The Death of Ayrton Senna

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The Death of Ayrton Senna

Often in people's lives an event can happen that is forever remembered as one of the most important. Be it a family story, or something that has absolutely nothing to do with the person, the event is deeply engraved in the individual's mind and will always stay with him or her.

This happened when I was twelve years old. I have been a car-racing fan since the age of nine and ever since I started getting into the world of the Formula 1 World Championship, one driver started capturing my attention more and more. His name was Ayrton Senna, of Brazil. A three-time World Champion, whom I saw in 1994, after two seasons of driving for the same mediocre team (while still managing to win a few races), poised to win his fourth title, driving for the best team in the sport, Williams-Renault. Even after crashing in the first two races of the season, everybody, including me, saw him as the main contender. Then came the third race of the season, in a little country of San Marino, in the small city of Imola…

The racing weekend started off on April 29th, 1994 on a very sour note. During free practice, the Jordan of the new Formula 1 star, Rubens Barrichello, crashed at a speed close to 150 miles per hour, slamming headfirst into a wall of tires. The driver was knocked unconscious and transported to a hospital, where Senna, his countryman, was the first person Rubens saw when he came to. Next day, during the qualifying session, a promising Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger was killed when a wing on his Simtek ripped off on a speed of about 170 miles per hour. The car then hit a concrete wall, Roland suffering extensive damage to his head. He died on the spot, forcing Senna to say to a friend and rival of his, Frenchman Alain Prost, that if he could avoid racing the next day, he would. Nevertheless, unable to do much himself, Senna won the pole position and was to start first in Sunday's race.

Sunday's race started off on a tragic note as well. A young Portuguese driver, Pedro Lamy, did not see the stalled Benetton of a Finn Yurki Yarvi Lehto, slamming his Lotus into Lehto's car at a high speed. The debris flew all over the spectator's stands, injuring five people. One of them was hurt so bad, he went into a coma.

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