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May 1, 1994
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May 1, 1994

Nowadays it’s entered into a calendar program or app, but I used to hand-write the word “Senna” onto May 1 of my calendars every year.

That is the day that my hero, Formula One racer Ayrton Senna, died while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Italy. If you are a fan of motorsports, you know his legacy. If you saw the documentary “Senna” last year, you got a sense of who he was. And if you are totally unaware, the video below might help bring you up to speed.

It’s difficult to describe Senna’s impact, even 19 years after his death. Ask today’s crop of F1 or Indycar drivers who their hero is, the name Senna tops nearly every list. Look closely at many of the helmets of today’s stars and you can see tributes to Senna with the yellow, blue and green of the Brazilian flag incorporated into them. And when talking pure speed, commitment and passion, drivers today are still measured against Senna’s levels, with few measuring up in every category.

So I reflect on Sunday, May 1, 1994, and remember sitting in front of the TV, having woken up at 4 a.m. to watch the race live, and cheering as Senna shot away at the start chased by that new German kid Schumacher in a car we all knew was faster. Through sheer will, he pushed his inferior car harder until that fateful corner, when a combination of low tire pressure or a failed steering column shot him off the track and into the wall at an incredible speed on lap seven.