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When Ayrton Senna was at the peak of his career I was under the age of 10. When he died in 94 I was just about to turn 13 years old as my birthday was a week later. At the time I wasn’t sad about the news as I only liked Ferrari drivers (go figure) but it wasn’t until I was older that I really understood what he truly meant to me.

Senna to me was a guy that had no understanding of the word “WE” or “TEAM”. He did everything possible to win at all costs no matter what the repercussions were. He was so fierce on the track it was if he went to battle every time he got in the car.

Now that I am 32 years of age I can understand his willingness to win. It is an addiction of being number 1, striving to be No.1 then working even harder to stay No. 1. Watching him during a qualifying session was so spectacular, seeing him smash out 2 blistering laps then come in tweak the front and rear ends of the car only to take another 1.5 to 2 seconds out of his time on his next lap. This was a gift that every other driver envied.

Ayrton Senna to me is a guy who had no cap on how far he could push the limit. Some people remember the way he died but I remember him the way he lived every day better than the last.

Enjoy this clip and remember what Ayrton Senna is to you

 

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Hi, I have been a Formula 1 fanatic since 1987 when my family took me to the Adelaide GP. I now enjoy close friendships with team members at Ferrari and within the Holden Racing Team (V8Supercars).
  • Michael Stonehouse

    Hi Adam, well said my friend. At the age of 16 I became interested in motoring and discovered motorsport. Over the many years that have passed since then I have a very deep passion for motorsport, in particular F1 and Scuderia Ferrari. Yes, I’m a passionate TIFOSI too. I eagerly watched the telecast of the F1 races, when able to do so and recorded them too (on VHS, which I still have). I attended my 1st F1 race at the Adelaide circuit in 1986 and this became my annual pilgrimage. I only missed 2 races there, the first and the last. Then came the Melbourne circuit. During this time, there were only two drivers that made a real impression on me and they are Ayrton Senna da Silva and Michael Schumacher. Both of these drivers are legendary and are my heroes. In 1994, watching that final fatal race for Ayrton, I shed more than a tear for my hero. To this day, 20 years on when I watch that race again it still stirs my emotions as if I were reliving that day. I still miss his presence on the circuit. His memory lives on.

  • jiji the cat

    Nice. I was 13 when he hit the streets of Monaco in the Toleman. Started following his career from that race on. So my teen hero was Ayrton, had his JPS and then Yellow Lotus plastered all over my walls and books, quite the nerd i was, not much room for girlie pics in my life. His death impacted me in 94, i can remember shedding tears, not so much for the driver Senna, but more for the man Ayrton. My eyes still water when i think of his death, but, i try to think rather of the legacy he left, and the great and many children in Brazil that have benefited and continue to benefit.

    I have never followed another driver since, and probably never will.

  • Marco Cicchine

    Adam great article, very well thought out. I still have the VHS tape of the race that I was watching in bed, when he went off and hit the wall I sat bolt upright and knew he was dead. The footage showed for a brief moment him laid out next to the car with Sid Watkins attending to him. I also had the privilige of meeting him for 10 seconds as he signed my F1 Autosport diary in Adelaide in 1986, I will never forget that moment and looking into his eyes.

  • Im loving these stories as Senna has touched us in so many ways. Im sure that we all have used his determination either in our personal lives or career. I know I have with my business.

  • Mike Steck

    My hero in my teen years was Stewart, and his relentless pursuit of smooth speed was stunning. Then came Ayrton for me. Totally different, relentless and a sheer force that took no quarter or pause, pushing limits without the barrier of risk vs. reward of a more cerebral driver. Ayrton was, at the heart of it, a pure form of the racer to me. It was not as much about championships, points, race wins and records, those all fell to him because of his gift. He was absorbed, always, fully in that moment in the car. Extracting maximum human and mechanical grip IN THE MOMENT. Always. I have never seen this type of focus and intensity, and it forever changed my perspective of what can be accomplished in all areas of life, not just racing.

  • very well said…

  • Ayrton Senna is synonymous with the pride and enthusiasm encapsulated within a lot of the Brazilian people I’ve met in my travels. You can mention the beauty of Rio, the rhythm of samba, the sensuality of Brazilian bikini clad women… etc. to most Brazilians, and most will tell you they are stereotypes or only representative of some of the population…. But when you mention Ayrton Senna to just about any Brazilian, they well up with pride because he was a man that truly represented the Brazilian ideal of doing your best and winning…embracing patriotism, faith, and humility. There is a love and admiration for Senna unlike any I have seen for any athlete. Restaurants in Rio and Sao Paulo have replica helmets and shrines to his victories and accomplishments. Once I understood this and became a huge Formula One fan because of it, Brazil remains one of my favorite places on Earth.

    http://www.panoramio.com/user/1092963/tags/Senna

  • Schmorbraten

    I’m into F1 since ~98, and some years later I realized what Senna meant to F1 and its fans. What does he mean to me? Beside all the other cliches, it is promoting a ruthless driving style, sometimes willing to risk not only his life but those of others as well, all for the sake of winning.

  • Tom Firth

    I did apparently watch Ayrton race when I was extremely young but I don’t remember, sadly.
    Growing up watching Schumacher, Hakkinen, Villeneuve and Damon Hill as the people at the top of the sport I had gravitated towards, I had to ask my dad who Ayrton Senna was. He was mentioned continuously and spoken of in terms that described a hero type character, but I didn’t know much about him besides him being a driver who wasn’t around anymore.

    Anyway once my dad had told me, I wanted to know more, I was obsessed with F1 history even then, and so we got a book, and read the biography about Senna with me.
    When I got my first “console” , The first game I played was Ayrton Senna Super Monaco GP and I was completely in awe of Senna.

    From then I grew up reading F1 books with biography’s about Senna, Prost, Mansell, Professor Sid, Fangio, Hill, Clark, Ascari , The list goes on. I have no idea what other kids read at public libraries, for me it was F1 encyclopaedia’s. :) Always respected the history of the sport.

  • Adapted from the musical Camelot; “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot, There’ll be great drivers, but there’ll never be another Camelot again … it will never be that way again.” If you were to design the perfert character to embody the essence of Formula One – Ayrton Senna da Silva

  • I’m of a similar age as you Adam, but my memory of the Senna era is somewhat foggy. My first F1 related memory is actually seeing the wreckage in which Stefan Bellof died, although that wasn’t an F1 car. I still have the picture of his raveled Group C prototype on a hook before my inner eye. I think I remember this so vividly, because he was the German F1 hope of the day and although I was too young to fully get what was going on, I did realize that there had never been a German F1 champion ever and that we haven’t had a decent driver in F1 for ages. So despite being so young, the image of the car in which this young talented man died stuck with me. And BTW, in a recent Autosport poll among 217 F1 drivers, Bellof was named the 35th best F1 driver of all time, despite hardly breaking into F1 at all and never racing for a decent team.

    I did watch F1 all the way back, but my allegiances weren’t yet fleshed out. I have always been a Mercedes supporter, but back then, they only raced touring cars and Group C prototypes (with some Michael Schumacher). I just watched it for the fast cars. Another related memory I have comes in a bit later later. Me and my pals had a discussion about which driver we liked best and they all said Senna. Since I have always liked to be contrarian, I said I preferred Prost and from then on, I really did support Prost for a while, just to follow through, though underneath it all, I seem to remember that I did in fact like Senna better. Though I definitely did support McLaren back then, because I liked their livery but probably also because they were so good.

    The first driver I really got behind was Nigel Mansell when he was driving for Ferrari. Again this was probably partially simply because he was the underdog, but also because he put that Ferrari into places it didn’t belong and he did so in a spectacular fashion. He was just awesome to watch.

    By 1992, there was finally a quick German driver in a competitive F1 team for the first time in ages, a young nobody called Michael Schumacher, so I supported him and he even won a race that year! In 1994, Mercedes returned to F1 with the Sauber team (technically in 1993 albeit then still unofficially under the Ilmor name), the same team they partnered with during their Group C days and they had a German driver to boot, Heinz-Harald Frentzen another young talent who was consistently quicker than Schumacher during their Group C days driving for Mercedes (though Schumacher did steal his girlfriend, a certain blonde named Corinna). So the Frentzen/Sauber combination was my favorite for that year. And BTW, Senna was very impressed by Frentzen, so much so that he told Frank Williams he should sign him for 1995 as second driver, something that actually materialized in 1997 but unfortunately it didn’t work out (but Frentzen did have some tremendous bad luck at Williams as well).

    But since the Sauber car wasn’t competitive, my fallback guy was still Schumacher, so I was supporting him against Senna in 1994.

    Then came the third race of the season. Schumacher won the first two races and Senna had zero points, so I was totally excited. Could it be that a young German talent could beat the Legend, driving for Williams no less, the dominating car of the previous years. Before the season started, it was basically a foregone conclusion that Senna would win the championship.
    That Sunday, me and my parents visited my grandparents. My grandparents had a small farm and everybody was outside, woking on something while I snuck into the house to watch the race. When Senna flew off in the Tamburello corner, at first I didn’t think it was serious, so I was thrilled. I thought that with 30 points over Senna, Schumacher might have an actual chance to win the title, something I didn’t dare to hope before, given how strong the Williams car had been and how good Senna was. (And once Williams brought their B-Spec car, it indeed was the fastest car once again.) I don’t remember exactly at which point the news of Senna’s death broke. I’ve recently read an account of Gerhard Berger who visited Senna in Hospital shortly before he died, so his actual death must have been some time after the race, but I do seem to remember that by the end of the race, word was the Senna was dead. Also, in the wake of the anniversary, I have recently seen a special report on the race in Imola from Austrian TV which originally must have aired shortly after the race in which it was said that the drivers didn’t know about Senna’s death during the celebrations but that they were told right afterwards, before the press conference. Something must be off I guess. Maybe they knew by then that Senna couldn’t be saved anymore.

    Anyway, when the news broke, I was shocked. For me, Senna was synonymous with F1. He basically started racing when I was old enough to absorb F1 and he dominated large parts of that era. And while I never supported him for one reason or another, for me he was clearly the best, overshadowing the likes of Prost and even my guy Mansell, while Schumacher was still nothing more than a young talent. I remember running out of the living room onto the farmyard and yelling “Senna is dead”. And of course I was met with disbelief. It was just something that nobody could picture. How could the greatest driver of his time just die?

  • Senna is the reason I got into F1.
    My friend raced go-karts in his colours.
    I own 50+ posters of him.
    Even though none of them are mounted.
    I can’t bear to part with them.

  • What does Senna mean to me? Ineffable.

    I do have a Senna logo tattoo and a vanity plate that reads SENNA1

  • Jayleo

    As I was born in 1989, I obviously don’t have a recollection of when Senna raced, nor was my family huge into motorsport at the time so this was one childhood memory that I don’t have. I do, however, owe my current passion with Formula 1 to him. Just a year ago, my friend introduced me to the Senna documentary and after watching footage of him race, I immediately wanted to find out more. Countless You Tube video hours, articles, encyclopedia entries, and documentaries later, I was hooked. That gravitated to waking up at zero-dark thirty on Sundays to watch last year’s season live and into this year with caring about the new cars, drivers, teams, new rules and such. Senna’s story embodies what I love about Formula 1. I love the history and tradition, the international aspect and flair, the drivers and teams, the victories and struggles, the characters and drama, and the technology and purpose. Finally, Ayrton Senna da Silva the person is very admirable. Not perfect, obviously, but his character, the love of country and it’s people, his faith and resolute determination is an inspiration for me. Therefore, I owe a lot to this guy as many other young/new fans of this sport.

    Ayrton, may you rest in peace.