On Death, Timing and Formula 1: Happy Birthday Ayrton Senna

Formula 1 Driver Ayrton Senna Google Doodle for his birthday, March 21, 1960.

Formula 1 Driver Ayrton Senna Google Doodle for his birthday, March 21, 1960.

When I fell in love for the first time, I was 24 or 25. He was someone I had fallen madly in and out of love with. I have since fallen in love several times afterwards, suffering agonizing heartbreak which I can only compare to a feeling akin to the death of a loved one and you are the only one in mourning.

So it seems strange to me that a person I had never met, talked to, was friends with and who never knew I ever existed could affect me the way that he does.

My love for racing cars comes quite recently and from Ken Block of Gymkhana fame, which took me to WRC, DTM and F1. And it was Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear who introduced me to Ayrton and was perhaps the second time I had heard his name. The first time was something I clearly remember and which had happened during my second year of university. I was passing the common lounge television and heard the news reporting on some F1 driver getting killed.

‘Not again,’ I had thought.

That was the last time I had heard of an F1 driver getting killed on the track.

So it was fortuitous that I had watched the Top Gear piece on Senna and it was then that I decided I needed to see the documentary.

After I watched it, I had sobbed with all the emotion of a quiet and agonizing resolve. The kind that makes your body tremble with a sort of pain that you cannot describe other than by saying that it felt like the immense emptiness that a lost love leaves. There has only been two other times when I had cried as much for a person I did not know personally and they were Nelson Mandela and the Copper Canyon marathon dweller, Caballo Blanco.

I kind of want to tell myself to get a grip; this wasn’t a person I knew. But somehow Ayrton became a part of me. I admire his soul and his heart. And it is a dry ache that I feel when I am reminded how we will never be able to meet. Even though I know how he met his end, I take the brunt of the devastation whenever I watch the documentary as if they had just told me in that moment for the first time.

Ayrton Senna, who was able to lead in a lap by a staggering second and a half, raced off this mortal coil at breakneck speeds, far outrunning the Queen of the Slow herself by a dismal pace of 19 years.

I don’t know why he should be so important to me but I believe that his warrior spirit made me feel as if he was someone I really did know. That in some strange twist of fate, perhaps we are related. It is the only way I can satisfactorily explain why I well up with tears whenever I hear his name and “Imola” uttered in the same sentence.

I believe people enter your life for a reason. That each is there to teach you something, regardless of how insignificant it may seem. And in his own way, Senna drove into my life and showed me that his actions spoke in booming voices from mountain tops, and were much louder than his words.

Happy 54th birthday, Ayrton. I miss you like you cannot imagine.


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