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Ayrton Senna in The Hindu

16 April 2003
Did a search and nothing came up..enjoy.

Ayrton Senna — champion nonpareil

By Nirmal Shekar

"Show me a hero

And I'll write you a tragedy"

— Scott Fitzgerald, Notebooks.

Somehow some great lives seem destined to be cut off at the very peak. Cruel as this cutting off, this act of fate, may be, it is the final saga - the unexpected end - that helps complete the picture of a legend.
Dying young provides an ethereal halo to these legendary heroes and sets them far apart from the survivor-heroes who live to tell and retell their oft-repeated tales.

Then again, even before the tragic end at Imola 10 years ago, Ayrton Senna was the rarest of heroes in an area of activity - sport - where champions are commonplace but heroes are hard to come by. His strength of will and fierce motivation saw him stretch human limits like no other driver had done, or even dreamed of doing, before.

The most consistently fast driver in Formula One history in the pre-Schumacher era, Senna was well on the road to creating records that would have made extraordinary demands on the German genius, who is now the undisputed king of the sport. Senna won 41 Grands Prix from 161 starts and was the world champion in 1988, 1990 and 1991.

But then, it is almost a sacrilege to speak of records and statistics in a tribute to the Brazilian genius. For records were as irrelevant and insignificant to Senna as mystical powers are to a saint. His motivation was more spiritual than sporting.

Money did not matter. Fame was irrelevant. In fact, nothing really mattered - that is, nothing that would matter to ordinary mortals mattered.

And the `passion' Senna often talked about is not something that people living ordinary lives with low pressures would understand, much less readily relate to. Only the very few who constantly seek a higher and higher intensity of purpose could have empathised with Senna.

He was a man who preferred high speeds and great pressures, a man who constantly pushed back frontiers, testing his own will and endurance harder and harder. Essentially, the car was no more than a handy vehicle as Senna drove towards his own Nirvana.

In that sense, he was a complete one-off in the world of sport. Formula One racing has more dare devil heroes than all the other sports put together. But Senna was not just another win-at-all-costs champion.

For Senna, speed and daring were not macho statements. He operated on an elevated plane where the ordinary thrills of motor racing did not matter. And what many saw in him as arrogance was no more than contempt for lesser mortals who had no idea of, or desire for, the kind of perfection he sought constantly.

Obsession with perfection is fairly risk free in most areas of human activity. The batsman can strive to play the perfect innings, not an edged shot, not a single uppish drive. A tennis player can strive to play the perfect match, almost every winner hitting the lines, not one unforced error. If it doesn't come off, fine. The batsman, the tennis pro, they can wait for the next opportunity.

So it is in almost every other profession. I can strive to write the perfect sentence, the perfect story. If I fall short, no sweat. There is always tomorrow.

But it is another thing striving for perfection at 200 mph time after time, week in and week out, and especially when you know that it is not your input alone that will make for perfection. If one little thing has gone wrong in the setting up of the car, if one small mechanical problem crops up, what goes is not just perfection but life itself, as it happened at the Tamburello corner for Senna in the San Marino Grand Prix 10 years ago.
And to think that Senna achieved greater perfection at greater speeds than any other driver in the history of the sport! To think that the great maestro did it for more than 10 years without a single serious accident until that killer weekend at Imola!

The level of concentration required to drive one perfect Grand Prix race is phenomenal. But to produce as many as Senna did is something almost beyond human capacity.

No great driver in the history of Formula One racing, from the five time Argentine world champion, Juan Manuel Fangio down to the four time champion Frenchman, Alain Prost, has ever shown the kind of mastery that Senna did on treacherous tracks. Michael Schumacher comes closest.
Senna was the uncrowned Monarch of Monte Carlo. On a tricky road circuit that the best of champions hated to compete in, Senna was champion six times. And every time it rained during a Grand Prix, making the track dangerous, there was one man - Senna - who ignored the odds and took the chequered flag leaving the opposition a long way behind.

If his driving style was aggressive, then Senna was no maniac with his right foot on the self-destruct pedal. It is just that he had that extra bit of genius that not only set him apart form the greatest of champions in the sport but also allowed him the freedom to take that extra bit of risk as we have seen Schumacher do over the last several seasons since Senna's death.

It was the Brazilian's extraordinary sense of judgment, poise, intelligence and subtle skills that helped him seek out the gaps that simply did not exist for the other drivers.

For all that, it was not as if Senna was not aware of the dangers in his sport. "Car racing is intrinsically dangerous. I know that from when I was four years old," he said.

"You can take a risk with each race. It depends on several factors, the quality of the car, its ability to absorb shocks, its technical preparation and mechanics. But there are other factors over which one is powerless. There are so many other imponderables which can provoke an accident."

To be sure, Senna, for all his genius, was not infallible. He made his share of mistakes. And he always acknowledged them. But it is highly unlikely that the three-time world champion had lost control because of a serious error on his part and without any mechanical malfunctioning as Damon Hill, his teammate 10 years ago, suggested the other day.

"As well as grief, there was another dimension. If it could happen to Jim Clark, what chance did the rest of us have," said Chris Amon on Clark's (world champion in 1963 and 1965) death in 1968. Every active Formula One driver must have echoed those feelings after Senna's death.

Formula One racing is a tough, dangerous and quite often brutal sport, one that victimises its greatest of champions. But Senna had somehow seemed invincible, almost untouchable, not only by his peers but even by Death.

"You appreciate that it is very easy to die and you have to arrange your life to cope with that reality," said Niki Lauda, who miraculously came back from the jaws of death after a gruesome accident in Nurburgring in August 1976.

Somehow it seemed that Senna, for one, did not need to cope with that reality, so indestructible did he seem. In that sense, Imola represents his first and only defeat.

Then again, surviving is easy enough. That's what men have excelled in for thousands of years. But living is not easy, especially if you wanted to live like Ayrton Senna da Silva did. And die like he did.

"Cowards die many times
before their deaths.

The valiant never taste of death
but once."

- Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

"Never look back unless you can laugh never look forward unless you can dream... Ayrton Senna "

Don't all of us here on Prime have this in common to a certain degree...

What A superior quote!!! I Like it...:smile:
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