His legacy lives on, and his legend has only grown stronger with each passing year. We scoured the history books to pull together some of what made his star shine so bright, both in life and on the track. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed researching this legendary man.
1. His very first Formula 1 race in Monaco is still considered, to this day, one of the greatest drives of all time.
In 1984, the always challenging Monaco Grand Prix was held in an absolute downpour. Multiple world champions spun or hit the wall, but a rookie Senna drove through it, and around most of the cars. He was catching his soon-to-be rival Alain Prost by several seconds a lap when Prost stopped his car on track, protesting to the officials that the rain was to intense to race in.
2. Amazingly, though, Senna wasn’t the fastest driver on that day.
Most people forget that another driver named Stefan Bellof was right behind Senna every step of the way, slicing through traffic with him. At times he was actually the faster driver.
3. He’s still the unmatched master of Monaco.
He won on the streets of the principality six times. No active driver is anywhere near that.
4. He could beat you at chess.
He used to play chess with legendary team owner and master strategist Sir Frank Williams, and he would think five moves ahead.
5. He could shift with either hand under immense pressure.
Senna raced before paddle shifters were a thing, and in Monaco, on the sharpest right hand corner, he would turn the steering wheel, shift from third gear down into second using his left hand then straighten out the car and carry on. Try that in your street car in the driveway, then imagine it mid corner, next to a wall at 80 mph while racing against the best drivers in the world.
6. Senna would rather crash than get passed.
Sometimes he would put his car in a position where his opponent had two choices: let him pass, or crash. Most often they let him pass. Not Alain Prost though.
7. He was possibly the deepest thinker in the history of the sport.
You could write an entire book on Senna’s philosophical outlook. He described driving as a pursuit, and the surpassing of metaphysical limits. “On a given day, a given circumstance, you think you have a limit. And you then go for this limit and you touch this limit, and you think, ‘Okay, this is the limit’. And so you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high. […] And suddenly I realized that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension.”
8. Senna predicted someone would die in the exact place he died.
He went with his fellow driver, Gerhard Berger, to see what could be done in the name of safety at the Tamburello corner. They climbed through a partition in the retaining wall to investigate the surroundings. He wanted to move the retaining wall back, but there was a river just behind it. Senna told Berger that he feared someone would die in that spot. Five years later, he did.
9. He won the 1991 Brazilian GP without shifting.
Towards the end of the race, his transmission started failing, and he lost third, fourth, and fifth gear. He drove lap after lap stuck in sixth, and just willed the car around the course. After he won, he was so exhausted he had to be helped from the car.
10. The Acura NSX was a great car because of Senna.
While Honda was designing the NSX, they also built race engines for Senna’s McLaren, so Senna spent a lot of time in Japan helping the engineers refine the car.
11. He saved the life of a fellow driver, Erik Comas.
The Frenchman had crashed very heavily and was knocked unconscious. Senna was the only driver to stop. He ran from his car in front of traffic, shut off Comas’s engine so it wouldn’t catch fire, then held his head to stabilize his neck until the paramedics could arrive.
12. He drove the single greatest lap in history in 1993.
The European Grand Prix at Donnington Park in England got started under damp conditions. Senna drove like it was dry out, and passed fellow past and future World Champions like Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, and Damon Hill like they were rank amateurs.
13. Audi builds cars in Brazil because of Senna
Shortly before his death, Ayrton went to Ingolstadt and contracted with Audi to begin importing the A3. In the years that followed, Audi Senna Ltda. built a factory to make the A3, as well as the VW Golf. The factory’s still going strong, but is now 100% owned by Audi.
14. When he died, they found an Austrian flag in his car.
His plan was to win, then wave the flag in memory of Roland Ratzenberger, who died in qualifying the day before.
15. Every Williams F1 car still carries a Senna tribute.
From the moment he died, every single F1 car Williams has produced has Senna’s face or logo on it in remembrance.
16. Senna’s death has saved multiple lives.
A massive push for additional safety following his death has saved quite a few drivers from what would have been certain death in other eras.
17. He had one of the largest funerals in history.
Days of mourning were declared across Brazil. Over three million people lined the streets for his funeral procession. Quite simply, he was more beloved that Pele.
18. Former FIA President Max Mosley skipped Senna’s funeral.
His rationale was that since everyone was in Brazil burying Ayrton, if he didn’t go to Roland Ratzenberger’s funeral, no one would.
19. His nephew, Bruno Senna, was forced to give up a promising racing career.
Ayrton’s sister made her son, who Ayrton described as a better driver than himself, give up racing after her brother died. Many years later, Bruno started racing again, and even made it to F1. Without all that time away, the sky could have been the limit for him.
20. Honda resurrected his ghost to drive Suzuka one last time.
As the home track for Honda, Suzuka was kind of Senna’s personal playground while he developed the NSX. It was just one of many tracks he mastered, but Honda’s tribute was nevertheless brilliant.
21. He would only race once he knew every single detail of his machine beyond an expert level.
Preparation is key in most sports, and Senna’s prep work was as comprehensive as anyone’s.
22. He had a sense of humor.
Once, in an amusing incident, Gerard Berger replaced Senna’s passport photo with what Ron Dennis described as a picture of “an equivalent-sized piece of male genitalia.” Senna’s fame meant he rarely had his passport checked but on a later trip to Argentina, Berger’s prank resulted in officials holding the Brazilian for 24 hours. As a response to this gag, Senna superglued all of Berger’s credit cards together.
23. He was big on charity, but didn’t want people to know.
After Senna’s death, it was discovered that he had donated an estimated $400 million of his personal fortune to children’s charities, a fact that during his life he had kept secret.
By Aaron Miller | source:www.thrillist.com