Video: Ayrton Senna’s Heart-Stopping Lap at Adelaide!

There aren’t many videos which showcase just how hard a driver had to work back in F1’s glory days, but this onboard with the legendary Ayrton Senna at Adelaide, Australia, clearly demonstrates the demands an analog beast placed on the driver. Prod the throttle one millimeter too far, and the 3.5-liter V12 would light up the rears, but that was no problem for the Brazilian.

His willingness to slide the tail out of certain corners is done with such confidence and comfort, it hardly seems as if he’s conscious of the speeds and the proximity of the barriers. His smooth, precise countersteering keeps him from clouting the walls in many of the faster corners, where those curbs act like a launching pad. With the massive rear tires of his MP4/6, it’s unbelievable he manages to thread the needle with such precision.

http://img08.deviantart.net/2213/i/2013/229/5/a/ayrton_senna__australia_1991__by_f1_history-d6iiaqw.jpg

Such enormous tires and a hyper-responsive motor made keeping the car off the walls a superhuman feat, but Senna made it look easy.

Note how Senna avoids the big curbs and traces a smooth line throughout the entire track. Though he’s known as an aggressive driver, his inputs were very progressive and deliberate, which allowed him to excel on wet surfaces and slippery pieces of road like this one, since this track is used as a public road most days of the year and accumulates plenty of dust.

With his signature staccato-throttle technique, he taps at the gas to help the rear end rotate around the tighter corners, all the while tracing a tight line, never using an extra inch of road to get around the corner. Still, he’s always at the limit — notice how the front tire is just on the verge of locking up as he decelerates from 200 mph at 0:56 seconds. This combination of aggression, efficiency and precision is what made an exceptional qualifier, but his commitment and virtuosity behind the wheel is what made his driving such a heart-stopping spectacle to behold.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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