Where were you on May 1st 1994 ?
Regular poster Nuno put a link on another thread to a feature about the late Ayrton Senna from Top Gear.
A quote by Lewis Hamilton about how he was a nine-year-old at a kart race and can remember every detail about the day Senna died promted me to remember the details of that day.
For my part I was working at Footwork Arrows F1 at the time, and of course that year one of our drivers was another Brazilian, Christian Fittipaldi. But that weekend of the Imola race was a holiday weekend in England and I used to help a friend run a Formula Ford team so we were at Snetterton that day. We had our cars prepared after morning practice and were sitting in the paddock eating greaseburgers when I remembered the Grand Prix was on and switched on the radio in the transporter so we could hear it. A few laps in and it sounded like Ayrton had had a serious accident, and within a short time the commentator (I think it was Simon Taylor on BBC Radio Five) sounded worried. Of course he could see the TV monitors, we couldn't, but by his tone it sounded bad.
Of course his death was not confirmed until much later. Monday morning and the Snetterton paddock was a grim place indeed. The Alfa Romeo team came out for the feature BTCC race with black stripes across the front of the cars, and a young Formula Ford driver was in tears all day, that was another young Brazilian Marcelo Battistuzzi for whom Senna must have been everything he was aiming for. There were many others there who had personal memories of Ayrton as he was based there in his Formula Ford days.
By the Tuesday when I was back at work at the Arrows base in Bletchley the team trucks were back from Imola and there was the usual rush to turn the cars around for the next race, but it was not a happy place for either Fittipaldi or the rest of the team.
I am old enough to remember when the news came through about Jim Clark's accident at Hockenheim and there were similarities in the way it seemed unbelievable that the man at the top of the game was gone.
And yes, we all remember the news film of the people crying in the São Paulo streets, I am not being funny when I say that was Brazil's 'Princess Diana' funeral.
Where were you that day?
I had spent the previous 4 weeks on a world trip with a couple of friends. I remember sitting at Singapore Airport on the way back from Perth watching the news of Roland Ratzenburger's fatal crash, which itself came a day after a big accident for Barrichello. We then flew overnight to Heathrow, and caught the coach back up to Yorkshire. After putting the kettle on I rang my Dad, and the first thing he said was "It sounds like bad news for Senna". I remember being totally confused (doubt the jet lag helped), not entirely sure who had crashed, if I'd remembered the news I'd seen correctly, quite how many accidents there had been etc. Then I put the TV on and sat stunned with my cup of tea.
Is it really almost 19 years ago...