Ayrton Senna

People Culture

It is twenty years this week since Ayrton Senna died.

Anyone who cares even vaguely about motorsport will have a view of what this means, and what Senna himself meant in the history of racing.

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At the time he was front and centre of the attention, of course, Senna divided opinion. He was taciturn, stone faced at times. He certainly didn’t flow easily with the clubby, flat-capped atmosphere of the racing establishment – at least as it manifests itself in these, the islands where his racing career was nurtured and where it was able to flower.

I love this intense onboard from Senna’s pole lap at Jerez, 1990

Senna was the cat that walked by himself.

What always struck me, personally, was a quote I read – I can’t remember where exactly I’d seen it originally, but they brought it out to the forefront in the Senna documentary that was released a few years ago. Senna was talking about a certain lap that he drove in that bonkers McLaren MP4/4 turbo F1 car. He was alluding to the fact that in this one particular lap he was driving way, way beyond the limit – that he was driving purely instinctively, that he didn’t know what was allowing him to do this – but that the result was the quickest driving he thought it was possible to do.

An interesting tech discussion on Senna’s genius here.

It’s this sort of thing that that seems to define true artistry. There’s something that the highest practitioners of any craft or art or sport draw on – a kind of ‘flow state’ in which thought, technique – even logic itself – seems to fly out the window. What is left is something pure, something natural – and if you’re a believer, as Senna was – I guess you’d say it was god-given.

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But whatever you think or thought or know about Aytron Senna – it is the straight ahead focus of the man and the incredible performances on the track that will be remembered. He represented that nameless thing – that pure, unsullied ability to transcend mind and body and to perform at a level no one else can understand – that makes Senna what he was and what he continues to be.

May his myth inspire another generation to transcend themselves through sport.

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