Anniversary of Senna's historic first win | Motorsport - Car News Apr 2020

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11:01 Wednesday 29 Apr 2020

Last week marked the 35th anniversary of the late great Ayrton Senna’s maiden Formula 1 victory.

In contrast to last week's balmy conditions, it was in monsoon weather that Senna won the Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril on Sunday 21st April 1985.  The 25-year-old was only in his second Formula 1 season, but stunned his rivals with a wet-weather masterclass behind the wheel of his Renault-powered Lotus 97T, lapping the entire field up to second-placed Ferrari of Michele Alboreto.  He had started from pole – another first for the Brazilian – and led from start-to-finish, completing the race of attrition with a lead of more than a minute, while just nine of the twenty-six starters lasted long enough to see the chequered flag.

Senna went on to win a further 41 Grand Prix and three Drivers’ World Championships, and although he was tragically killed in a crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix aged only 34 his place as a motoring racing legend had already been cemented.

Recalling the events of 35 years ago, Senna’s cheif mechanic of the time Chris Dinnage – now manager of Classic Team Lotus – said, “Ayrton hadn’t tested the car in the wet – that was the first time he’d driven in those conditions.  Estoril was when he really hit the scene, because people sat up and thought ‘hang on, he’s lapped almost everybody’ and we knew we had something pretty special.  Ayrton had the same raw pace as everyone else, but he was only using 50% of his capacity as a human to drive the car at full speed, leaving him the other 50% to be really aware of everything that was going on around him.  His concentration levels were unparalleled – I’ve never met anyone else like him.”

Classic Team Lotus – owned by Clive Chapman, son of Lotus founder Colin – still owns and maintains the actual Lotus 97T driven by Senna on that historic occasion.


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