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Welcome arrow Articles arrow Personality Profiles arrow Ayrton Senna : 20 Years since Tragic Imola Weekend
Ayrton Senna : 20 Years since Tragic Imola Weekend PDF Print E-mail

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In 1983, a young Brazilian driver from São Paolo totally dominated the Macau Grand Prix: pole position, overall winner and fastest lap.  That driver was, of course, Ayrton Senna.
Senna went on to win 41 Grands Prix and three world drivers’ titles. He was also on pole 65 times. But on May 1, 1994 it all came to a tragic end.  On Saturday afternoon of the San Marino Grand Prix weekend, we lost Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger who crashed when his front wing collapsed; in the race on Sunday afternoon we lost Ayrton.
The race started well enough only for a start-line accident involving JJ Lehto and Pedro Lamy to bring out the Safety Car.  After seven laps the SC pitted and Ayrton took off, determined to beat his nemesis Michael Schumacher.  As Senna took the fast left-hander at Tamburello his Williams bottomed out due to low tyre pressures brought on by the time spent running behind the Safety Car.  Senna’s car was launched off the track and into the wall that separated the narrow run-off area from a river behind.  A front suspension wishbone broke away and pierced Ayrton’s helmet.
Under Italian law if he had been declared dead on the spot, the circuit owners and officials would have been liable.  He was flown by helicopter to hospital where he was declared dead but we all knew that death was pretty much instantaneous.

A Complex Character
Ayrton was an extremely complicated man.  Ruthless on the track but compassionate in his private life.  Religious to an extent, he established children’s charities in his native Brazil.
At a Grand Prix he was generally unapproachable – this writer never got to talk to him as he surrounded himself with Brazilian journalists – but in general terms he was charming and extremely likeable. On the track he had serious problems relating to his team mate, Alain Prost.  At the Japanese Grand Prix in 1989 Senna and Prost collided at the chicane.  Prost became champion again as a result. The following year Ayrton deliberately took Prost out at the first corner at Suzuka, handing him the title which he thought was rightly his the year before.  Eventually Prost left McLaren to join Ferrari as he felt he was not getting fair treatment because of the feisty Brazilian.  In 1993 Prost once again won the championship in a Williams, before announcing his retirement.  Ayrton Senna took his place at Williams and it was in this car that he died.  If he’d lived – and won at Imola – he had intended to wave an Austrian flag on the podium in memory of Roland Ratzenberger.
Six months after Ayrton’s untimely death in Imola, Alain Prost, when in Hong Kong, was asked about their relationship.  He replied: “We did not know it at the time, but we were closer than we ever realised.”  Ayrton Senna was indeed, close to millions around the world.  He will never be forgotten.

 
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© 2018 Jeff Heselwood. All rights reserved.
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