The death of Dan Wheldon during final IndyCar series finale Oct. 16 occurred ironically during the current release of the documentary SENNA, the biography of Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian Formula 1 driver who like Wheldon was revered and a racing hero to their respective countryman and global fans.
Wheldon, 33, the Great Britain native and two-time Indy 500 winner, died in a 15-car accident early in the race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Senna, 34, of Brazil, a three-time F1 world titlist, died May, 1994 in an accident during the San Marino Grand Prix.
Wheldon called Senna his racing hero, and 17 years after his death Senna is still often regarded as the greatest F1 driver in history.
The document of Senna’s life, still in theaters, was also just released on DVD. It was presented with the world cinema documentary award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
The story behind the story of SENNA is the film is the filmmaker’s ability to include several edge-of-your-seat driving scenes while also showcasing Senna’s personal life and his importance to his country at a time when Brazil was ravaged by poverty.
Wheldon was also extraordinarily popular to motorsports fans in his native country. And like Senna his personality endeared him to casual fans and the sporting community at large.
Motorsports athletes know the inherent dangers of their occupation, but his doesn’t make a death on the track any easier to accept. But to honor and further appreciate the life race car drivers choose, viewing SENNA at a theater or via DVD is warranted.
DAN WHLEDON LIFELINE
1978: Born in Olney, Buckinghamshire.
1982: Takes up karting.
1999: Wins United States F2000 championship and named ‘Rookie of the Year’.
2000: Toyota Atlantic ‘Rookie of the Year’.
2001: Wins CART Dayton Indy Lights ‘Rookie of the Year’ award.
2002: IndyCar debut with Panther Racing.
2003: Named IndyCar ‘Rookie of the Year’ for Andretti Green Racing.
2004: Finishes second in the points standings.
2005: Wins Indy 500, becoming the first Englishman to do so since Graham Hill in 1966; Claims IndyCar drivers’ championship in second full season.
2006: Runner-up in the drivers’ championship.
2009: Finishes second at Indianapolis 500.
2010: Second again at Indianapolis 500.
2011: Joins Bryan Herta Autosport after leaving Panther Racing; Wins second Indy 500;
October 16: Killed in final IndyCar race of the season in Las Vegas.