Great Story About Senna from Mike Wilson

Found this great excerpt on Facebook today from Mike Wilson on Ayrton Senna

We started talking in 1979, actually it’s more correct to say that we started arguing, in 1979: during a stage of the European Kart Championship we had an accident that caused him to retire and a puncture for me.

We were in Jesolo, during a pre-final. I’ll go first, he’ll go second. For three laps, right after the start, I’m in trouble, because the tires are still not hot. Ayrton is faster and starts pressing me up close. I say to myself: 'If it passes me, I can’t go back… ‘So I start defending myself by taking narrower paths so I don’t let it slip. At a certain point, when you get to the turn, he jumps in. I see him with the tail of my eye and pull a ‘trick’ trying to get him out of line. We touch and he turns over, taking a bad shot to the ribs; strong enough to not even run the final the next day.

I win the race on Sunday, and when, after the award ceremony, I get off the podium with the trophy in my hand, Ayrton is there waiting for me, in a wheelchair because he can hardly breathe and walk. Inevitably, an exchange of insults begins, with him accusing me of throwing him out on purpose. That’s it, because in the kart back then, with the little protection we had, it didn’t take much to touch the opponent in the right spot and make him overturn.

After that episode, despite continuing to meet on the occasion of the most important races he was participating in, even though he was already busy with racing in England, we did not talk for a couple of years until we started to say goodbye if we happened to face to face contracts, like in 1982 on the occasion of the World championship in Klamar Sweden.

I won and he came 14th due to a mechanical vehicle definitely not up to the height and the misfortune of a puncture during practice. The awards had a rather rigid protocol, for which riders coming from fourth place down had to parade in front of the podium and shake hands with best-ranked colleagues. Everyone did it, but he didn’t: when his turn came he walked past us and didn’t shake anyone’s hand, too disappointed to congratulate himself with chicchessia.

At the time I thought he behaved very badly, but now that I think back and having known him more, I understand him and I believe I would have done the same in his place. He wanted like no other to win that title and knew it was his last chance, since his commitment to Formula 3 the following year wouldn’t allow him to participate.

Things changed several years later, when he was now in Formula 1. Not that we were two great friends, but there was harmony and we started to get along much better. Then at the end of 1988, he surprised me with a very unexpected kindness and warmth. I had won the Karting World Championship again and went to Paris for the annual FIA award, while Ayrton was there as the new Formula One World Champion.

The ceremony started with the smaller category and so you went the first to take the stage for picking up my trophy. When I went back, he stood up, came to me smiling, hugged me and said: 'Well done: I see you keep winning! ', I replied, 'Yes, but obviously not as important as yours. 'And him: 'What really matters, whatever you do, whether you race go karts, or race in Formula One, anything, even playing cards, is being a world champion because it means you’re the best in the world at doing it, remember stubborn. Even in karting, this is a great achievement! '. It was nice very nice…

The following year I won it again and Ayrton did something not only kind but absolutely extraordinary for me: I called the editorial office of ‘La Gazzetta dello Sport’, a newspaper widely spread in Italy, where I lived, saying 'Everyone thinks that the Italian journalists are the best in the world, especially for how much it’s about engines, yet you haven’t written basically anything about a pilot who won a world championship for the sixth time… Should give the kart more space! '. And so the next day you received the request for an interview and after a few days you even had more than half a page dedicated to me: a spectacle!

I saw him last in December 1993 in Bercy at the charity karting tournament organised by Philippe Streiff. We talked a little, but he always had lots of people around, young and old, all looking for a photo or autograph. I said to him: ‘Of course it must be an effort for you to be able to go somewhere’ and he: 'Yes, but with time you get used to it… 'We had a personal locker room available to change, so at the end of the race he invited me and my children in. He had three blue ‘Nacional’ hats in his hand and immediately put one on my head, he had written ‘To Mike with admiration’ on it, then he gave one to my daughter written ‘For Anna, with love’ and one to my son, written ‘For Alex, with respect’.

He also gave me a golden keychain: we were all moved. For people who didn’t know him well it was hard to understand what a good, gentle man he really was. After his death there was much talk about him on television, but I rarely managed to follow those shows because I immediately felt a lump in my throat oppressing me. I have three or four videos, one of which comes from Brazil, but I find it difficult to watch them until the end.

They show you the other side of Ayrton Senna, when he came home, playing with his grandchildren, while at sea, having fun and smiling all the time. The problem was that few people saw that side of him, I actually knew him… Sometimes when I walked into a bar and they showed pictures of Formula One on the TV, people would start saying, ‘Senna, oh Senna, blah blah blah’, but I wouldn’t say anything because it would be an unnecessary speech. Those people didn’t know what they were talking about because they really didn’t know it at all… "

Mike Wilson


A good read. :checkered_flag::checkered_flag::checkered_flag::checkered_flag::checkered_flag::checkered_flag::checkered_flag::checkered_flag::checkered_flag::checkered_flag::checkered_flag: