Honoring Senna with the car that bears his name
12:00

Honoring Senna with the car that bears his name

Roadshow
[MUSIC] The McLaren Senna is a sensational track car. I know this because I've driven it around Estoril in Portugal, where Ayrton Senna has his famous first Formula One win in 1985. But what makes the eponymous car's track performance so impressive is that it has number plates. You can pop out of the pit lane and round the corner. To pick up a pint of milk. So while we could have done a road test in the south of France, or the Pyrenees, I wanted to put this extraordinary car through a very real world evaluation. Something as removed from a racetrack as possible. I wanted to do a drive across the rough and tumble of the B roads of England to see its alien form amongst ordinary shaped traffic. Juxtaposed with thatched cottages. [MUSIC] In isolation on the circuit or in a studio where I first saw it, yes, it looks outlandish. But here Next to late 90s [UNKNOWN] parked up at level crossing, it just looks like an alien spaceship. It is extraordinary. It's still ugly. Extraordinary. What must they be thinking? [LAUGH] t's a bit like high fashion. You see pictures of an outrageous outfit on a catwalk and sure you think, that's dry clean only. But if you saw someone walking down the street in it you'd think they were insane. Who knows. Perhaps a racily cut combination of taffeta and wetsuit fabric married to six inch heels could be the perfect thing for a wet Wednesday in [UNKNOWN]. But surely a 789 [UNKNOWN] horsepower car with nearly slick rubber and a wing [UNKNOWN] isn't going to work on a bumpy B road, is it? [SOUND] I really wasn't sure how this car would feel. Being on the road and [UNKNOWN] it like trying to use our [UNKNOWN] to take holiday snaps. Almost as soon as I got into it, I was enjoying it far more than I expected. The thing I was most impressed with on the track with the braking. Performance, it takes you a couple of pushes just to get used to how hard you have to lean on that left hand pedal. But once you're used to it, it's something you can use again and again on the road and really revel in. More so than the 789 rate horsepower. One thing that hasn't really gotten any better with the track is the noise of the engine. [BLANK_AUDIO] Which is, well, sort of brutalist and a bit industrial. Effective it is, [BLANK_AUDIO] Beautiful, it is not. [UNKNOWN] the [UNKNOWN] have really got that right from the word go. The best one with the addition of these panels down here and these ones up in the roof. No, you don't find yourself looking down at the curb very often but just aware of them in your peripheral vision. So they add to this extremely wild feeling in here. Light and lightweight because this car does feel like it only weighs 1200 kilos. [BLANK_AUDIO] Think this is capable of 62 miles an hour in 2.8 seconds. And [UNKNOWN] 186 miles in well under 20 seconds. You have to pretty judicious with how you use the throttle. [BLANK_AUDIO] You worry that a car with so much [UNKNOWN] might not be fun on the road but [UNKNOWN] We've tried to control all of this talking's everything very well right. Dan. The. Judge seemed same dynamic but it really does. Come along. This brilliant. This is so much better. Than I thought we would be on the road. [SOUND] Yes, we might only be using a fraction of its performance but what it serves up is so involving. There is another reason for wanting to drive this car on these Middle England roads too. You see, [UNKNOWN] himself spent several years living in Britain starting in 1991, the year I was born. Formula Ford 1600. At one point he had a bungalow in [INAUDIBLE] and later he bought a house in [INAUDIBLE] Surrey. So I like to imagine that he dashed along lanes just like these to Silverstone or Slessenger, [UNKNOWN], Thruxton, Mallory or Alton. I know that early on he had a silver [INAUDIBLE], then an Escort XR3, and then later a Mercedes. Quite what would he made of this. I really don't know. [MUSIC] And just incase you think this is all a bit of a flight of fancy, senna harry across the country. Let me tell you a bit of a story Dennis Russian was the team manager of his Formula Ford 2000 team in 1982. He said he was racing at Donington one day in early April and won the race, and he wandered up to Dennis afterward, garland around his neck and said, let's go to [UNKNOWN]. My friend [UNKNOWN] is racing in an hour and a half. Barry said turn off our drive across this nesting from Donington Sir Dennis said will never make it yes you will say that. That is how to master the time he sat in the front spoiler the mechanic sessions back and sure enough they made it just data the hour point 5 to see the race Bernie Dennis sent the book in front of his face. Most of the time so he can see the things that were happening. Today we're going in the other direction. Heading like a homing pigeon towards Dunnington in order to remember what is [UNKNOWN] greatest ever lap. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] In 1993 after an absence of a few years, the European Grand Prix came here to Dunington Park. I was 11 years old at the time and I remember it well, partly because I was F1 mad, partly because it was sponsored by a computer games producer. Sega. Anyway, in qualifying it was dry and everything went to the [UNKNOWN] with the Williams of Prost and Hill locking out the front row. Third was Schumacher and fourth was Senna. Come race day however there was a torrential down pour. And what happened next made a lasting impression on anyone that saw it. [MUSIC] The distinctive red and white car at Donington in 1993 was this, the McLaren MP4-8. Like today's McLaren Senna, it has a V8, though its displacement is three and a half as opposed to four liters, and it does without the road car's turbochargers. As a result, it's 680 Brake Horsepower, some 100 Brake Horsepower behind the center. But weighing just 505 kilos, the F! car is less than half the weight of the still-light road car. Both have paddle-operated gear shifts, the F1 car making do with one clutch and Six ratios to the road cars two and seven. And as this was the height of the era of electronic assistance in Formula One, so both cars have trip suspension and traction control. Although the modern car is the only one with active aerodynamics. Both, of course, have a carbon-fiber chassis. And, today, the modern road car is going to follow in the wheel tracks of the iconic racecar. Comparing today's circuit with that of 1993 is easy. It is Donington Park's two and half miles and 12 corners remain pretty much identical in 2019, although today they are considerably drier. As for the drivers, well I have two legs and two arms just like [UNKNOWN], but sadly that's pretty much where the comparisons end. However I'll do my very best. [BLANK_AUDIO] [MUSIC] Four from the [UNKNOWN] is on the left hand side of the track next to the pit wall. When the lights go out, [INAUDIBLE] actually slow away losing the place his [INAUDIBLE] gets into third. On the run down to red gate. Pushing Michael [INAUDIBLE] center out wide into the pitman exit. He dives right and slots of inside of the [INAUDIBLE] fou [INAUDIBLE] the great. Back to forth. Next is perhaps the most extra ordinary route as the train of cars sweeps down hill to the intimidatingly fast [INAUDIBLE] curve. Ethan stays wide and wet and passes the side of [INAUDIBLE] Running outside of the right hand. This is sensational reading track and you random read. Third place is his, such a center speed that he isn't even compromised through the old hairpin. And on the run up to the next corner, he's all over the gearbox of Damon Hill Williams running. As a result it's like taking candy from a baby as it easily slips down the inside and breaking of the plains. He's now at. To second. Hill struggles for traction on the exit. His center is smoothly away and hunting down his final quarry, Alain Prost. The Frenchman is no slouch in the rain, and [UNKNOWN] has ground to make up [UNKNOWN] straight. [UNKNOWN] ahead, sparking [UNKNOWN] halfway down. [UNKNOWN] slow speed Ss onto the [UNKNOWN] loop and [UNKNOWN] dives out to the [UNKNOWN] and squirms down the inside on. First place from fifth into the lead in less than one lap extra-ordinary. [MUSIC] And that last over take down here into the Melbourne hairpin. Was, of course, the one that sounded really wanted, because it was Proust. Halfway through the overtake, you can see the Frenchman glance across to his right, almost incredulous at seeing the Brazilian there on his inside. The rest of the race, well it was very much a case of it being mixed conditions, I think you could say. Wet, then dry, then wet again. And [UNKNOWN] is a master of those conditions, as he always had been. He made fewer pit stops than his nearest rivals and came out on top. Hill was in second place that day, over a minute behind. Everyone else, including Prost. Get lapped. For me though, it's that single first lap that encapsulates so much of what made Senna special. It highlighted his ability to go straight from the gun, extracting speed from cold tires when others were feeling their way more tentatively into the unknown. It also showcased his skill in the wet, whether it was [UNKNOWN] in 81, Monaco in 84, Estoril in 85 or Donington in 93. Senna had the ability to make the rest of the group look like amateurs when there was moisture in the air. And finally, it was fitting that the lap should culminate in an overtake on Prost. The supreme rival who helped define the Brazilian's career. Of course, just over a year later in 1994, the would would lose Ayrton Senna da Silva. Good. On the same weekend as rolling Ratzenberger, I remember that weekend also so well, it's emblazoned on my mind but I prefer to remember Santa Claus that day in 1993 and specifically that first lap. Here at Donington. [MUSIC] [SOUND] [MUSIC]

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