I am a big Ayrton Senna fan- and who in the motorsports world isn’t?
Ayrton Senna, was a Brazilian Formula One driver who won the F1 world championship three times, in 1988, 1990 and in 1991. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most skillful drivers of all time. He died in 1994, at the peak of his motor racing career in a tragic accident at Imola, San Marino, Italy.
I owned a large motorsports apparel company in the 1980’s and 1990’s. We printed licensed Ayrton Senna t-shirts during that time, however, I had never met Senna. My company was also the officially Licensed Apparel Company for the Formula One United States Grand Prix that was held on the downtown Phoenix street circuit in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1989 and 1990.
In 1989, on the Wednesday evening before the inaugural Phoenix F1 race, I was setting up our 15 apparel stands located around the Phoenix street circuit. I took a break in the F1 garages, sitting in my rental golf cart watching the F1 teams setting up their temporary garages for the race. It was hot, real hot, probably still over 100 degrees. I was sweaty and tired. Someone came up to me and asked “Can I borrow your golf cart?”. I turned around and said to Ayrton Senna “Hell no… you can have it!”. He laughed as I handed him the keys to the golf car, and he and slid into the drivers seat. I told him to leave the cart anywhere when he was done. He said “ I’m going to do a lap and check out the track- hop on”. He didn’t have to ask me twice! I sat in the golf cart next to Senna, and we did a lap of the Phoenix F1 downtown track! That was an experience of a lifetime!
In qualifying on Friday, Ayrton Senna went progressively faster and faster, eventually posting a time 1.5 seconds ahead of McLaren teammate Alain Prost and the rest of the field.
I’m not sure how many people got to do a lap with Ayrton Senna on an F1 track. It still gives me goosebumps remembering it today!
Photo credit: Lucy Pope, London, for the use of her Ayrton Photo ‘Ayrton Senna with his chief engineer at McLaren’. I used Lucy's photo for reference to create this painting. Thank you very much, Lucy, for allowing me to use your incredible photo! http://www.lucypope.com