Famed Formula 1 racer Ayrton Senna lived for life at high speed and died doing what he loved. The Brazilian race car driver was just 34 when he died leaving a legacy of wins to be remembered by.
day, Lotus marks the 35th anniversary of Senna’s first Formula 1 win with a new podcast.
Senna was a member of the Lotus team form 1985 to 1987 and achieved his first pole position while behind the wheel of one of their cars in 1985. The Lotus years were some of the least fruitful of Senna’s Formula 1 career but his two wins in each of the three seasons and two consecutive fourth place season finishes in ’86 and ’87 pushed his career in high gear.
Ayrton Senna was a member of the Lotus racing team from 1985 to 1987.Photo courtesy of Classic Team Lotus
On April 21, 1985, Senna, all of 25 years old, was behind the wheel fo a Lotus 97T in monsoon conditions at the Portuguese Grand Prix. Lotus describes what happened next:
“Rain, as ever, is the great leveler for on-track performance. It requires sensitive driver inputs, instinctive car control and a sympathetic approach to the mechanical set-up. One weekend in Estoril revealed Senna could excel in all.
It was also the setting for Senna’s first-ever F1 pole position, and he went on to claim another 15 for Lotus. His record of 65 F1 pole positions is eclipsed only by Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.
In the race, Senna got off the line well and led a Lotus 1-2 after the first lap. With a clear road ahead, he began to pull away from team-mate Elio de Angelis and the chasing pack. The race was one of bravery and attrition; conditions worsened and, in an era before safety cars, pit-to-car radio or yellow flags, cars were pulling off the track or hitting the barriers.
Senna remained calm and composed in his Lotus and, after two hours of brutal racing, crossed the line first. Just nine cars were classified as finishing.
He later commented: “It was a hard, tactical race, corner by corner, lap by lap, because conditions were changing all the time. The car was sliding everywhere – it was very hard to keep the car under control. Once I had all four wheels on the grass, totally out of control, but the car came back on the circuit. People later said that my win in the wet at Donington in ’93 was my greatest performance – no way! I had traction control!”
He became a national hero in Brazil and won fans the world over. Despite his tragic death in 1994, he remains a racing legend.
The monsoon, combined with Senna’s first F1 win, made the Portuguese Grand Prix particularly memorable.Photo courtesy of Classic Team Lotus
The new podcast – part of the recently launched US LOT Sessions – features an all-new and exclusive interview with Chris Dinnage, Senna’s chief mechanic in 1985 and today the Team Manager at Classic Team Lotus.The podcast is joined by rarely seen classic archive images of Senna and his 97T race car from a private collection, and a new blog revealing insights into Senna the man and his time racing for Lotus as part of the celebration of life.
Describing the raw emotion of the weekend and the Lotus that catapulted Senna to stardom, Dinnage says: “Ayrton hadn’t tested the car in the wet – that was the first time he’d driven in those conditions. Estoril was when he really hit the scene, because people sat up and thought ‘hang on, he’s lapped almost everybody’ and we knew we had something pretty special.”
It poured rain on the track during the Portuguese Grand Prix making racing conditions hazardous.Photo courtesy of Classic Team Lotus
Dinnage adds it was this which made the difference between Ayrton and other drivers, explaining: “Ayrton had the same raw pace as everyone else, but he was only using 50% of his capacity as a human to drive the car at full speed, leaving him the other 50% to be really aware of everything that was going on around him. His concentration levels were unparalleled – I’ve never met anyone else like him.”
You can listen to podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and ShoutEngine.