Wednesday, 15 June 2011

123, Senna

Ayrton Senna was 34 years old when he tragically died at Imola in 1994.

At 34 years old myself I can only imagine what his family and close friends went through over this tragic weekend that also saw Rubens Barrichello luckily escape unscathed from an equally horrific accident and in Saturday qualifying, only 24 hours before Senna's accident the equally tragic death of Roland Ratzenberger (33) in what Murray Walker described as the blackest weekend in motor sport history.

Senna tracks the amazing story of the Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna from his induction to F1 in 1984 for the lower ranked Toleman team before moving to Lotus Renault. It was after joining Maclaren alongside then friend Alain Prost that one of motor sports greatest rivalries began.

10 years and 3 World Championship wins on, Ayrton joined Williams where he tragically lost his life entering the Tamburello curve at Imola, a race eventually won by a young Michael Schumacher but the sport had lost its greatest hero.

Growing up as a kid in the 80's and 90's my childhood was heavily influenced by Formula 1 Racing.  Remembering afternoons with my dad, glued to our TV, listening to Murray Walker and watching motoring legends like Mansell, Senna, Prost & Lauder risking life and limb in cars that bounced, skidded, sparked and sometimes flew around what seemed narrow and dangerous circuits.  The footage was unrecognisably grainy compared to the H.D world we now all live in and you forget how close the racing used to be, week after week.

They say you don't need to be an F1 fan to enjoy this movie but I would definitely say it helps - knowing who Ron Dennis is (almost unrecognisable with hair!), being able to spot young versions of some of today's most recognisable faces and most importantly, having an understanding of the rivalries is something that came across far deeper after watching this that I ever imagined.

What Senna does is open the doors to a world of politics, racing and money and all from the fully archived footage of a man who strived for perfection and success - no matter who he annoys to get there, even the FIA chairman! who comes across like a regular Mr Nasty!

There is no fluff, no acting, no narrative - its all real footage strung together with a haunting soundtrack and the result is a movie that EVERY sport fan should take the time to watch.

I consider myself quite a hardcore movie buff - For example, after watching Bambi I went for a venison burger! but this categorically put a lump in my throat that remained for the whole drive home.  The final footage at Imola not only shows Barrichello's accident and the devastating shots of Ratzenbergers limp body being battered around in his seat but the "on car" footage of Senna as his steering column broke and he careered into the side wall.  Without a broken bone in his body or a cut or bruise found anywhere it was a precise hit to the head from a suspension rod that was enough to end this motoring legends life.

Throughout Senna there is crash footage of some of the most devastating wrecks you would have ever seen - something that no longer happens in today racing championships.  Its meaningful, amazing and heart stopping from start to finish.

The biggest eye opener is the relationship between Senna & Prost.  Racing for McLaren side by side, what started as friendly banter soon turned into an almost hatred and loathing of each other to the point of purpose crash allegations, cheating and an unprecedented look at what went on behind closed doors when the TV cameras stopped but the archive feeds kept rolling.  What stands out here is the raw passion displayed by all the drivers, to a point - something that might of died out (to this level) at the same time as Senna himself.

It was the restrictions and safety procedures put in by Senna's friend and then F1 Doctor that has resulted in Senna & Ratzenbergers deaths being the last that F1 has seen on a track that has only ever claimed 2 lives, both in the same weekend.  10 other tracks have claimed 2 or more deaths - with Silverstone and Brands Hatch both claiming three.  Its easy to forget exactly how many lives the sport has claimed - but with the stats remaining at zero for the past 17, years F1 has managed to keep the glitz, glamour and drama of the big show - without the tragedy.

Is it a movie? Maybe not in the direct sense but as a cinematic masterpiece it cant be missed.

There is no "See this if.............." this time - its in a league of its own and unmatched in any of my other reviews.  A different class deserves a different ending, so........................

DON'T see this if................................................you have no concept of greatness.