By on March 21, 2013

Ayrton Senna would have been 53 today. To celebrate the life of an extraordinary man, here’s a video of the world’s best racing driver piloting my all-time favorite car around Suzuka.

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32 Comments on “Happy Birthday Ayrton Senna...”

  • avatar

    Good thing a NSX can be had rather cheap (relatively) these days. You just have to find one that’s unmolested.

  • avatar

    I wish we could still see him driving today. I may watch Senna again tonight; haven’t seen it since it was at the cinema.

  • avatar

    Thank you, TTAC…

    That was a very nice tribute to him. I have the movie, “Senna”, and have never tired of watching that either.


  • avatar

    His movie made me cry

  • avatar

    No disrespect intended to the man, he was indeed a supremely talented race car driver, but I’ve never quite understood the the cult of personality that now surrounds Ayrton Senna. Yes he was talented, but was he more talented than Fangio, Moss, Gurney, Clark, Stewart or Andretti?

    Perhaps the closest comparison would be Jim Clark, who also was killed racing while at the peak of his talent. Senna was killed in a freak accident and Clark was killed racing a F2 Lotus that he didn’t really have to be racing. Yes, many racing fans of the baby boom generation revere Clark’s memory but it’s nothing like the acolytes of the church of Ayrton.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, I would assume it comes from him dying whilst racing, as you mentioned.

    • 0 avatar

      Of course, Andretti is still alive, but was born 20 years earlier than Senna. For me, he was my favorite driver, and I had paid more attention to him than the rest. He was only three years older than me also, so that may have been part of it.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m too Young to have watched those you mention. In my mind he is up there with Proust, Piquet, Schumacer. Of today’s pilots maybe Alosnso and Vettel will assume a position i that pantheon.

      FWIW, of those you mention, in Brazilian car circles, neither Gurney or Andretti are ever mentioned in the same breath as Senna, Schumaker etc.

      Ronnie, I guess he was the perfect hero. Never made a misstep during all hos career. How much of that is true we’ll never know, but he controlled his career pretty tightly (compare to Piquet for example). Also, for some reason, he fascinated the Japanese and British and that helps his legend along.

      In Brazil, he’s on the same level as Pelé. At his time, Brazil was starting some of the reforms that turned us into a “serious” country with a level of visibility and “respect” on the world stage. Pelé presented Brazil to the world, Senna made us look serious and competitive. Guess we’ll never be as big as we imagine as long as we depend on others to give us their “stamp of approval”, but that’s another story.

      • 0 avatar

        “Never made a misstep during all h[i]s career”? I’ll assume that’s a joke, or perhaps that you’ve ‘forgotten’ Suzuka 1990, where he deliberately rammed Prost off the track, guaranteeing himself the driver’s world championship that year. Hardly the actions of a ‘hero’.

        • 0 avatar

          In Brazil that was written off and glossed over as Prost had done the same or did the same a year later (I forget). I agree with you though. Senna definitely had a dark side, there’s a vid of him going after Schumacher after a race for example. Somehow, these controversies lighted up and went away like a match. Of course, my vision is skewed.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m glad someone has finally said this. I was around for the Prost/Senna years, and to my mind it was Prost who was, day in and day out, the smarter, more effective racer. Senna’s fame derives primarily from the fact that he died young.

      • 0 avatar

        I admire Senna as a man, but when I am racing karts, I try and emulate Prost.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t think Senna’s fame derives primarily from the fact that he died young. Prost-Senna rivalry was one of the bitterest, most vicious motorsport rivalries of all time. During its time, people only talked about this rivalry. All other drivers had to live in the shadows of Prost and Senna. To be honest, personally, I don’t know if I’d judge Prost being much better. Championship deciding collision in Suzuka 1989 somewhat stains his record. Recently I found a torrent distribution of the race and watched it again. Clearly, Prost crashed intentionally. And if they didn’t crash, who knows how things would end. Senna could have had 4 titles to Prost’s 3. Prost’s 1993 championship win was also unexciting to watch. There is no denying the he had incredible skill and stability but I got a feeling that he cruised to victory in a superior car. Every title that Senna won, was earned in the middle of an incredible and close battle. Who knows how many titles Senna would have had by the age of Prost’s retirement if he didn’t die in 1994 and stayed at Williams. Williams-Renault was the dominant car until the end of 1997. I think he could have easily won a title or two with them.

        • 0 avatar

          + some

        • 0 avatar
          juicy sushi

          To me they were very, very close. They were not at the same level at the same time so it is more difficult to judge though. If you think of Prost, his peak years were really the early 1980s in terms of pace, but there’s more to racing than that.

          I think Prost and Senna had such very different approaches to racing that it makes direct comparison difficult. The only line in the Senna movie directly from Prost that analyzes their relative approaches notes this. He saw how much Senna would push at Monaco in 1988. Senna needed not just to win, but to destroy Prost. Prost saw that need for domination as a weakness he could exploit.

          Senna’s psychology was also an issue in other ways though, as his persecution complex threatened to unravel him. Ron Dennis had an interview in Motorsport a couple of month back where he talks about how Berger and Dennis needed to keep doing those practical jokes on Senna to keep breaking the ice.

          He was an immensely talented driver, that’s clear, but he is also a clear example of the martyr complex in action, especially among contemporary F1 fans and press.

  • avatar

    Hey Derek! Here’s Senna selling one of my favorite all time cars.

    Here’s a youtube vídeo of Senna making propaganda of a Ford. Ford was one of his main sponsors early on. It is a study in excesso language and promise. At the end, Senna claims he owns one. Probably the only true claim in the vid as I’m sure Ford gave him one.

    Yikes, the site doesn’t let me post the link, but go to youtube and type in Ford Escort, Ayrton Senna and you’ll see it. Maybe add in Brazil for good measure

  • avatar
    Fred Smith

    Oops…Hand over hand steering at 2:06. What would JB say?

    • 0 avatar

      He does several things that would raise the ire of HPDE instructors including hand-over-hand steering, prepositioning before a long corner, taking his hands completely off the wheel at speed, and letting the wheel slide through his hands as the steering corrects itself. Each of these are less-than-optimal methods (so some say). Now let the holy wars begin!

  • avatar

    Regarding Mario Andretti, part of his greatness is that he was able to win in many types of racing: open wheeled (F1 and Indy), stock cars, sports cars, and even dirt track racing early in his career. Winning the F1 title, and Le Mans, and the Daytona 500, and the Indy 500 puts him in very rarefied company.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Perhaps it is the old style of the Honda ,and having only driven one once,I wonder about his driving style , with outstretched arms where he is at full stretch moving the gear lever.
    Surely he would have better control of the car if he sat a few inches closer to the wheel using his upper body ?
    And maybe he wouldn’t have got such sweaty palms if he was in control of the car rather than fighting it around the corners.
    It puts his “freak accident ” into perspective for me now.
    For another view ,watch the Jim Clark Vid on you tube,now thats a smooth driver at work

    • 0 avatar

      “It puts his “freak accident ” into perspective for me now.”

      You figure the steering shaft wouldn’t have broken if he had used a different seating position or driving style?

  • avatar

    That’s a great video. Like all “hero’s” Sienna had faults and did a few dodgy things but he did MUCH more good than bad and at least he did not lie about taking steroids or shoot his girlfriend…

  • avatar

    I remember a Jeremy Clarkson video from about 1996 or 1997 in which the NSX was featured. A very successful British Touring Car Championship driver drove it and said that the power steering was a bit strange, but “if it’s good enough for Ayrton Senna then it’s good enough for me”

    For some reason that comment has stayed with me.

  • avatar

    I can forgive the in-car camera for no sound. Early ’90’s tech. Unforgivable is the gay soundtrack. Sounds like a man who most definitely has his nuts caught in a bear trap.

  • avatar

    Amen Derek. That is a car I will own someday. I wish I had been old enough to see and watch him in action on track. I think part of the magic/mystery surrounding him is not just that he died young, but the question of how the F1 record books would look today had he kept winning races and championships (increasing his own tally while lowering Michael’s). In footage, he’s always seemed more passionate about just racing. Some drivers seem to race for the satisfaction of winning, and while Senna clearly and obviously raced to win, I think half the fun for him was doing that. I’m sure he was having the time of his life in the wet at Donnington at 1994 on lap 1, not just because he was winning, but because he had to work so hard to do it.

    What strikes me about this video was his calmness and composure. He’s sideways in a mid engined exotic on a racetrack with no helmet and doesn’t appear to be working hard at all. it’s all so natural, fluid and second nature. As Clarkson and Brundle said on the Top Gear special about him, his car control abilities made it look like he had the car dancing on the limit the whole time.

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