When in 1993 a journalist asked him who he felt had been his toughest opponent, Ayrton Senna replied: “You don’t know him; his name is Terry Fullerton and I fought against him in Karting.” A few years before, after his first Formula One world title, the Brazilian had already stated in a press conference that his biggest regret was that he had “never won the World Karting Championship”. These two anecdotes alone demonstrate to what extent Karting had a major influence on the champion whom the fans still call “Magic Ayrton”.

A genuine natural talent, Ayrton Da Silva (he did not immediately use the name of Senna, which was his mother’s) quickly demonstrated how incredibly fast he was behind a steering wheel, initially to his close relations, notably in a kart manufactured by his father. And Ayrton impatiently waited until he was 13 years old before he was at last allowed to enter his first official race. And on 1st July 1973 the newcomer landed victory at the Interlagos track – it was the first of a long series. Unbeaten throughout his maiden competition season, Ayrton broadened his sphere of activity: the regional races were rapidly followed by national and international events, and in 1977 he won the South American Championship, his first major title. This convinced him that he had to go to Europe in order to challenge the best Drivers of the discipline. His team was DAP, the make dear to the Parrilla brothers, Angelo and Achille.

Finishing in 6th place his first World Championship, organised at Le Mans in 1978, the young Brazilian was back with a vengeance in 1979. On the Portuguese Estoril track, Senna believed that he had at last found his racing grail by winning the third final. However, although he finished with the same number of points as Peter Koene, it was the Dutchman who was declared champion pursuant to an article of the regulations. In a further attempt to get the world crown, Ayrton Senna competed in the World Championship at Nivelles in 1980 and once again… he ended up as runner-up behind another Driver from the Netherlands, Peter De Bruijn. Entered yet again in the 1981 and 82 World Championships, he was penalised by his lack of running in a kart and had to be content with finishing 4th and 14th.

In those days, Ayrton was indeed accomplishing a meteoric rise in single-seaters. Stringing together titles in Formula Ford, Formula Super Ford and Formula 3, he got a seat as a Grand Prix Driver in 1984. This was the start to an awesome career in Formula One which, before his tragic crash in 1994, led him to three World Champion titles obtained in 1988, 1990 and 1991. But in the eyes of Ayrton a world crown was missing from his list of exploits…

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