Exactly 30 years after fatal crash, the magic of Ayrton Senna is commemorated: “He was a messenger from God”


May 1, 1994. A date that will forever leave a scar in the premier class of motorsport. Three-time world champion Ayrton Senna died in a serious crash in Imola. The Brazilian people gave their racing legend a state funeral. But Senna was also honored closer to home. “He was an absolute top rider, his death started an evolution,” shares old friend Thierry Boutsen.

34 years. Ayrton Senna was not allowed to enjoy life for longer.

The Brazilian rider naturally lived on speed and adrenaline. Until they proved fatal on May 1, 1994. Senna went out of the bend hard on the Imola circuit in Italy. He was taken to hospital by helicopter, but he died there from his injuries.

And so he left a gaping hole with everyone who loved him in the racing world. This also applies to our compatriot Thierry Boutsen (66).

“I saw the accident at home on my television,” he says, 30 years later. “A very tragic moment, which I didn’t want to hear or see anymore. It was a very difficult period for me.”

Especially because he transcended racing. That is why a film already bears his name and there will soon be a Netflix series about his life and unique driving style.

Senna and Boutsen got along well.

Legend in sport and for Brazil

Who was Ayrton Senna?

“First and foremost, a good friend of mine,” Boutsen opens his locker for memories about the Brazilian. “And a top rider. The best I’ve ridden against, by far.”

At the time of his accident, Senna was a three-time Formula 1 world champion. His overtaking actions were always smooth, his defense always inimitable. That made him a magician behind the wheel.

“Every time I saw him race, I had a beautiful memory. The fact that I could beat him three times only made it better,” says our compatriot, who was active at the highest level between 1983 and 1993.

His death left a major shock wave, which finally led to an evolution towards safety.

Thierry Boutsen

The fact that he saw the fatal crash from a distance continues to resonate.

“I did go to the funeral in Brazil, just like the other drivers,” Boutsen shares. “Only there did you feel how popular he was. He did so much for Brazil. Senna was a messenger from God.”

The state funeral and three days of national mourning also proved this. Senna was an icon in Brazil. Someone who made you forget the worries of everyday life and touched the masses.

His loss was heavy, but had one positive consequence for motorsport. “His death left a major shock wave, which finally led to an evolution towards safety.”

“If you compare the cars of then with those of today, there is a world of difference,” Boutsen concludes. Just think of the reinforced roll cages, improved fire suits and the halo, but also thick tire walls and gravel strips on the circuits themselves.

A safe legacy, for which the current generation of drivers are grateful to Senna, 30 years later.

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