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Ayrton Senna: 1960-1994: Race Car Driver Biography

Outstanding Kart Career, Charged Into Formula One, Proved His Mettle In The Rain, Carved History With Mclaren

Ayrton Senna: 1960-1994: Race car driver.

Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna was a famous professional race car driver and sportsman at the time of his death in a racing crash in 1994. After an outstanding career on the kart racing circuit, Senna was a three-time champion of the elite Formula One (F1) series. In his brief but spectacular career, Senna proved he was arguably "the most remarkable racing driver of all time," according to Alan Henry in Grand Prix Champions.

Born Ayrton Senna da Silva on March 21, 1960, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Senna was an awkward child who was later diagnosed with a motor-coordination problem. Senna's father, Milton da Silva, was successful businessman and landowner, but also was a motor racing fan, and encouraged his son's fascination with cars. When Senna was four, his father gave him a one-horsepower go-kart. When Senna got behind the wheel, his awkwardness disappeared—he was a natural. The entire family supported Senna's interest in motoring, and spent weekends together at local parks where the young man could drive his kart. His parents used driving privileges as leverage to get Senna, a lackluster student, to pay better attention to his studies. Fortunately for Senna, his family was wealthy and could afford to finance his racing.

At eight years old, Senna was driving the family car. European racing stars Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart were his heroes, as well as Emerson Fittipaldi, a Brazilian driver who was fast emerging as an extraordinary talent. Senna received a 100cc kart for his tenth birthday, but had to practice on his own at the local kart track until he turned 13, the minimum age for racing karts in Brazil. Interest in European motor racing grew in Brazil when Fittipaldi won the Formula One World Championship in 1972, and the nation hosted its first Grand Prix at Interlagos the following year.

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