motor coordination difficulties, something which his father (also a motor racing fan) sought to improve when he brought Senna a 1hp (one horsepower) kart at the age of four! It is said that from then on he became a different boy, less awkward with more focus and great bursts of confidence which was to become somewhat of a Senna trademark later in his life.

Spurred on by Ayrton’s previous success with the 1hp kart his father purchased a full size kart (100cc) for the young Senna, which allowed him to further hone his ability’s. As soon as he was legally allowed (thirteen years old) Senna was entering kart racing competitions and won the South American Kart Championship in 1977. Proceeding to enter in the World Karting Championship, although he never accomplished more than the runner-up spot.

In 1981 Ayrton moved to England with his 19 year old wife Liliane Vasconcelos. He adopted his mothers name ‘Senna’, as “da Silva” had been very common in Brazil. They lived together in a rented bungalow near Snetterton. That very same year Senna won the British Formula Ford 1600 Championship for Ralph Firman and the Van Diemen Team.

Unfortunately to continue to stay racing and in England Senna required sponsorship, but with several up and coming Brazilian drivers already featuring in the higher Formulas Senna was unable to find sponsorship. Announcing his retirement he returned home to Brazil to work for his father.

After just four months at home Senna was longing for a racing career again and made the decision to return to motor racing. Liliane, having been brought up in a life of luxury and knowing that with his absolute passion for racing and focus for the sport decided that life would be a struggle with Senna. Refusing to follow Senna into racing once again they agreed to mutually separate, with the marriage ending in less than a year.

Senna 1991Senna got sponsorship (from his father and a Brazilian bank) in 1982 and returned for another year of racing. Joining the Russel Green Racing Team he entered the British Formula Ford 1600 Championship, winning it with a total of 22 wins. Senna also won the European Formula Ford 2000 Championship in the same year!

Senna did not stop there, progressing to British Formula 3 Championships, where he joined West Surrey Racing. Senna had been made a pre-season favourite for winning along with Martin Brundle and the competition was tough between the two drivers. After a tough fight for championship points it was to be that the Championship would be decided by the final race at Thruxton. Prior to the race Senna had his engine rebuilt and tuned by Novamotor, which seemed to give Senna the winning advantage as he went on to take Pole Position, the race and the Championship.

The conclusion of the season was at the Macau Grand Prix with drivers from each of the national series competing. Senna won, opening up serious opportunity for him to enter Formula one with a number of teams.

Senna Monte Carlo 1993Given the choice Senna would have gone to Brabham but unfortunately Nelson Piquet, Brabham’s then leading driver, vetoed such a move. This meant Senna was left with the single choice of Toleman Hart. A classic example of the politics behind Formula one, Senna noted this and learned never to allow himself to be left outside the negotiations again.

From this move for the following ten years Senna was a force to be reckoned with in Formula one, driving for Lotus, McLaren and Williams. Senna managed a total of 41 wins starting with his first in 1985 (Portugal.)

Tragically Senna’s last race was the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994. A disastrous weekend of racing that many will never forget. During the Friday afternoon’s practice Ruben Barrichello’s car was launched onto the tyre wall, with enough force to keep him out of the race on Sunday. Saturday saw disaster as Senna’s young friend Roland Ratzenberger was killed during his practice. Upsetting Senna incredibly, the following morning before the race he began to talk to all of the other drivers, arranging a safety meeting. Furthermore he accepted the role of leader in an effort to establish a drivers safety group. Senna even went to his rival Alain Prost, apologising for his manoeuvre that took the championship from him.

The race was just as disastrous, beginning with a crash between JJ Lehto and Pedro Lamy ensuring that the safety car was out for several laps. Just two laps after resumed racing Senna left the track on the corner known as ‘Tamburello’. The race was red-flagged as medics and race marshals rushed to the track side, attempting to revive the young racing driver. A helicopter was called in to take him to hospital and the race restarted. No-one at this point was aware of the severity of Senna’s condition. Within hours it was announced on television that Ayrton Senna was on a life support machine, not capable of making a recovery. His parents rushed to the hospital, taking the advice from the doctors they then agreed to remove Senna’s life support. Ayrton Senna, the motor racing legend died at the young age of 34 years. Brazil immediately began to mourn its famous racing drivers death.

Senna was truly a motor racing legend, who had stopped mid race on numerous occasions to help other drivers who had encountered crashes. It was announced after his death that he had secretly donated millions of pounds over the years to children’s charities. His family started the Ayrton Senna Foundation to carry on this good work.

This concludes our article on Senna – The motor racing legend. If you would like to read more please view our motor racing legend gallery or perhaps read about some of our past motor racing legends.

6 Responses to 'Motor Racing Legends: Ayrton Senna'

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  1. on November 2nd, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    [...] already looked at Stirling Moss, Mike Hailwood, Jimmy Clark and last week the Brazilian born racer Ayrton Senna. This weeks motor racing legend is Micheal Schumacher the German Formula 1 [...]


  2. on February 19th, 2008 at 5:23 am

    Aryton Senna for me is Formula One racing, its heart and soul. When he
    was killed, the sport was torn from its epicentre, its roots.
    The changes that were made, largely to improve safety and to slow
    the cornering speed of the cars, were expected, but for me the racing
    suffered.
    Ofcourse, other great drivers followed in Senna’s wake. Michael
    Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen, Juan Pablo Montoya, to name a few.
    None of those drivers though, could inspire the senses as effectively
    as Aryton Senna. None of those battles could inspire the crowds as
    much as those between Senna and Alain Prost, or Nigel Mansell.
    From 2000 to 2004, Michael Schumacher has reigned supreme. The best
    driver in the best team. His rivals have never even put him under that much
    pressure, due to his car being ‘that’ good.
    The sport suffered badly from this, and incidents such as the finish of
    the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix for instance. Everybody knew that Schumacher would win the race, season after season, even before the race
    had started. He needed a counterbalance, someone else who was strong
    enough with a fast enough car to challenge him.
    In Fernando Alonso we found a counterbalance. Kimi Raikkonen and
    Lewis Hamilton now provide us with a bright future, sadly without the
    genius of Schumacher to compare against.
    The true tragedy of Aryton Senna’s death was that it deprived the world
    of the highly anticipated battle with Michael Schumacher, which promised
    to be every bit as electric as the ones with Prost and Mansell.
    From 1992 to 1997, Williams were a top running team. They won the
    championship in 1996 and 1997. With Aryton Senna still racing, many,
    including myself would wager that the tally could have been even higher.
    Alas, that was not to be! I will forever remember the afternoon of
    May 1st 1994. I will remember where I was and what I was doing at that
    precise moment. Adeu Aryton Senna, if there is a racetrack in heaven,
    you are probably giving Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt, and Gilles Villeneuve
    one hell of a race.
    R.I.P.

  3. a said,

    on May 17th, 2008 at 4:31 am

    simply the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. DREYFUS said,

    on December 6th, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    AYRTON SENNA is Only and Single CHAMPION. The others are only of blades imitations. If their car were not powerful as much, they would be in last position.
    SENNA even with a car in lower part of the others arrived by its only TALENT has to obtain the Pole Position while the others in spite of their car were far behind him. There is only Nigel Mansell to have recognized it. Without logistics, They Are Nothing.
    Because if with a powerful car they are far behind SENNA then you imagine with an identical car.
    This sport died on MAY 1 1994, the Day when they have Kill
    AYRTON SENNA.

  5. J Childs said,

    on June 23rd, 2009 at 12:14 am

    I believe you have put a statement in the piece you wrote that Ayrtons Parents flew to the hospital in Italy, well they did not there was no time and his life support was not turned off his heart arrested for the second time and the doctor said not to resucitate, so he passed away before they could get there.

  6. sandrar said,

    on September 10th, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

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