Book Review – Memories of Ayrton Senna

This is a really simple book review to write. This is a wonderful book. Buy it. OK, you want more than just that, so I’ll explain. Memories of Senna isn’t a new book, it was first published in 2003, collated or perhaps you could say edited by the late Christopher Hilton. I say edited, because as the writer emphasises, “This is the book I didn’t write. More than 100 other people did”. However, he does himself a great injustice, as the book flows wonderfully.

Hilton contacted more than 120 people who knew Senna and asked them all the same question. “What was your strongest memory of the man?” The entries read not just like a who’s who of motorsport, but also includes names you probably haven’t heard of such as Ed Devlin of Ed’s Cafe, the roadside cafe close to Snetterton where the young Senna used stop for breakfast.

The beauty of the book is the frankness of the entries of all concerned. Sir Jackie Stewart explains how Senna proved to be difficult to interview after the Prost incident in Japan, but then later asked him for advice on how to use his standing in the sport to improve safety. Then that famous day in a forest in Wales with writer Russell Bulgin and rally driver Phil Collins in a Ford Sierra Cosworth. Other thoughts from Lotus chief engineer Bob Dance on his intense team debriefs, Joest Racing boss Rienhard Joest on Senna in a Porsche 956 and journalist Simon Taylor on how a two minute ‘piece to camera’ became a two hour chat. Wonderful reading.

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You can either pick up this book and remain pinned to your chair, unable to put it down, or you can simply pick it up on a spare moment, open a random page and read some more recollections. One single thing that everyone recalls, totally independently of one another, is a presence about him that many find difficult to put into words. Some call it Zen Like, religious, intense, focussed, shy. A whole range of phrases.

For the many thousands of us out there who were never able to meet Senna, but can recall him at Donnington and that frustrating second place in the rain at Monaco, this book gives us a priceless way to enjoy the memories of those who knew him. Above all, even his critics admire his warmth and that ‘presence’. If you never buy another Senna book, buy this one.

Published by Haynes Publishing

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Author: Neill Watson

If you love the sound of the Cosworth V8 as much as the V12 Merlin, the smell of Jet A1 as much as Castrol R and admire the late Ray Hanna as much as Sir Stirling, you’ll find you’re both on the same page. Neill's love of art deco buildings means that his ideal home would be a brilliant white, 1930′s control tower in Southern France, with crisply mown grass, biplane parked on the driveway and a Ferrari 288GTO in the garage. This is something that those around him tolerate, though it does concern them from time to time.

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