Senna laps an NSX

February 28th, 2007 by William

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A good friend of mine who is huge Ayrton Senna fan sent me a great Senna video today. Unfortunately I missed out on most of Senna’s racing days, I was only 11 years old or so and had yet to develop an appreciation for the great F1 drivers of the time. But thanks to online videos it is possible to relieve many of these driver’s greatest moments.

For all you non-F1 types, Ayrton Senna was a Brazilian born driver who raced for some of the top teams in Formula One (McLaren/Honda, Lotus and Williams). He was best known for his ability to throw down incredibly quick qualifying laps and for his uncanny ability to pilot an F1 car at high speeds in wet weather, the latter earning him the nickname “The Rain Master”. Senna’s brilliant career was cut short in 1994 when he was involved in a fatal accident during the San Marino Grand Prix at the Imola circuit in Italy. Prior to Senna’s accident fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello had been involved in a serious wreck in Friday qualifying. Then on Saturday Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger died in a fatal accident during practice. The following Sunday during the race Senna’s car broke traction and went off the track at Tamburello corner hitting an unprotected concrete barrier. Telemetry shows he left the track at 310 km/h (193 mph) and was able to slow the car down to 218 km/h (135 mph) in less than two seconds before hitting the wall. There is some controversy over the cause of the accident, whether it was a result of driver or mechanical failure. There is also some disagreement on the actual cause of death, but most people believe that he died at the track due to massive head trauma caused by a tire or piece of suspension debris from the car.

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When Senna was driving for McLaren/Honda he developed a close relationship with the Honda engineers that built the power plants for his Formula 1 car. As a result he was asked to fine-tune the Honda NSX’s (Acura stateside) suspension setting during its final development stages. He tested the car at Suzuka Circuit with chief NSX engineer Shigeru Uehara on hand to listen to Senna’s input. Senna’s main critique was that the NSX lacked chassis stiffness, a problem which the engineers fixed with additional reinforcements before the car went into production.

Here is some footage of Senna putting the NSX through its paces at Suzuka. Note that he is driving in slip on loafers…. ahhh the lifestyle.

Bill Mertz

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About William

I am a twenty something car enthusiast. I spend most of my days working in a small restoration shop in Northern California that specializes in vintage Alfa Romeos. I also manage to do some freelance writing for a handful of automotive publications. When I'm not at the shop I can usually be found working on one of my own project cars, out driving on a good windy road or good jeep trail. Despite what my girlfriend says cars aren't what defines me, they are only what I do. When I have a chance I also love to go camping, play sports or generally do any type of outdoor activity. I don't take myself to seriously, so I hope you don't either.

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