Text by: Ben Photos by: Wikipedia
Today celebrates what would be Ayrton Senna’s 53rd birthday.
In my (and many other motorheads’) opinion, Senna was the greatest race car driver there was. He was fighting on the black top back when F1’s were manual and relatively devoid of safety equipmens (imagine shifting gears in an F1 at 300km/h).
Senna was known for his awfully quick times, especially on the wet, where he seemed to always find the areas with more grip. If you see videos of his races, you can clearly see his driving style, where he seemed to not just drive, but “dance” the F1 on the asphalt.
Aside from his outstanding driving skills, he was also renowned for his rivalry with French driver Alain Prost, and the unconventional ways in which he dealt with racing, whether it involved stopping F1 by the side to help a comrade in an accident in the middle of a race, or deliberately crashing his car into Alain Prosts' one to secure a Championship. "You must take the compromise to win, or else nothing. That means: you race or you do not," as he said in reply to the accusations pertaining this incident.
His grandeur did not limit itself on the track, and Senna also cared for the people of Brazil, his homeland, for which he contributed through charities. To Brazilian, Ayrton Senna was a national pride, an icon, and a role model.
I will always remember the 1st May 1994, 19 years ago, when I was at my grandparents’ watching the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix on TV. The race had already taken a bad turn when the day before, Australian driver Roland Ratzenberger died during the qualifying session when his front wing broke, sending his car into a concrete wall. Senna was deeply impacted by the death of Ratzenberger. On that same evening, Ayrton rallied some drivers to start a group to increase safety in F1.
The FIA decided not to call off the race, and I clearly recall the race day, when Ayrton Senna lost control of his F1 and left the track at full speed to hit a concrete wall. The race was immediately stopped, and the medical team extracted Senna out of the wreckage and applied initial treatment. He was then brought to hospital by helicopter, but passed away a few hours later.
The passing of Ayrton Senna was not only a tragedy for Formula 1 lovers, but was taken as a national tragedy by the people of Brazil, and the government declared three days of national mourning.
Following his and Ratzenberger’s deaths, many safety improvements were made to Formula 1, both in terms of car engineering and track layouts. To commemorate his passing, his sister, Vivianne Senna, set up the Instituto Ayrton Senna in his honor, a foundation which aims at offering children and teenagers from low-income backgrounds a change by giving them skills and opportunities to develop their full potential as adults.
In 2010, for Ayrton Senna's would be 50th birthday, Top Gear paid him an emotional tribute at the end of Season 15's Episode 5, and ESPN Films released the documentary film Senna, both of which I highly recommend you to watch fo have a full measure of just how great of a man he was.
I heard say that as long as you are remembered, you will be immortal. To me Ayrton Senna is part of those who is truly immortal. He is and always will be a source of inspiration to many of us out here, whether we are motorheads or not, and I just wanted to dedicate these lines to him, and to wish him a happy would-be 53rd birthday.
"And so you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high." Ayrton Senna