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Ayrton Senna Remembered

Updated on August 9, 2015
Ayrton Senna Remembered
Ayrton Senna Remembered | Source

Ayrton Senna - Imola 1994

Until that dreadful day in May 1994 I had always watched Formula One races live on television. But when the Imola event came around it was essential that I work that day. That was very strange for me - missing a race.

Also my son, then a teenager, had the opportunity to have a race school session at Oulton Park circuit that day.

Because this was almost twenty years ago, I can't remember why it was so important that I had to work but I was missing my son's day in a racing car and the San Marino Grand Prix.

However, I was recording the race and a friend who was a racing driver was taking my son to Oulton. (In English law, my son was old enough to drive a race car but not a road car. We all vowed to avoid televisions and radios so that we wouldn't know the outcome of the race - we would watch it together when they returned in the late afternoon. How would our hero, fare?

I returned from work and it was hard not to watch the video but I'd promised that I'd wait. I busied myself preparing snacks and drinks so that we could settle in front of the TV. He must win this race surely? It was the third of the year and he'd had such bad luck so far. I was so anxious to watch. Surely this time, we'd see him win? I heard the car arrive.

The guys walked in. I saw their faces. Those faces - all I could say was 'What?' There was a one word answer 'Senna'.

Ayrton da Silva


Yes, we'd agreed that we'd avoid finding out the result of the race but the guys had been at a racetrack. In those days, the only television at the track was in a bar called the Bruce McLaren Suite. They had studiously avoided it. But how could the news not travel round? That day, May 1st 1994, Ayrton Senna had been killed at Imola in a freak accident on the seventh lap.

Millions of words have been written about this tragedy and I know that I can't do it justice or compete with the writers who have composed excellent articles about his life, racing career and his death. I would want to. Suffice it to say that even before the accident, it had been a horrible race weekend.

The day before the race, during qualifying, a new driver to Formula One, Austrian Roland Ratzenberger, had died due to an accident. Ayrton Senna's countryman and friend, Rubens Barrichello, also sustained injuries during qualifying. It's said that Ayrton was distraught at the events of the weekend and wasn't happy about having to race. Of course, there are those who say that this was a premonition..

The final race


Ayrton Senna, a proud Brazilian, had a habit of keeping a small version of his country's flag in his car. When he won a race, he would show the flag during his victory lap. After his death, an Austrian flag was found in the wreckage of his car. Had he won the race, he intended to show that instead of the Brazilian flag in honor of his late fellow-driver, Ratzenberger.

The essential movie

Senna [Blu-ray]
Senna [Blu-ray]
If you're interested in motor racing, you have probably seen this already. If you haven't, then put quite simply, you must.If you're not a fan of auto racing then this film is for you too, as you can learn about this man, the work he did for underprivileged children, his religion and his legacy. This is an essential part of any collection and there's no better gift for a Formula One fan.

The final chill

When Ayrton Senna da Silva was laid to rest in Sao Paulo his pallbearers were racing drivers from the Formula One world. One of them was Derek Warwick. Almost three years before, the same trio, my son, my racing driver friend and I, had been at Oulton Park watching the Formula 3000 race. Leading the championship was Paul, the twenty-two year old brother of Derek Warwick. We were watching when his car crashed. We saw our friends, the circuit managers, speed to the accident site. We waited. We saw the medical helicopter arrive. We heard the announcement that Paul had died.

Now we watched his elder brother help carry Ayrton Senna to his final resting place.

We had rented a motor home for the race weekend. That evening a group of us, drivers and circuit staff, huddled inside. We got quite drunk and all vowed to give up this terrible sport. The next morning we decided to walk the circuit as a tribute to Paul. We set off in a somber mood. As we walked I watched as my son and the circuit manager as they walked ahead and as we approached what in America would be called 'turn three', Cascades. I saw their hands move in that long-established way that racing drivers do to explain the line they take through bends. As we completed the circuit, other drivers were doing to too. Only twelve hours after we'd all said that we'd leave this sport...

As you can see, the main entrance at Oulton has since been renamed to honour Paul's memory.




On the nineteenth anniversary of this motorsport hero's death, his friend Rubens Barrichello sent a message to Twitter with just two words and a photograph. One word '#Senna', the other was 'saudades'. This is a Portuguese word that has no English equivalent. Nostalgia? Not quite. Regrets? Not completely. It's more of an expression to describe the loss of something that made a life complete, fond memories, pain and love.

In Ayrton's own words...


Photography credits

Images from Wikipedia. Image of Barichello's Twitter message is a screenshot.

Further reading

If you're looking for the perfect gift for a motorsport enthusiast, this is it. This book was released on 1st May, 2014, the twentieth anniversary of Senna's fatal accident at Imola.It's written by one of the most respected motorsport journalists and is a must for any collector's library.



© 2013 Jackie Jackson


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