Ayrton Senna is unquestionably one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time and his premature death in 1994 has created a scarcity which is driving Senna memorabilia prices skyward. Earlier this year a helmet and race suit used by the talented Brazilian fetched GBP74,750 (US$100,000) and GBP35,650 (US$47,000) respectively, both considerably more than their pre-sale estimates.
Now the car which Senna raced in his debut season is to face the auctioneer's hammer - this is the car Senna drove in one of the most exciting Grands Prix in history - the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix.
Senna was in first Formula One street race in his rookie season in an uncompetitive car. In the rain around the tight Monte Carlo circuit with dire consequences for the slightest error, Senna drove his way into the memory of every auto racing fan to witness the event, driving through the field to catch and pass Alain Prost, only to have the win taken from him.
Toleman F1 was "small, unfashionable, short of money, and the last of its kind to become a force in Grand Prix racing."
The marque's accomplishments were remarkable considering the resources at its disposal and are well researched and documented in the book, "The Toleman Story - Last Romantics in Formula 1" by Christopher Hilton (ISBN 978-1-84584-217-8).
Amongst a string of successes in recognizing outstanding ability in unestablished newcomers, the team was also responsible for the careers of many greats including establishing Rory Byrne as a prince among racing car designers, and Pat Symonds as a premier F1 race tactician.
Back in 1984, the Toleman was not competitive on a dry track, yet somehow Senna also managed a third place in the British Grand Prix that year and a seventh place in the Canadian Grand Prix. All three drives earmarked the young Brazilian as a star of the future.
This car was the first car in which one of motor racing's greatest ever first showed his extraordinary talent.
In the following decade,Senna won three world titles, 41 Grands Prix and set 65 of his specialty pole positions. Though Senna appears more than any other individual in recent F1 history to have mastered the ability to produce on-demand, a best-you-can do lap, he is in fact only fourth in the percentage of F1 pole positions he had respective to the number of starts.
If you were enthralled by Senna's ability to put a car on the limits of adhesion for one lap when it counted, consider for a moment that he set pole position in 40.12% of his 162 Grand Prix starts yet:
1 - Juan Manuel Fangio started from pole 29 times in his 52 Grands Prix (55.77%) and did not drive his first Grand Prix until he was 39 years of age
2 - Scotsman Jim Clark won two world titles and started from pole 33 times in his 73 race career (45.21%). Clark was another prodigy cut down in his prime in 1968. At the time of his death at 32 years, he had won more Grand Prix races (25) and achieved more Grand Prix pole positions (33) than any other driver.
3 - Italian Alberto Ascari was another. like Fangio, to begin racing well past his prime due to the war. He won two world titles against the likes of Fangio, Farina, Hawthorn and Moss, and set pole in 14 of his 33 GPs ( 42.42%).
Senna won three world F1 drivers championships (1988, 1990 and 1991) before he died at Imola, Italy. In that time he produced some thrilling drives and wins for Lotus and McLaren, but I will never forget the race he drove in this car in the rain chasing another quite respectable rain-runner in three-time world champion Alain Prost.
The Toleman TG184-2 Formula One car driven by Senna in his debut F1 season has been in private ownership for the past 16 years and will be auctioned by Silverstone Auctions on 16th May.
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