Ayrton Senna regularly defied logic when he was behind the wheel of a race car – and it didn’t happen just once or twice. The driver made history on four wheels several times.
Check out five true stories that may sound like complete fabrications – but aren’t.
1 –Becoming a Formula 3 Champion with the help of duct-tape
Senna and his West Surrey team hatched a plan for the final and decisive race of the British Formula 3 championship: they closed the air-vent of the oil radiator with duct-tape, to purposefully make the oil heat faster, giving Senna the chance of using an unusual strategy. “It was perfect. The oil reached the right temperature after a single lap, give or take, instead of the usual six or seven.” On the sixth lap, as expected, the water’s temperature started to climb. So Senna loosened his seatbelt and reached out to remove the tape. “I thought I was going to lose control for a second. Suddenly, I wasn’t part of the car anymore. I was sliding inside it. It was very tricky”, said Ayrton, who won and took the title of the category after a year-long battle with Martin Brundle.
2- Clocking the race’s fastest lap going through the pit-lane
The 1993 race in Donington Park is etched in most fan’s minds because of Ayrton Senna’s unbelievable first lap. But besides the epic lap on a wet track, the same race yielded another lap for the annals of motor sports: For the first time in F1 history, a driver posted the race’s quickest lap by going through the pit-lane.
Ayrton had a theory that he could shave 200 meters off his lap by going that way. Since there was no speed limit for the pit-lane at the time, he stepped on it while McLaren readied themselves for a pit-stop. He clocked a 1min18s029 lap, while his previous ones had been around 1min22s. Only after the race he revealed his ingenious plan to a few close friends.
3- Winning with only one gear left
To break the taboo of never winning in Brazil, Senna had to endure the last four laps of the 1991 race at Interlagos with only his McLaren’s sixth gear. Ricardo Patrese (Williams) was fast approaching but even the Italian driver thought that Ayrton was merely being cautious. In the last two laps, Senna took advantage of the light drizzle that fell over the track and crossed the finish-line 2s9 ahead of his rival and finally climb on the podium’s highest step to the delight of his Brazilian fans.
4- Winning without brakes
What seemed like a typical race for Ayrton Senna – starting at the pole position and keeping the lead after the first corner – took an unexpected turn in the 1982 Formula Ford season. When trying to avoid leftover debris from a crash in the first lap, at Snetterton, the Brazilian realized he had lost the front brakes. Senna fell several positions, but soon was able to recover, after adjusting his driving style to the difficulties presented by the car.
In the end, Senna crossed the finish line using only the rear brakes, and was forced to stop his race car on the track’s first corner, close to the pit-lane. Ayrton went to the pit-box and told the mechanics and engineers what had happened, but everyone thought he was exaggerating – after all, he had just won the race. But the real surprise came when they went to retrieve the Brazilian’s car: the front brake disk was cold, proving it hadn’t been used!
5- Jumping out of the car to save another driver’s life
The weekend in Belgium, in 1992, was pretty busy. During free practice sessions, an accident involving Frenchman Érik Comas ended up being just as memorable as the race on Sunday. The Ligier driver crashed hard on the Blanchimont corner, in one of the track’s several high speed stretches. The car’s engine stayed on, while the driver was unconscious after hitting the tire barrier. Ayrton Senna stopped his McLaren and sprinted towards the Ligier to shut down the car’s engine, saving his colleague’s life, who was helped by the medical team moments later.
- Source: Instituto Ayrton Senna
- Photocredit: Reddit
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