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THE GOLDEN BOY

 

 

ďHis rise was irresistible, he grew into the part

His explanation simply that he suffered for his art

No base consideration of some glittering reward

The prize was knowing that his work was noticed and adoredĒ

 

  Sung by: Montserrat Caballť, Freddie Mercury

Lyrics by: F. Mercury, M. Moran and T. Rice

 

 

"LONELINESS IS THE PRICE I HAVE TO PAY"

Ayrton Senna

 

One book, in which the author described the life of a man who died more than 2.300 years ago, but who is still living until today, begins with the words:   

"The first thing we found out about him was that he was lonely. Not that he was left to shift for himself because he was always surrounded by people. He was lonely, alone with his thoughts."  

 

 

These are the words Harold Lamb used to introduce to us Alexander of Macedonia who irresistibly suggests himself as a worthy comparison to Ayrton despite the millenniums which separate them because there are many things that seem to be common to these two great people. There arenít many people in history who would dream about great achievements and do great achievements, who would be mystics and practical realists in the same time. But these precisely were the characteristics both of Ayrton and Alexander. Even the words which were added to their names are exactly the same which can't be mere coincidence. Alexander is also known as The Great and his contemporaries called him the madman, while Ayrton was called the great Brazilian but also the crazy Brazilian. And this is how this Brazilian once described his feelings under influence of speed:

ďIt is a situation when you tend to go further and further to find a new level. The situation takes you to entirely different world. It is like discovering unknown worlds and places where you have never been.Ē

 

And when he was asked what person would he like to meet most, hereís what he answered: 

 

"I would like to go back in time, to many different periods, not of my life, but of mankind. To the Seventies, Sixties, Fifties, Forties, 1900, 1800, 1500, the year before Jesus - and to meet all kinds of people who made history or did good things. Just to be able to observe them, to see what they were really doing, why they were doing certain things, good things and not so good things. I think that would be the optimum thing to understand better life and human beings."

 

Yes, that would really be a good way because, for example, Alexander is to this day mistakenly considered a conqueror, a warrior craving for glory to that extent that he wanted to conquer the whole world although the truth is that he was only loyal to his own law in searching "the place where the gods dwell". And it was this quest to discover the unknown and to gain knowledge which was motivating him and not the wish to conquer or to gain fame. That was the reason he set out on his to this day to people incomprehensible voyage eastwards. And he died there. He was 32 years and 8 months old. After he was gone nothing stayed the same because by following his inner voice he changed history, he took down barriers, he mixed people and cultures and made way for new times which followed.

Ayrton would have comprehended Alexander completely since their psychical structures were amazingly similar, but who understood Ayrton? People in Formula One whom he worked with thought he was craving for victories and world titles to that extent that they proclaimed him "crazy", a danger to his peers, because allegedly he wasnít choosing his ways or means in achieving his goals. The milleniums between them donít mean anything here, the lack of understanding is the same to this day as it was then. But certain similarities are also obvious, even in what the two loved the most - the Macedonian his black horse Bucefalos and the Brazilian once said, half joking:

 

"Iím in love twice every week; with my racing car and my spare car."

    And when did this love start? It started very early, still in his earliest childhood when he was given small car and he was playing with it. "I was just doing it for myself, for my own feelings. I hardly knew who I was", Ayrton was remembering his first emotions at one occasion.

When talking about his career people usually stress the fact that he was born into a wealthy environment and they also say that his financial independence ensured his way to success. Itís certain that due to money he was spared of many painful problems that poor people are faced with but then it is also certain that he only gave money the importance it deserves and nothing more. There was something else that motivated him and pushed him forward.

 

He was driving go-carts and all different sorts of formula cars throughout his childhood and youth and he was doing it with so much dedication and love that it all at the end became part of him, and he told us about it:  

 

"A car is part of me, my extension, the extension of my body, because Iím with it, it became part of my body."  

 

At the age of 13 he officially entered the world of racing and went straight to victory, because that was the only thing which interested him. He didnít only want to participate - he wanted always to be the first. Many different people have tried to explain this characteristic of his but no oneís explanation is satisfactory. Why did he always drive the fastest he could, no matter if it was a simple practice session or the actual race? People believed it was a big mistake because by doing so he wouldnít be the fastest when it was needed most, he would wear himself out too early.

Itís difficult to give a logical explanation because at first impression this behavior seems contradictory and so another comparison with Alexander might be of help. Young Alexander would offer sacrifice to gods every day returning from his morning run and he would offer precious and exquisite frankincense. He would always take it handful and throw it plentifully on the live coal. But his cousin Leonidas then use to reprimand him coldly: "Consecrated frankincense isnít sand to be thrown by the handful." Alexander would feel as if he was inhibited in his thoughts - it was true that frankincense was precious, but he was offering sacrifice to gods, he was thanking them for his life, so how could he take it only with the tip of his fingers so it would last a certain number of days? He thought that if you offer sacrifice it should be all or nothing. But he couldnít explain his feelings to his royal cousins. (10 years later Alexander sent Leonidas an enormous load of frankincense from distant Asia : "Iím sending you this, Leonidas, so you wonít have to be avaricious any more while offering sacrifice to gods" - the note said.) Ayrton was the same: he simply couldnít drive with a half or a quarter of his potential just to save himself for later. Every time he was in his car driving he would give it all, doing his best, because that was his style of life, his way of offering sacrifice to gods - all or nothing, always, no matter whether it brought him the world title or just inner satisfaction for a well done job. For that reason it didnít matter to Ayrton whether heís first in some for careerist unimportant race or in the most prestigious F-1 race. He always needed to try to be the first but only in one way: fairly, out on the track, without tricks and underhanded games.  

 

 

What do you think, how would the often reported story from Fullertonís tent (when Terry didnít want Ayrton to look into his books with racing times) have played itself out if we changed their roles? What would Ayrton have done if Terry had wanted to look at his books? Most certainly the following: he would very seriously, entirely devotedly, compare his and Fullerton ís times and discuss every single and smallest detail which might be relevant and while doing so it wouldnít be important at all that Terry was in fact a rival. And then he would go out, he would sit in his car and drive a new, better time. That was how he understood competition and his skill and knowledge he didnít want to keep just for himself. The proof for it is also the book Principles of Race Driving (Hazleton Publishing Ltd. 1993) which he wrote when he was already a very famous sportsman. In it he brought out his experiences which he had collected over the years. He described everything he thought could be of use to some new enthusiasts, from the secrets in style of driving on to physical and mental preparing which are necessary in this extremely demanding sport. When we read this book we get the impression he didnít want to keep anything at all to himself and in the foreword he wrote:

 

"In this book you will learn many of my race-craft secrets: how to overtake, how to drift and skid in a controlled manner on fast bends, how to concentrate at the start of the race, how to set up the suspension and save your tires, what I do to win pole position, and how to get fit for racing."

 

He noticed the lack of valid textbooks on this subject in bookshops all over the world and he wanted to fill out this vacancy.

There, he shared what he knew with others in this way, too. That was his style of living, that was his way of working. But this is not the way one can live long without getting hurt. And one of the moments when he got hurt was with Terry, too - he never entered his tent again. Nevertheless later on he used to remember his racing duels with Terry with joy.

 

And also otherwise in this early go-cart period he had to swallow few more bitter pills mostly due to different regulations and their alterations. It was only a mild indication of what was bound to come - his constant fight with the authorities. He was always able to recognize vanity and with time he learned how to avoid to be forced to participate in it. There were more episodes in his life which added brick by brick to his imaginary wall he erected around himself and which was the topic of many discussions. The truth was that he did fence himself off but only because of one reason: it was his self-protection. He had to build it to be able to function according to commonly accepted rules at all and, at the same time, to stay loyal to more important ones - his own. Without this protection that would be impossible. "And that was how I got my other face", Ayrton explained it once. Due to this isolation he himself was suffering the most as he was cheerful by nature, sociable, gifted with a very lucid sense of humor, and he had to repress all this into the depths when he found himself in F-1 world. Motor racing, and especially F-1, is chiefly business, modern gladiator games and there is very little room there for living according to oneís personal rules, especially to those embracing a spiritual character. Despite all this Ayrton lived his life primarily spiritually and he even managed to force this ice-cold F-1 world to respect this spirit, which is a real accomplishment.

 

And how did Ayrton enter the F-1 world? In 1981 the desire to follow racing career professionally took him to England, "the land you need to come to if you want to succeed". He was met by a cold climate and similar people (the so called automoto-mafia). He set his teeth and worked affectionately like always and yet had to solve the problems differently than other people. Until the end of the year he was all by himself. The provincial coldness of Norfolk made his wife Liliane return to Brasil and the prosaicness of the track in Snetterton couldnít conjure up what the future would bring. It had to be searched for in Ayrton himself and Liliane wasnít able to do that. Still, it isnít true that he, because of his career, coldly sacrificed his marriage. He returned home and tried to live in a way that obviously wasnít destined to be and only when he was fully convinced that for him "all the roads lead to Europe", he set on his journey eastwards.

 

Senna & Liliane, his ex-wife

 

When he definitely decided to follow that road he was also forced to change his surname. His real surname da Silva was very common in Brazil so he was trying to find something more original, just his own. First he tried to add his mother's maiden name to his surname but it turned out to be too complicated for the English, so that in the end he left only his mother's maiden name to the name Ayrton. That was how he became Ayrton Senna (which was again too complicated because essentially this change didnít help - the stumbling block wasnít his surname, it was his first name that was a problem and not only for English people).  

Senna & Brundle (on the right)

 

    Years 1982 and 83 were in fact a progressive preparation for transfer to F-1 (because he didnít wish for rash jumps, he knew he had to learn). His embittered duels with Martin Brundle in F-3 Championship were again an indication of some more famous future duels known to all the motor racing world. He won the Ď83 F-3 championship followed by Brundle and both of them joined Formula one. Brundle of all people could be quoted as completely honest when speaking about Ayrton Senna: "I have to admit", he said, "that Iíve never really known him. In my opinion only very few people actually did."  This could be said for almost everybody around him, they simply didnít know him, no matter what they were saying.