On this day – Ayrton Senna was born at 1.15am in the Sao Paulo province of Santana to wealthy parents Milton da Silva and his wife Neyde Senna da Silva (whose family is of Italian lineage). He had a three year old sister, Viviane and a younger brother, Leonardo, would arrive six years later.
Milton had created his wealth from a car components business and farming. As Senna himself said: “The factory had about 750 people employed and he’d started from nothing; there were ten farms plus a total of 400,000 hectares with 10,000 heads of cattle.”
It was in this luxury that Senna grew up – secure and healthy and his love for his family and country would dominate his life. A factor he highlighted every time he proudly hoisted the Brazilian flag after every victory.
Ayrton Senna’s legacy to Formula One is considerable and I’m not simply referring to the memories of electrifying qualifying performances or the breath-taking race victories.
For any balanced review of his Formula One career you have to factor in the dark days too. Whatever your view of the Brazilian as a racing driver – there are always two sides to every argument.
Since his tragic passing, F1 has reinvented itself with greater safety being the utmost goal and it is probably for this – that drivers should rejoice as his greatest legacy to F1.
“Wealthy men can’t live in an island that is encircled by poverty. We all breathe the same air. We must give a chance to everyone, at least a basic chance.” – Senna
Over the winter of 1993-94, Senna had begun signing exclusive deals with high-end product manufacturers throughout the world – in preparation for his life following his retirement from motor-sport – and had spoken to his sister about founding an organisation to help the less fortunate in Brazil.
In November 1994 – Viviane Senna founded the Instituto Ayrton Senna and has seen this project flourish. It is a non-governmental and non-profit organisation.
It’s unique selling point – to provide a better education, healthcare and access to sports facilities to children and adolescents of low-income backgrounds to promote and encourage their full development as human beings.
To date, over twenty years later, it has helped over 11 million but despite Brazil ranking 7th amongst the world’s leading economies it is only 84th in the human development index and it is here the Institute is focusing for the future.
Frank Williams once said, “Ayrton was no ordinary person. He was actually a greater man out of the car than in it.”