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Ayrton Senna: 30 anecdotes that you (perhaps) don't know about the Brazilian who died thirty years ago

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Ayrton Senna: 30 anecdotes that you (perhaps) don't know about the Brazilian who died thirty years ago

1. Even though his rivalry with Alain Prost reached new heights, Ayrton Senna was extremely popular in France. A poll published by Winamax and RTL carried out last week places the Brazilian second among the best F1 drivers in history, behind Michael Schumacher (32%) and ahead of Alain Prost (16%). Proof of this popularity, he kicked off a friendly match at the Parc des Princes between a Brazilian selection and a mixed team made up of players from PSG and Bordeaux in 1994.

2. Ayrton Senna always dreamed of becoming a Ferrari driver but marriage never came true. Luca di Montezemolo, former president of Ferrari, however revealed that negotiations had started between the Brazilian and the Italian team. The two men had even met a week before the tragedy at Imola to discuss a possible arrival.

3. Ayrton Senna was a tennis fan, a good player and who had attended matches at Wimbledon and Roland-Garros which he particularly appreciated. He had been in the stands to follow the ladies' final in 1992 between Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.

4. Ayrton Senna also loved music and a few artists in particular: Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, Milton Nascimento, Madonna but also Tina Turner with whom he went on stage after the 1993 Australian Grand Prix.

5. Ayrton Senna, three times Formula 1 world champion, covered 37,937 km aboard a single-seater in 161 grand prix contested, which is almost the circumference of the Earth at the Equator (approximately 40,000 km).

6. Besides tennis, Senna was a big fan of jet skiing and water skiing. He trained physically for his sport but “was not at all obsessed with physical culture. Jogging even tended to annoy him,” explains Lionel Froissart, who has just published a book, L’icon immolée, (En Exergue Éditions).

7. Ayrton Senna was known to be particularly comfortable on wet tracks but he was not naturally so. He had also had difficulty in these conditions in karts and had decided to work on this surface to be the best.

8. Ayrton Senna saved the life of Erik Comas during testing at the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix. The Frenchman suffered an impressive crash at Blanchimont before losing consciousness. The pilot's foot remained on the accelerator with a risk of overheating or even explosion. Senna then stopped his car and ran onto the track while other cars were traveling at reduced speed. He then cut the engine speed to prevent the fire from igniting the F1. The paramedics took over from the Brazilian.

9. In 1988, in Monaco, Ayrton Senna signed a pole position that remains in the legend of Formula 1 at the wheel of the McLaren by pushing back his teammate Alain Prost to 1''427. The perfect ride. A mystical achiever: “I understood that I was no longer flying consciously: I had entered another dimension. The circuit had become a tunnel into which I plunged, again and again, ever further. I realized that I was going beyond all conscious perception. I was speeding up again and again and again. I was beyond the limit but still able to push it.”

10. Ayrton Senna was formidable at chess, which he played with Williams team boss Sir Frank Williams. “He planned three moves and four counter-moves in advance,” the British leader explained about him.

11. Ayrton Senna directly participated in developing the Honda NSX, an iconic car of the 90s. He traveled to Japan to help engineers work on this model. The Brazilian's supercar was also put up for auction on the Auto Trader site for 500,000 pounds, or 585,000 euros. The 280 horsepower car now has around 63,000 km on the odometer.

12. Ayrton Senna perhaps signed in 1993 on the Donington circuit at the European Grand Prix the most beautiful lap in the history of Formula 1 in hellish rain. An anthology loop where the South American gave the impression of riding as if on a dry track. He swallowed Schumacher, Hill then Prost in turn. Senna outstripped the competition to gain a four-second lead over this trio on the second lap. Fabulous.

13. When he died at Imola, Ayrton Senna had an Austrian flag in his car. On the podium, he planned to pay tribute to Roland Ratzenberger who had been killed the day before on the Italian circuit.

14. The funeral of Ayrton Senna was celebrated in São Paulo in front of a huge crowd taking to the streets to pay homage to the idol: three million people mourned his death that day in the city where he came from native.

15. Ayrton Senna is buried at the Morumbi cemetery in São Paulo, Brazil. In Imola, a memorial is dedicated to him with a bronze statue placed a few meters from the Tamburello bend where he died.

16. Ayrton Senna had Italian blood through his mother, Neide Senna da Silva, granddaughter of Italian immigrants. He had an older sister, Viviane, and a younger brother, Leonardo. He came from a middle-class Brazilian family and his father Milton owned a mechanical factory.

17. Ayrton Senna very quickly enjoyed playing sports, particularly gymnastics, but he suffered from motor coordination problems as a child which pushed his parents to have him take exams. However, these revealed nothing abnormal.

18. Ayrton Senna's first car driven was a model Jeep that he drove around the family farm at age seven.

19. Senna's first nickname was "Beco", a pet name given to him by his parents. Champion, he inherited “Magic Senna”. He was also sometimes called the “Rain Master” because his talent in the rain was unrivaled.

20. Ayrton Senna started competing at age 13. He became the youngest triple world champion in 1991 after being crowned in 1988 and 1990.

21. The famous phrase “I miss you Alain”, addressed by Senna to Prost a few hours before losing his life, almost never was broadcast. “We checked the sound recording before editing. Yves Géniès called me because he doesn't understand Ayrton's English well: “Ayrton says something before starting his turn. He said Monsieur Alain…”We ended up understanding that it was in fact the famous I miss you Alain. If Yves had not had the reflex to check, the video would have started when he crossed the line and the sentence would have been forgotten,” recalls Pierre van Vliet who commented on the races on TF1 at the time. This sentence publicly sealed the reconciliation between the two rivals.

22. Senna became closer to Alain Prost when the Frenchman retired in 1993. “Ayrton's behavior towards me changed radically after my last Grand Prix, contested in Australia, six months later early. He invited me to join him on the podium and I discovered, from that precise moment, another person, another human being, much more pleasant and talkative. The winter that followed, he called me frequently on the phone, sometimes several times a week,” Prost explained in an interview with Paris Match.

23. Ayrton Senna was a very religious man who read the Bible regularly. “He wasn't more of a mystic than that but he had the courage to talk about his belief in God and explain that he read the Bible. He did not proselytize although reading sacred texts gave him a certain strength. Above all, Ayrton was a very sensitive boy. There is something paradoxical about being so hard behind the wheel and so emotional outside of it. Perhaps he was too generous in his race explanations when at the time other champions gave nothing,” Lionel Froissart says about him.

24. Senna wanted Prost to come out of retirement because the Frenchman's departure had caused his motivation to drop. Over time, the Frenchman had become his main reason for racing in Formula 1. Schumacher, Hill, Berger, his new adversaries, had much less esteem in his eyes.

25. On November 20, 1994, a foundation, the Instituto Ayrton Senna was founded to help young Brazilians. The pilot had worked on his creation two months before dying, in the company of his sister. Senna was strongly affected by the poverty in his country. “You can’t change the world alone. But you can do your part to change it a little. What I really do against poverty, I will never say. F1 is a miserable thing compared to this tragedy,” he explained during his career.

26. Ayrton Senna claimed to have no role model or idol in motor sports. “I admire hard work, dedication and skill,” he explained on the subject.

27. When he died, Ayrton Senna was living a secret love affair with Carol Alt, a top model he had met four years previously at a Versace fashion show. The American was married to hockey player Ron Greschner but planned to leave him for the Brazilian.

28. Ayrton Senna was a hard worker in garages. A major investment that impressed even Alain Prost. “The arrival of Ayrton forced me to change certain habits, as a result the technical meetings became much longer, and that was still not enough, because often, after dinner, Ayrton returns to the circuit to control the work of the mechanics,” the Frenchman explained, admitting another day: “When I arrive in the morning, he’s already there.” The two men lived together for two years in 1988 and 1989 within the McLaren team.

29. The captain carrying Ayrton Senna's coffin refused to respect the rules according to which the coffin had to be placed in the hold. By removing a few seats, the Brazilian legend therefore crossed the Atlantic in the cabin, with the other passages.

30. He believed a lot in his nephew Bruno Senna. “If you think I’m good, wait until you see my nephew Bruno,” declared the Brazilian. But Bruno Senna never had the career hoped for by his uncle, despite everything competing in 46 grand prix in Formula 1 between 2010 and 2012, without ever getting on the podium once.

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