Class of 2000
Although his life was taken in a crash at the zenith of his career, Brazilian Ayrton Senna was nonetheless considered to be one of the greatest drivers of all time. The 34-year old native of Sao Paulo left a legacy of success unmatched by most who enjoyed full careers.
Senna was born in Sao Paulo on March 21, 1960. He began his career in kart racing as a youngster, but quickly raced his way thru the ranks to a Formula 1 ride in 1984, winning championships at almost every level along the way.
On the Grand Prix circuit for only a decade, Senna posted some incredible numbers, many of which still remain records. In half a normal career, he won three world championships, set a record with 65 pole positions, led a record 3,024 laps and won 41 races, second only to the 51 victories of Main Prost.
Senna won the Formula Ford championship in 1981, his initial season on that circuit, then moved up to Formula Ford 2000 series in 1982, and won that title as well. He beat Martin Brundle for the Formula 3 title in 1983, then moved to Formula 1 the next year, driving for the British team of Toleman Hart.
Switching to Lotus in 1983, Senna gained his first win, in the rain in Portugal. In 1987, still driving for Lotus, Senna began a relationship with Honda, and when the Japanese automaker switched to McLaren in 1988, Senna cast his lot with them. Over the next six years, Senna would dominate Formula 1 in Honda-powered McLarens.
From 1988 through 1993, Senna posted 37 of his 41 career wins, sped to 46 of his 65 career poles, and won all three of his world championships. During the span, his battles with Prost were legendary. As teammates in 1989, Prost and Senna dueled into the last race of the season. Prost, refusing to yield when Senna attempted to pass, took out both cars and won the title. The very next year, on competing teams, the duo again raced for the title in the season’s last race. This time, it was Senna who took out Prost and claimed the title.
Ayrton Senna’s success has been attributed to his obsessive desire to win, his attention to detail and his analytical mind that functioned like a computer when he was driving, allowing him to get everything there was to get out of his race car.