Friday, March 21, 2014

Top Gear remembers Ayrton Senna

This is a bit of a change of pace, I know, but the timing is right. Today would have been the 54th birthday of Ayrton Senna, arguably the greatest Grand Prix driver ever. Senna was killed in an accident during the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994; already a legend, what kept Senna from then becoming a myth more than a man was the way he had lived his life, as you'll soon see.

There are many reasons why I ranked Top Gear number one on my Top Ten list, but amidst the wackiness and absurdity and dumb fun, one of the things the show does best is to draw out the romance of cars and the humanity of those who drive them.  Never was that more apparent than in this tribute to Senna from four years ago on the occasion of his 50th birthday.  James May introduces the piece as "a slight change of mood," but even though the show's off-the-wall humor is replaced by an uncommon solemnity, the underlying theme is no different than it has been on so many occasions.

There is something magical about the automobile - always has been.  And when someone drives a car, as Senna did, doing things that few people had ever seen done before, then we take note that this is a special person.  It is right that we should honor people like that, for their accomplishments, for doing things that we would like to do but can't, for doing what we might not have even considered possible.  He was human, as we all are, oftentimes for better and occasionally for worse, and we remember him for his extraordinary humanity.  But when he got behind that wheel, Ayrton Senna ceased to be human; he was a visible representation of a gift that had been given to him and which he sought to make the most of, and in doing so he guaranteed that we would never forget him.

So here's Top Gear's remembrance of Ayrton Senna, which says much about both the man and the program.

This piece originally appeared at It's About TV!

1 comment:

  1. 65 poles . . . all with the single hour-long format involved. None of the single-car or knockout formats we now see in F1 where you need to be P1 just at the last session.

    Would a team owner want that Ayrton-style aggression in a driver today? INDYCAR drivers, because of what they've learned on the superspeedways (Pocono, Indianapolis, Texas, and Fontana), and the engine rules, are more prone to give and take, prefer to keep the car in one piece to avoid the 10-point penalty for an engine change caused by an engine damaged in a crash.

    F1 and to an extent, GP2 drivers are the only ones that seem to say "let's race hard, let's not care about keeping the car in one piece". Checkers or Wreckers.

    The typical Saturday night racer (where NASCAR develops) and even club racer you see in sportscars are more likely to say, "No, I'll just keep my car in one piece, I have to pay the bills when I crash, I have to repair my own car. I can't afford it, so we'll give now, but I'd rather have a car that can last a season without serious repairs." (When Dale Earnhardt Jr came up the ranks, he had to do everything himself.

    A driver such as Ayrton would NEVER be allowed in today's motorsport with the "If you crash, you must pay for this and repair it yourself" mentality.

    Could Ayrton Senna have made it in a heats-and-feature style where you had to perform well in your qualifying race, then run the feature?


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