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Remembering Ayrton Senna – What Motorcyclists Can Learn

Ayrton Senna rarely had the best car, but he had an uncanny ability to get the best out of it.  Three F1 World titles and 65 pole positions before he was tragically killed in 1994 while leading his final race.   He may have been the best motorsports racer in history.  Indeed, most modern F1 champions think he is clearly the best automobile racer ever (including Michael Schumacker).

What can motorcyclists learn from an automobile racer known for consistently finding the limits of both traction and speed?  Senna employed meticulous preparation, complete focus and concentration, perfect line selection and commitment (knowing when to trust the tires).  He also thought ahead, beyond the next turn when necessary.

Riding a motorcycle well involves, above all else, relaxation.  A light grip on the bars, and working with the machine, not against it.  Enjoy the video below, and tell us with your comment what the great racers, whether on motorcycles or in automobiles, can teach all of us about being better riders that has nothing to do with speed.


  1. Tom says:

    What motorcyclists can learn from Senna are two things. One, learn to find the “tire slip” everywhere on the track and ride it at all times, as best you trust you can. Second, when someone in front of you is taking the ideal line around a corner, jam yourself just inside and slightly behind him on a non-ideal line, and hope your opponent brakes and pulls out to avoid A wreck with you. Trust their self-preservation instincts will kick in and you get away with a cheap inside line.

  2. Tom says:

    Fearless. Perfectionist. Obsessive and happy only when dancing on the edge of disaster. Who can live that way? Only the best and at times the luckiest. Senna was the Best AND Luckiest ever!

  3. Dave says:

    I was living in Brazil when Senna burst onto the F1 racing scene in the Toleman and almost won Monaco in the rain. What a thrill! Love him or hate him, Senna was the most exciting F1 driver I have ever seen. You cannot imagine how his death shocked Brazil.

  4. Mark J says:

    He was a great talent, but I don’t find a win-at-any-cost mentality to be admirable.

  5. Tori Zimbalas says:

    I think the 639-641 series Ferrari may have had a handling advantage was more aero efficient for the 89-90 seasons…..unfortunately It was not as driveable nor as reliable as the Honda powerunits of the day…Senna made shrewd and correct choices in his career….I think Mclaren was the place to be at least till the William/Renaults were fully developed…it unfortunate that when Senna Finally got in one it was pruned of its active suspension abilities…and Senna struggled in that car…sometimes spectacularly He was by far the most committed and intense driver of his era…..shame he left us as he was just getting the point where he was becoming more “Human”

  6. Tom says:

    I don’t know anything about F1 but Senna must have been a pretty good driver for Ducati to make a special edition of their 916 named after him:

  7. Zoie Kittney says:

    Senna was known as a racer who drove “dirty” and would step on whomever he needed to in order to win. A great skill and mental game, yes, but his driving ethics cast a shadow on the future of the sport.

  8. Rich says:

    From an earlier era, racers who knew him said the same kinds of things about Jimmy Clark. Clark was reportedly a perfectionist who would criticize other drivers for missing apexes by four inches. Clark was the best of his era – some say the greatest ever (like Senna).

    The best we can say is they were the greatest of their generation. These drivers were singularly obsessed with their craft.

  9. ziggy says:

    He was the best “pure” racer in the sport.

  10. mk says:

    For real, stop over hyping this guy. Yeah he’s awesome but enough already with this

  11. Wendy says:

    Um, the best driver ever is clouded by different eras. Tazio Nuvaroli was arguably the best ever, raced every type of car, and motorcycles. In conditions that most motorists wouldn’t walk on never mind drive. No, I have never sen him drive, but the stories I have read by people who I trust, have told of his bravery and skill.

  12. mickey says:

    Never a car racing fan ( my passion has always been motorcycles ) and watching the film made me think of the motorcycle racers who resolutely refused to lose …Roger Decoster, Joel Robert, Dick Mann, Kenny Roberts, Giacomo Agostini, and Valentino Rossi to name a few….guys that could get a horrible start but somehow managed to be standing on the top step with the trophy and champaign at the end of the race. Its a God given talent COMBINED with an absolute refusal to,lose that sets these fellows apart from the rest of the racers.

  13. v says:

    Fastest qualifier ever? Most likely. The greatest driver ever? Much more controversial. In the same years and sometimes with the same car Alain Prost achieved similar results with very different approach to driving and car set-up.

  14. Gutterslob says:

    Contrary to your first sentence, Senna really did have the best cars (McLaren Honda) for 2 out of his 3 world titles with. Sure, he had to battle Prost in the same car for one of them, but the rest of the field were wuite a ways back then. His third title was much more hard earned. Doesn’t take away any from Senna, though. Like you say, he really did make slower cars punch above their weight, like with the Lotus, or in his 3rd title winning season with the normally aspirated McLaren Honda, or in the McLaren Ford (remember Donnington?) that came after.

    I recall first seeing a race involving Senna around 1986 or 87. As a 6 yr old without an clue about racing back then, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the cars. The all seemed to do similar things. Then the camera focused on Senna, and I was like WTF (or whatever colourful language equivalent a 6 yr old would use). You could really tell he was faster just by looking at the way his car moved compared to the others.

    Looking back now, the thing I’ll miss the most about that era might not be Senna, but the cars he won his world titles with. McLaren Honda were, in my mind, the most potent partnership in F1 ever.

    • MGNorge says:

      The first sentence also caught my eye. To say rarely seems extreme as I also felt the McLaren Hondas had nothing to be ashamed of. Sort of like Rossi and Yamaha as compared to Ducati the last two seasons. Senna was a master and a great joy to watch.

    • ROXX says:

      True, he did have the best cars for that time period, except when Williams had the active suspensions in 92 which were later outlawed. Ironic thing is when Ayrton moved to Williams he fought the car and ultimately it bit him.
      Also, Michael Schummaker gave Senna fits in a Benneton Ford which was under powered and supposedly a lesser chassis.
      Personally I think Schu was the better driver of that era but tragically that rivalry was cut short.

      • Gutterslob says:

        That’s a debate we’ll never be able to settle, sadly. From what I’ve heard, the Williams chassis Senna had was severely lacking without the aid of active damping and on-the-fly ride height adjustment (both of which were banned just before he joined them). Another advantage Schumi’s Benetton had was that it was more frugal, enabling it to run lighter at the start of races, thus wearing the tyres at a lesser rate; similar advantage the Red Bull has nowadays with the more frugal Renault engine, as a matter of fact. I also read (in some old magazine interview with Nigel Mansell) that Senna and Williams were finally getting the car to work just around the time he was killed (he was leading the race at San Marino when it happened), but who knows….

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