• Features

    20 Years After His Death, The World Remembers Legend Ayrton Senna

    Ayrton Senna 20 years

    Though he only lived to the age of 34, Ayrton Senna da Silva is widely regarded by past and present racers the world around to be one of, if not the all-time, greatest to have taken a wheel in anger. It was 20 years ago today that the Brazilian, with threeFormula One world championships, 41 wins and 80 podium finishes under his belt, died in a crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix in Italy while driving for Williams. It was on lap seven of the race at the high-speed Tamburello corner where Senna’s car left the track and hit a concrete barrier at a speed in excess of 140 mph.

    MUST SEE: Watch Senna Catch Prost In The Rain at Monaco, Announced By James Hunt: Video

    For those fortunate enough to have known Senna intimately, many were able to recognize that he was not like other drivers. He had a belief in himself and a drive to win that belied his shy and somewhat humble nature  off the track.

    Ayrton Senna legend

    Behind the wheel he had an intensity that brought about some great rivalries. His bouts with Alain Prost, of course were paramount among them but the Brazilian battled Nigel Mansell and others in the F1 fraternity. He also fought Jean-Marie Balestre, head of the FIA, and whose French ancestry tended to find him on the side of Prost.

    But when the race was over, Senna was much more than just a driver, especially to the people of his homeland. At a time when Brazil was in such turmoil, he seemed able to bridge the gap between rich and the immense number of poverty-stricken people in the countryside. He brought them together in his life and in his death.

    ALSO SEE: Chris Harris Takes A Spin In The 2015 BMW i8: Video

    The 1994 San Marino Grand Prix will forever be known as one of the saddest in F1, not only because of Senna’s death but also that of Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger who crashed during qualifying one day prior. Whether it was due to the design of the cars, due to mechanical failures or due to human error, we will probably never know. But what we do know is that the tragic events of that fateful race helped change the development of the sport, particularly with regard to safety. Since then, no driver has been killed during an F1 race weekend.

    via Motor Authority

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  • Super Cars

    When Bob Lutz Put A Lambo V12 In A McLaren For Senna To Play With

    The McLaren MP4/8B was powered by a Lamborghini V12 and driven by Ayrton Senna in September, 1993 at Estoril after the Portuguese Grand Prix. It was faster, and he wanted to race it in Japan. That never happened.

    At some point earlier in 1993, Bob “Maximum” Lutz and Ron Dennis shook hands. Lutz was Chrysler’s chief executive and Lamborghini was part of their portfolio since 1987. And while they already supplied the ‘Lamborghini 3512? V12 to the Larrousse F1 team, he wanted to win races with it. He needed a top team for that, and Ron Dennis happened to have one.

    When Bob Lutz Put A Lambo V12 In A McLaren For Senna To Play WithS

    McLaren modified the MP4/8 mid-season in order for the bigger V12 (badged Chrysler for the tests) to fit instead of the Ford V8. It took them three month, but on the 20th of September, the MP4/8B hit Silverstone behind closed doors with Senna in the cockpit.

    He suggested to engine builder Mauro Forghieri that it would be better with a less brutal top end and a much fatter mid-range. The changes were made, and the V12 ended up having around 750 horsepower, still almost 70 more than the Cosworth Fords. It also proved more stable and easier on tires than the regular MP4/8.

    Mikka Häkkinen tested the car at Silverstone as well, and was a full second faster in it than with the Ford. So despite the Lamborghini engine’s poor reliability record, Senna wanted to race it in Japan. He was desperate for more speed on his quest to beat Alan Prost. But Ron Dennis said no, a day after Prost announced his retirement. Chrysler wasn’t impressed with his decision either:

    We are disappointed to say the least. We have worked very hard in the last few months, including a very intense period recently putting together a team to interface with McLaren and TAG Electronics. The car was very quick and Ayrton Senna said some encouraging things about it. There was a strong agreement to proceed together for the future. The decision may say something about F1. It’s no secret that the marque must look at its costs, and we wanted to introduce our lean and efficient approach to it.

    Senna went on to win the two last races of the season with the Cosworth V8s (pictured below). The following year, he left McLaren to replace Prost at Williams. You know how that ended.

    When Bob Lutz Put A Lambo V12 In A McLaren For Senna To Play With

    For 1994, McLaren chose a Peugeot V10 over Lamborghini, creating the MP4/9, which scored no wins or poles and had an engine that liked to explode. Chrysler left F1 and sold Lamborghini to a bunch of Indonesians blaming poor Diablo sales in the US.

    McLaren switched to Mercedes power in 1995, and three years later, Mikka Häkkinen scored his first championship with them. Audi also introduced their latest car, a Lamborghini Diablo with fixed headlights…

    Hat tip to motorsportretro, image credit to Wikimedia Commons and Getty Images

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