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Bruno Senna: 30 years on, Ayrton is still as strong as ever

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The 30th year since Ayrton Senna was killed during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, the legacy of the great Brazilian Formula 1 driver burns bright as ever and he continues to inspire around the world, a fact that fills, his nephew, Bruno Senna with pride.

For many that weekend at Imola which claimed the lives of not only Senna but also Roland Ratzenberger remains one of the darkest weekends in motorsport history, for many the events are crystal clear as if it was yesterday.

Bruno had the good fortune to be part of an Ayrton Senna Tribute during the recent Monaco Historique weekend where several of his F1 cars and junior series cars were on display. Later driven in a a parade on the streets of Monte-Carlo to honour the fallen Brazilian.

During the poignant event, Bruno took time out for a chat in the Monaco pitlane. The venue where Ayrton has a record six GP victories at the Principality.

Reflecting on the three decades past, since 1 May 1994, Bruno said: “It’s amazing that 30 years on after he passed, he passed, it’s he’s still so present with us. And for us. It means that the fans, the people that watched him, they had such a strong connection with him that they passed it on to their kids and their grandkids even.

“So 30 years on, he’s still as strong as ever. And we believe that it’s great because he’s a great influence in the world and his values and his humanity. And we hope that you can still affect people in the future.”

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Bruno also had the opportunity to drive the McLaren MP4/5B with which Senna won his second F1 title. The nephew said after his Monaco laps in the car: “It was incredibly special to drive this car in Monaco, and I’m sure the crowd enjoyed hearing the beautiful roar of this V10 engine once again around this legendary circuit.

“I love the McLarens because I grew up watching them. I was a bit younger so you know, I saw a lot of fights and success with the McLarens. The V10 is just like music so I love driving this car which is running so smoothly. I’m loving it.”

Also present on display but not driven during the Monaco-Senna tribute was the Toleman TG184 which Senna nearly took to victory at a rain-sodden 1984 Monaco GP. Only the race being shortened (because of rain) prevented rookie Ayrton from beating more experienced Alain Prost that day. It was the Brazilian’s fifth GP start.

That car featured in an exhibition of Senna’s Kart and race cars including his Van Diemen RF82 he drove in 1982 Formula Ford 2000. A Ralt RT3 raced in the 1983 British F3, and a Lotus 97T that powered him to his maiden win at the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril.

Ayrton Senna

Reflecting on the contentious 1984 Monaco GP, Bruno took up the story: “I think that race was a huge stepping stone for Ayrton to show off what he was able to do. We saw his magic in the rain, I think for the first time then. And he was, you know, almost a winner in this very first year in F1 which is not something that is doine all the time.

“But the car [Toleman TG184] is here and I’ve seen it run a few times. It’s such a cool car as well. Very different from what we have nowadays. And as you see the years go on the technology changes in the cars become more and more sort of close to what we have now.”

Bruno was 10 years old when Ayrton was killed, aged 34 but he still has vivid memories of quality time spent with his uncle: “Yeah, it was really cool. He was not someone who used to teach me by telling me what to do. He was always trying to show me what to do.

So he would, you know, try to force me to go around the outside of him. And then he would just push me off the track and block defending I had a lot of fun. We had a really good time racing and driving around together in the go-karts,” recalled Bruno, now 40 years old.

This weekend at Imola current F1 drivers will be paying tribute to Ayrton Senna, with Pierre Gasly using a replica of the iconic yellow helmet, with a green and a blue stripe in honour of his hero.

The younger Senna also made it into F1 but with less success than his uncle. Bruno made 46 Grand Prix starts during his three seasons in F1. His last appearance at the 2012 Brazilian GP.

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