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Read also: Ayrton Senna's biography
Ayrton, the Hero Revealed
(Text in purple added May 1st, reflecting the reports shown by the Brazilian television on April 30th and May 1st).
Ayrton's mother is Mrs. Neusa Senna. She has been dedicating all her time to collecting reminiscences from Ayrton, both from family archives and from the media archives.
Ayrton's father is Mr. Milton Senna. The first kart driven by Senna was built by Milton. Brazilian television showed images of Milton accompanying Ayrton during the early times; as Ayrton gained fame, Milton decided to keep a low profile (but he was present at many off-camera moments of Ayrton's victories). After winning the GP Brazil 1991 (the first time he won in Brazil; a few laps before the end, the gears started to fail; Senna finished the race with only one working gear, which was very phisically demanding - he couldn't raise the trophy at the podium), in the backstages, Senna calls his father out loud, to kiss him; apparently, mr. Milton shies away, knowing that cameras are on; Ayrton insists, pulls his father toward him, they hug and kiss each other.
Neusa and Milton have appeared very rarely in Brazilian media (I personally don't remember to have ever seen them). Mrs. Senna recorded an interview for this occasion, to mention her work. Mr. Senna did not record interview.
A book called "Ayrton, o Heroi Revelado" (in English, Ayrton, the Hero Revealed) was launched in Brazil in April 2004. Below, translated excerpts of a report published on Veja magazine, issue #1849, April 14th 2004; original article signed by Joao Gabriel de Oliveira.
The publishing of this text abides by the Rights of Authorship Legislation
Text in black are comments inserted by the webmaster, an admirer of F-1 and Senna
Ayrton, the Hero Revealed was written by Ernesto Rodrighes; the author was chief of office of TV Globo in London and dedicated two years to write the biography. Mr. Rodrigues interviewed 213 people in seven countries (Brazil, Argentina, England, Italy, France, Portugal and Japan).
Other biographies are already available about the life of the pilot, such as the ones written by British Christopher Hilton and by Brazilian journalist Lemyr Martins; while those books emphasized the professional career, The Hero is focused on the personal life of Ayrton.
Senna, the myth, is presented as a genius, a fanatic, a victim and a martyr. Genious because nobody could drive like him. Fanatic because of his full dedication to the races. Victim of the attacks he suffered from rivals Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet. Martyr because he died at a moment when he was struggling to improve the safety of Formula One. The biography covers these and other aspects, to show that Ayrton, the man, was much more complex than the little he let everyone know about his life.
The fanatic who only thought about races still found time for several love affairs. The victim of Piquet and Prost - responsible by spreading the rumous that Senna would be homossexual - was not much of a victim, either; in both occasions, the book reminds, Senna shot first. The martyr of the curve Tamburello, who indeed was starting a movement to increase safety of the cars, had a style of driving which, because of his boldness and his need to overcome personal limits, wouldn't fit a martyr's description. The book says that the crash between Senna and Prost, which decided the 1990 Championship in Suzuka, Japan, was previously planned. More than that, it was a very risky manoeuver, at 250 km per hour, which could have seriously injured - or killed - the Frenchmen (or both). As for the fact of Senna being a genious, the book only shows facts to support it.
The most surprising part of the book is the one which relates the love affairs of Ayrton. Racing was the most importang thing for him, but his vital cycles were not marked by the Formula One seasons only - there were also many women. According to the book, at least five women were relevant to Senna: Lilian de Vasconcellos, Adriane Yamin, Xuxa (the most important - and richest - woman in Brazilian showbiz; used to have a successful daily program dedicated to children and young teens; she tried a career both in US and Argentina, but didn't go very far; today, she is back to the mornings of Globo TV, but without the same space as before; visit her website at http://www.portalx.com.br), Cristine Ferracciu and Adriane Galisteu (she was just a model by the time she met Senna; during their affair, and mostly after his death, Adriane gained much space in the media, and eventually became the hostess of a variety show in less known television channels; check out here: TV Record , but be warned that she changes often; Adriane is a blonde woman, long hair, about 30 years old). [April 30th, TV Globo showed interviews with several people close to Ayrton, and it was a consensus that Ayrton had changed, for better, his life after meeting Adriane; he was really happy to spend a little time with her, instead of spending all time competing; it seems to me that people spent too much time thinking about Adriane's sentiments, and overlooked Ayrton's]
Lilian was with Senna when he started his career in the Formula Ford, in Britain; she was the only one whom Senna married officialy, in 1981; he was 21 years old, she was 19. After the wedding party, they parted to London, where they had a tight financial life; Ayrton, by pride, didn't want to ask money to his father. In a statement included in the book, Lilian remembers his husband as a caressing person, but over concerned with his career. At the eve of races or trainings, he would rather sleeping in separated beds, to avoid the tempations of libido. In an occasion when Lilian thought she was pregnant and told Ayrton, he reacted coldly: "If you are pregnant, you will go to Brazil to raise our son". The marriage lasted eight months.
The affair with Adriane Yamin was in his early times in the Formula One. The relationship lasted from 1985 to 1988. Daugther of an entrepreneur from Sao Paulo, she was 15 years old when they began the affair. They became engaged. Acoording to close friends of the pilot, it was a well behaved affair. At the time, Ayrton lived in Esher, in England. Adriane went there only once, in 1986, escorted by her parents and Senna's mother. "It was not shocking for Ayrton, that epoch, to hear Adriane's mother say that she could not travel alone; for him, a conservative, that was the right thing", declares in the book doctor Linamara Battistella, a friend of Ayrton's.
The first weekend that Ayrton spent with Xuxa was in 1998, year when he won his first world championship. The Monday after, Ayrton arrived to visit Galvao Bueno (main sports anchorman of TV Globo, close friend of Ayrton's) looking like a college boy in love. According to other friend, Alfredo Popesco, Xuxa was a milestone in the life of Senna. "Xuxa came at the right moment", says businessman Marcos Jose Magalhaes Pinto, another friend."After becoming champion, he took a weight away from his shoulders, and opened space for a relationship". Used to having girlfriends at his feet, Ayrton soon became upset with the full agenda of Xuxa, and particularly with the influence of the career manager Marlene Mattos over her (indeed, Marlene became famous in Brazil for two reasons: her full control over the steps of Xuxa and the fact that she remained faceless, away from photographers and cameras for a long time).In the beginning of 1989, the couple was at the Airport of Rio ready to fly to Monaco when Marlene showed up and said that Xuxa won't go; the manager and the pilot had a comic fight over the possession of the luggage; Xuxa and Ayrton eventually flew out. At the Cristimas of that same year, when Senna was feeling down because of the loss of the championship, he decided to do a suprise to Xuxa, visiting her in New York. She knocked on her door, in a Santa Claus costume. She sent him off. Senna didn't insist, and returned to Brazil. Until Senna's death, Xuxa would call him periodically. Rodrigues (the author) never found out what they talked, but, according to friends, the pilot appeared depressed after receiving these calls.
The affair between Senna and the beautiful Cristine Ferracciu was kept away from the lightspots. They stayed together for nearly two years, between 1990 and 1991, when Senna had houses in Monaco and Portugal. The relationship started to turn bad when the pilot disliked Cristine's decisiion to go back to Brazil to assist her mother, with cancer. Besides, the book says, Senna was acting suspicious, imposing restrictions to the contac with her friends, suspecting that they had interest on him. "Because of his suspecions, Ayrton never invited my parents to his home", Cristine declares in the book.
Many people said that the relationship between Xuxa and Senna was just a make up affair, convenient for both (besides the rumours about Senna's sexuality, there was also a debate about Xuxa's capability of keeping a stable emotional relationship; there was never mention of homossexualism, but Xuxa, like Senna, was said to have a mind fully concerned with business; a few years after Senna's death, Xuxa had a daughter with a Brazilian model, in a non-official relationship which lasted very shortly - the couple broke up right after the girl was born, and Xuxa is raising her practically alone, not showing any emotion towards the father). Senna was winning many races, and envy caused that rumours grew stronger among pilots and journalists that he would be homossexual. According to the author Ernesto Rodrigues, in all 213 interviews conducted with persons close to Senna, he didn't hear anything which could support the rumours. The rumour started in the backstages of Formula One. Obsessed with adjusting his car, Senna avoided the approach of the girls in shorts who usually walk aroung the boxes.
The rumours grew when Senna, at the end of 1986, hired Americo Jacoto Junior, an old friend of child times, to be his private assistant. Junior was also the pilot of Senna's helycopter in Braizl and his masseur. The rumour about an affair between Senna and Junior became so strong that Senna's father, Milton da Silva, asked the son to get rid of the friend. Ayrton listened to his father, and dismissed Junior at the end of 1987. They remained friends until Senna's death.
The close convivence among the main players of the Formula One biz is unavoidable. They stay at the same hotels, they go to the same restaurants and the same parties. The rivalry among pilots flourish very easily, given the nature of their activities. Belonging to the same team or even being country fellowmen don't change things.(Added April 2004. Another interview in the Brazilian television revealed an exception to this rule. Emerson Fittipaldi - Formula One champion in 1972 and 1974, the man who opened doors for all other Brazilian pilots, and confessed idol of most of them - commented about his relationships with Senna. Emerson was still in Formula One, trying to succeed with his own team, the Copersucar-Fittipaldi, when a young driver visited him at the boxes just to shake hands; some time latter, that same driver, Ayrton Senna da Silva, who had won all the kart categories in Brazil, paid him a visit at his office, asking for advices about a career in Europe. Emerson called up his old friends in London, and managed to get an opportunity for Senna in the British Formula Ford. As it's known, Senna grasped the chance and soon was champion in Formula Ford and Formula-2000. The story with Emerson, however, continued: after seeing the achievements of Senna, Emerson took him by the hand and visited all the team leaders he knew, introducing Senna as: "the young driver who will become world champion". Many became surprised, because, before or after Senna, Emerson never risked his prestige to endorse any pilot. Still according to Emerson, during that tour he introduced Senna to Frank Williams; so, it turned out that Emerson Fittipaldi was the man who brought Senna to the Formula One.Nelson Piquet was already an idol when Senna appeared in Formula One. Since the beginning, they never got along(during a long interview for a Brazilian television, Senna, already champion, was asked wether Piquet had been responsible for the Williams team not having signed contract with him, at the beginning of his career, in 1984/85; Senna had done a test drive, and had impressed very much Frank Williams; however, Senna ended up starting his career with Toleman, while Piquet remained at Williams with his not so friendly coleague Nigel Mansell. In response to the question, Senna diplomatically avoided answering explicitly, but he made very clear that he thought that Piquet had barred him).
Senna blamed Piquet for the rumours about his sexuality, which hurted him (Senna) deeply. At the beginning of 1988, Piquet had just became three times world champion, but all attention was put on Senna, who for the first time would drive a competitive car, the McLaren. In an interview to the Brazilian media, Ayrton decided to criticize Piquet, when he was explaining why he was taking an unusually long vacation. "Nobody likes Piquet, so I decided to stay away for a while, so that he could get a little attention", he declared. In response, Piquet came with the famous interview, saying that Ayrton didn't like women (Piquet was married a few times, always with beautiful women; besides criticizing Senna, he also made unelegant references to Mansell's wife). The only driver who Senna considered a friend was Austrian Gerhard Berger, his coleague at McLaren. All others were just fellow workers.(it's worthy to remember that Berger was the only pilot to openly criticize Michael Schumacher for having commemorated his winning of the Imola GP in 1994, when Senna died - Schumacher didn't know about the death, which was confirmed later at the hospital, but he certainly knew about the seriousness of the accident.
Senna didn't care much about the friendship of the other drivers. His professionalism and his competitive spirit were seen as snobbery. The historical clash with Alain Prost was started by Senna. In 1989, both were driving a McLaren, and sealed a pact; to avoid accidents, one would try to pass the other during the first laps of all races. In the second race after the pact, in Imola, Senna passed Prost and won. The good relationship between them took a long break (the article says that the good relationship came to an end, but that is not true; when Senna was still alive, and Prost already retired, they became friends again; during a grand prix, Senna said "I miss you" to Prost before the cameras. Prost had been hostilized by the Brazilian fans while they were rivals, but he was present - and applauded - at the Senna's funerals in Brazil, a recognition of Brazilian fans to both Prost's talent and his friendship with Senna).Added April 2004: the Brazilian television are presenting reports about Senna this month, to remember the 10th year of his death. One of these reports showed Prost commenting on his professional relationships with Senna. According to Prost, the two years they worked together (1988-89), despite of the non cordial relations, both him and Senna gained extra motivation. Senna was coming from Lotus to McLaren, and wanted to show that he was ready to be a champion; Prost, already famous, had to show that he was better than the newcomer. Senna (always according to Prost) would look at the French and think: "this is the man I have to beat", which gave him that extra motivation; Prost, likewise, would respond also with extra efforts, to show he was still the best. This inner competition probably explains the fact that McLaren won all but one of the races in 1988. Also, the report shed some light about the Imola episode: because of accidents, that race had two starts; Senna thought (without talking to Prost or anyone else) that the first lap had already gone, and, so, he was free to pass Prost on the first lap of the new start.
By this time, Senna created a fence around his private life. Like the Hollywood stars, he started to control all information about his life and career. If a reporter requested an interview, Senna's office would send a kit with photos and a list of frequent questions and answers.
A few chapters of the book describe the fantastic pilot Senna was. An episode, of when he was 14 years old and used to drive karts, is illustrative(another episode worthy mentioning: when Senna was a young kart driver, there was an occasion when rain poured during a race, he lost control of his car and finished last; the following years, when he noticed that a rain was approaching, Senna packed his stuff and headed to the Interlagos ring, near his house, to train, alone, in the wet circuit. This explains why he was so good in wet races, like the unforgetable Monaco GP 1984, when he appeared to the world. This story had been told a few times before, but it was told again by Viviane Senna, Ayrton's sister, during a show which happened on March 2004 to celebrate what would be his 44th anniversary; Viviane said that, instead of celebrate his death, she would rather remember his birth). He used to train carrying his own cronometer. Instead of metering the whole lap, he divided the ring in four parts and measured time in all of them, trying to gain thousandths of second. During the actual race, those small thousandths, added up, would make a difference. He brought this obsession for details to the Formula One.
His perfectionism helped him keep a perfect relationship with the Japanese from Honda, providers of motors to McLaren. As they wanted to monitor the performance of the cars, but couldn't count on the good will of pilots to produce reports for them - they had had bad experiences with Keke Rosberg and Nigel Mansell -, the Japanese engineers developed the telemetry system (data were collected by the computer on board and transmitted to the pits). Senna saw here a great means to perfect his driving. "Ayrton was the first pilot to have the preocupation to collect all the reports available about the performance of his car and study them until late in the night", says Ron Dennis in the book."He was obsessive-compulsive about this". To that obsession for details, Senna joined his bold style, his disposition to apply breaks always at the last moment, his courage to drive close to limit in wet rings, and, notably, his ability to drive in zig-zag at 300 km per hour, preventing the passage of whoever was behind - ability which caused Keke Rosberg, world champion in 1982, to declare that he had to re-learn driving after watching Ayrton(this ability was fundamental at the Spain GP of 1986, won by Senna, driving a Lotus, with a difference of 14 thousandths of second - the smallest difference ever - over Nigel Mansel, with a Williams; a few laps before the end, Senna was leader and Mansell, with a clearly superior car, was behind him; Mansell tried whatever he could, but he couldn't get past Senna. As a last resort, Mansell went to a pit stop, and put the qualifying tires on; these tires used to be much faster than those used in competition, but were made to last only a few laps. Mansell came back driving like mad, gaining a few seconds every lap, and the cars crossed the checkered line side by side - with Senna winning. Another interesting story about Mansell: a few months after Senna died, it came to public knowledge that he maintained some philantropic work (which would eventually become the Ayrton Senna Foundation); Mansell sent a letter to the family, which was passed on to Galvao Bueno, the narrator of Formula One races at TV Globo and close friend of Senna, who read it to millions of telespectators. More or less, Mansell said the following: "I had the fortune to compete against Ayrton Senna; a few times, I won, most of times, I lost; the defeats didn't diminished myself, because I knew I was losing to the greatest pilot who ever existed. Now, it is not a surprise to me to learn that Ayrton Senna maintained, anonymously, philantropic work; please, accept this small contribution, which I am certain will be used for noble actions; please, don't look at the value, it's little; it's a humble contribution of a someone who learned to admire the great pilot and great man"; enclosed, a check for US$ 10,000. Mansell, who already had many Brazilian admirers, became even more popular.
Senna was good, and he knew that. Conscious of his valued, many times he was considered arrogant. He was a titan to negotiate contracts. In 1988, he hadn't won any championship yet, but he signed his contract with McLarenn for a value superior to what was paid to then champion Nelson Piquet. In 1993, when he already was, by far, the best paid pilot of all, he asked for even more: 1 million dollars for each GP. To get this money, he simulated a fight with Ron Dennis. He would threaten with stopping driving, both exchanged accusations in the papers, and the sponsor, worried, would eventually pay up the cash, deposited at his account right before the qualifyings. At the time, Ayrton used to repeat the motto "no money, no race".
The chapters of the book which describe the death add even more drama to the final acts of his life. The author tries to explains the reasons why the pilot had an aprehensive looking in his face, at the historic moment when a camara of TV Globo captured his image, looking to nowhere, leaning against the aerofoil of the Williams right before the starting moment. On the Friday 29th April, Senna had seen Rubens Barrichello's car crash agains the wall in Imola. He liked Rubinho. A few months earlier, in Japan, they had been together to Disney. They ate hot dogs and were starting a convivence way more peaceful than what Senna had with Piquet. On Saturday, eve of his own death, Senna saw for the first time the death of a Formula One driver - the Austrian Roland Ratzenberger.(after Ratzenberger died, only one pilot went to the local of the accident - the same Tamburello curve - to check for safety conditions; the pilot was not a rookie in his early races, but the three times champion Ayrton Senna)..
At the eve of that fatidic race, says the book, Ayrton had a deception of other kind. His brother, Leonardo (while Ayrton's sister is the respectable manager of the Ayrton Senna Foundation, Leonardo Senna is the exclusive master representative in Brazil of German car maker Audi), brought him a recorded cassete tape. On it, the recording of a conversation between Adriane Galisteu and a former boyfriend of hers. The fifth and last woman in Senna's life was, according to his friends, the one who did him most well. With Adriane, the pilot began to enjoy life in a way he had never seen before, besides becoming more afable and with better humor. He was considering to marry Adriane. "Ayrton was a serious guy, he always had affairs with the idea of marrying", says Alfredo Popesco, an old friend. The stealth recording was done at the Senna's apartment in Sao Paulo, and captured Adriane's former boyfriend mocking about Senna, claiming to be a best lover than him. Nothing on the tape suggested that Adriane would be being unloyal or even agreeing with the comments of her ex-affair. But, for those who knew Senna, the demonstration of intimacy between his girlfriend and another man in the recorded conversation was more than enough reason for a crisis. In the evening before his death, Senna called up Adriane, who was in Portugal. He warned her that after the race in Imola he wanted to have a serious conversation - which never happened.
Senna probably had several concerns when he entered the cockpit, on that May 1st; however, it was not none of them which killed him. The author of the book endorses the thesis that the accident was caused by mechanical failure. Senna tried to take the car along the Tamburello, but the car, because of the breaking of the steering column, didn't obey him, crashing against the wall at 300 km per hour(other pilots survived to accidents in similar conditions, like Barrichello in the very same year and also Gerhard Berger, whose Ferrari crashed against the same Tamburello wall in 1989; however, in Senna's case, the axis of the steering column cut through his helmet and penetrated his face, and this was more deadly to him than the - already harmful enough - shock itself). The book doesn't bring any new evidence about the case, probably the most investigated in the history of Formula One. The book, however, describes an episode envolving Frank Williams, the owner of the team; in March of 1995, Williams went to Sao Paulo to talk to the Senna family, and said that he agreed with the thesis of mechanical failure. It's a remarkable fact, given that at the same epoch the William's lawyers insited on a different theory - human error - to defend the team in the process in the Italian courts.[Interesting info about the accident. It looks like (TV Band showed some sketches taken from pieces of the penal process going on in Italy) Senna was complaining much about being discomfortful in the cockpit; so, the steering bar was cut, shortened by a few centimeters, and soldered again; investigations showed that it was at this soldering point that the bar broke apart. *Telemetry shows* that, when the bar was 70% broken, Senna felt something wrong and tried to control the car; the car slowed down from 300 km/h to 210 km/h; at this point, the bar completely breaks apart, and Senna literally was with the wheel at his hands; out of control, the car crashes. Also, Globo said that Senna had very few injuries, other than the fatal spear which cut across his helmet; the spear was from the cushioning system; it was very unlikely that a driver would die like that. Still about the accident: the report exhibited images before the accident taken from Senna's car; one can follow exactly what Senna was seeing until almost the very last moment; however, just before the moment of the crash, the tape was blanked (!); the Italian television said that, at that very moment, it just happened they changed the cameras or whatever to another car; a conspiracy theory proposed by the reporter says that images were blanked to hide something from the investigators.]
The book revives the emotion of the victories of Senna. Today, the Formula one is dominated by Michael Schumacher and his Ferrari, in a level way above their competitors. The times of Senna, differently, was marked by personal rivalries, boosted by the fact that the technological gap between teams were narrower. When Senna started in the category, the cars used turbo engines; these engines, banned today, injected a different mix of gas and air inside the explosion chambers, allowing for a much higher power. At that time, the aerodynamics were of lesser importance. Good breaks and bold pilots made the difference. Senna felt at will.
Among the best pilots, there were Alain Prost, with his cartesian way of driving, Nelson Piquet, with his dareness and smartness (Piquet is also widely recognized for his mechanical knowledge; during his early years, he tightened the screws of his cars himself; he was the main responsible for making Brabham a champion team again, in 1979; then, he was the first pilot to win with a turbo engine, with Williams; his last two seasons were with Benetton, that, adjusted by him, would win two championships later on, driven by Schumacher)There was also British Nigell Mansell, the less technically endowed, but the most agressive pilot of the top teams (other good pilots which were contemporaneous to Senna, even if shortly: Niki Lauda, Keke Rosberg, Michelle Alboretto, Gerhard Berger, Damon Hill - the vast majority of the races between 1984 and 1993 was won by one of these pilots. Senna and Schumacher not only disputed races, but Schumacher was the pilot right behind Senna when his car crashed) Senna was the best, and not by chance: driving was his life.
Senna didn't enjoy reading; he didn't like being sat down, except for driving. When travelling, he didn't visit museums or concerts. He didn't appreciate wines - he used to drink only to get drunk, when he was euphoric or depressed. Senna was born to be a pilot.
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