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Brazil: Remembering Ayrton Senna, the unbeatable F1 champion

Ayrton Senna da Silva. In life unbeatable, in death irreplaceable”, says one of the many websites paying homage to the three-time Formula One world champion whose death, on May 1st 1994, shocked Brazil and the world. Leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, Senna lost control of his car and left the track at the Tamburello curve. His death, at just 34-years-old, has been mourned by fans throughout the country 15 years on.

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“If I ever happen to have an accident that eventually costs me my life, I hope it is in one go. I would not like to be in a wheelchair. I would not like to be in a hospital suffering from whatever injury it was. If I’m going to live, I want to live fully, very intensely, because I am an intense person. It would ruin my life if I had to live partially.”

Ayrton Senna's name was among the most popular tags today on the Brazilian timeline on Twitter. @biellebrunner publishes a photo of a visit she had paid to the monument built on the spot Senna died, on the the Tamburello curve. At the beginning of the week, Vinicius Cordeiro [pt] was one of the first people to remember the sad anniversary this year. He said:

Toda vez que 1º de maio se aproxima, meu coração fica apertado: mais um ano sem Ayrton Senna… Eu estava vendo aquela corrida. :'(

Every time we get close to May 1st my hearts sinks: another year without Ayrton Senna… I was watching that race. :'(

Cordeiro was not alone in front of the television on the Sunday that became known in Brazil as the blackest race in history. Imola also saw the death of Austrian race driver Roland Ratzenberger just a day before Senna's accident. The images, the anguish, the pain are still fresh in many people's memories. Guilherme Tsubota [pt] recalls that fatal day:

O dia da sua morte, infeliz coincidência também do aniversário da minha mãe, foi um dos piores que já vivi. Lembro da empolgação e da certeza que a partir daquele GP de Ímola o Ayrton ia virar o jogo sobre o “alemão”, e como sempre acordei cedo para ver a corrida.

Sentei no sofá e ali fiquei o resto do dia, acompanhando atônito a todas as notícias. Convidados do aniversário?!? Não vi ninguém entrar e sair, não lembro de ter falado com ninguém. Só lembro das imagens e notícias que a Rede Globo disponibilizava sobre o acidente do Senna.

Os dias seguintes viraram história, e qualquer pessoa daquela geração, principalmente os paulistantos, lembram-se de como a cidade parou para homenageá-lo. Impressionante, coisa nunca vista antes.

The day of his death, which was also my mother's birthday by an unfortunate coincidence, was one of the worst days I have lived. I remember the excitement and the certainty that from that Imola GP on, Ayrton would turn the tables on the “German”, and as usual I woke up early to watch the race.

I sat on the couch and stayed there the rest of the day, following astonishingly every piece of news. The birthday guests? I didn't see anyone coming or leaving, I don't recall having spoken to anybody. I just remember the images and stories that Globo TV broadcast about Senna's accident.

The following days entered into history, and anyone from that generation, especially those from São Paulo, remember how the town stopped to honor him. It was impressive, something I had never seen before.

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“On a given day, a given circumstance, you think you have a limit. And you then go for this limit and you touch this limit, and you think, ‘Okay, this is the limit.’ As soon as you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high”

Eduardo P.L [pt] takes the opportunity to remember his father, who was a fan of Senna and whose faith, in another series of amazing coincidences, brought him very close to his hero. For the blogger, this is a time of double sadness:

Num sábado, há 15 nos atrás, eu estava num restaurante almoçando, quando fui avisado pelo telefone, que meu pai falecera! Fui para o apartamento dos meus pais, e com minha mãe e irmãos, uns poucos amigos e familiares enterramos o Dr. Santo. No domingo seguinte, portanto um dia depois, morre o Senna. Até aí só uma triste coincidência. Uma semana após chega o corpo ao Brasil, é velado e enterrado no mesmo cemitério, ao lado da tumba do meu pai. Onde estiverem, estão juntos como gostaria meu pai.

On a Saturday, 15 years ago, I was having lunch in a restaurant when I received a phone call telling me that my dad had died! I went to my parents’ flat, and with my mother, siblings, a few friends and relatives, we buried Dr. Santo. On Sunday, so a day later, Senna died. So far, only a sad coincidence. A week after the body arrived in Brazil, and after the vigil he was buried besides my father's grave in the same cemetery. Wherever they are, they are together as my father would like it to be.

Ricardo Vieira [pt] explains how Senna's death has left millions disconsolate:

A partir daquele fatídico domingo, Senna deixou milhões de órfãos, inclusive eu, de suas alegrias, de seu exemplo de vida, de sua determinação profissional e seu maior do moral: a humildade. (…)
Apesar da triste lembrança, apesar da saudade, temos muitos motivos para reverenciar a vida e a obra de Senna.

On that fateful Sunday, Senna left millions of people including me orphaned of his joys, of his example of life, his work and professional determination and of the greatest of his qualities: his humility. (…)
Despite the sad memories, despite the nostalgia, we have many reasons to honor Senna's life and work.

Fifteen years on, a recent poll by the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics shows that Ayrton Senna is still the biggest idol even for a younger generation that did not get to know him alive or follow his career: among nearly 400 people aged between 15 and 19, most said Senna was their biggest sporting idol. Like Pele, Senna made Brazilians feel they could achieve international respect. Considering this, Alan Ferraz [pt] believes Senna's greatest legacy was the way he made Brazilians proud of themselves. He feels moved to remember him:

Enquanto escrevia esse post não pude conter as lágrimas, mesmo após 15 anos. Acredito que isso se repita em todos os que amam a fórmula 1 e que foram apunhalados pelo destino com a partida de nosso eterno campeão.

Dia 1 de maio de 1994 estará para sempre na mente de todos que após esse dia não puderam mais ouvir o: Ayrton, Ayrton, AYRTON SENNA DO BRASIL.

While writing this post I could not hold the tears back, even after 15 years. I believe that this feeling happens to all those who love Formula 1 and were stabbed by destiny with the departure of our eternal champion.

May 1st 1994 will be forever in the minds of everyone who after that day could no longer hear the chanting: Ayrton, Ayrton, AYRTON SENNA DO BRASIL.

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“Racing, competing, is in my blood. It's part of me, it's part of my life; I've been doing it all my life. And it stands up before anything else”

Often portrayed in the press as being cold and aloof, and much more interested in winning than in sportsmanship, the driver was also a quite controversial figure in the eyes of the public. But, even those who were not big fans, like Wilton Sturm [pt], say there will never be anyone quite like Senna:

Me orgulho de dizer que assisti todas as suas 41 vitórias.

Ficou a impressão de que quando finalmente estava relaxando um pouco, se dando o prazer de apreciar outras coisas que não os champanhes das vitórias, Ayrton Senna se foi.

Hoje, sinto e lamento sua falta. E me esforço para tentar não julgar suas atitudes e sim lembrar suas belas atuações. Nunca fui aquele super “Sennista”, mas costumo dizer que em pista, ou seja, disputando uma corrida de Fórmula 1, Ayrton Senna foi o melhor que eu vi!!! Pretendo um dia visitar seu jazigo e não sei qual será minha reação, mas provavelmente direi “obrigado” pelas grandes corridas, pelas grandes ultrapassagens, pelas grandes vitórias que ele me proporcionou assistir!

I am proud to say that I watched all 41 of his victories.

It gave the impression that when he finally started to relax a bit, permitting himself to enjoy the pleasure of other things than just the champagne after winnings, Ayrton Senna passed away.

Today, I miss him and regret his absence. I make an effort not to judge his attitude but to remember his beautiful performances. I was never a super “Sennist” but I like to say that on the track, that's to say, during a Formula 1 race, Ayrton Senna was the best I have ever seen! I want to visit his grave one day and I do not know what my reaction will be, but I will probably say “thanks” for the big races, the great overtaking, the great victories he gave me to watch!


Ricardo César
[pt] wraps up a series of special posts dedicated to Senna with the following quote:

Primeiro de maio de 2009. São exatamente 15 anos de uma perda sentida até por quem não torcia por ele. Lembranças de quem como eu que acompanhei os 10 anos de sua carreira na F1. Imagens de batalhas e conquistas, de manhã de tarde ou de madrugada.

Lembrança de quem um dia deixou de existir como homem, para renascer como mito, talvez o maior ídolo já produzido por um país carente de heróis. Mais um da Silva como muitos brasileiros que nunca desistem. Aquele que será para sempre o nosso campeão.

Valeu, Ayrton Senna.

May 1st, 2009. There are exactly 15 years since the loss felt even by those who did not root for him. There are memories of people who, like me, followed his F1 career from the age of 10. Images of battles and conquests, on mornings, afternoons or late nights.

Remembering the one who one day ceased to exist as a man to be reborn as a myth, perhaps the greatest idol already born in a country in need of heroes. Another one named ‘da Silva’ who, as many Brazilians, never give up. He will forever be our champion.

Thank you, Ayrton Senna.

YouTube user aheutohmaluko has posted the video above highlighting the best moments of Ayrton Senna's career, with the song that was the soundtrack of many Sunday mornings in Brazil. Another user, 1958misterLotus1994 posts a video about the 1985 Belgian G.P commented on in English by Senna himself. The Ayrton Senna quotes are from Wikiquotes. The photos are from the Ayrton-Senna.net website and assumed to be in the public domain.

Editors note: September 3, 2010

The photos used in this post were taken from a website which is no longer available. They had the following disclaimer:

“This site is not endorsed by Ayrton Senna or any organization Ayrton Senna is, was or will be associated with. Please note that all Ayrton Senna Pictures, Ayrton Senna Videos and Ayrton Senna Wallpapers are assumed to be in the public domain. If you have any issues regarding copyright against any content on this site, please email me and I will remove all offending content.”

We believe they are distributed by ICN/Marlboro McLaren/Renault press offices for media use. If you have any issues regarding these photos, please use the contact form to email me and I will remove the images.

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