Ayrton Senna was a natural sportsman. His dedication to physical training made him an exemplary athlete who could play any kind of sport. Besides auto racing, he enjoyed playing tennis, running, bicycling, swimming, jet skiing among others. He did well in almost all the sports he played. The only one that he was not good at was soccer. Senna wasn’t able to control the ball and was never the first one chosen for the team.
Model airplanes were a passion where he could show his ability and precision at the controls of small machines. His major challenge was to make the boldest manoeuvers without an instructor. And he was successful after only a few hours of training.
Another hobby was to tinker with and regulate the small, tricky engines of jet skis. He would spend hours and hours tinkering with the motor until it worked the way he wanted. Only then would he head out to make radical moves and jump the waves.
Senna was a physical-preparation pioneer, in F1. And one of his favorite activities to stay in shape was cycling. However, the three-time champion developed his taste for bicycles several years before he became an athlete.
“It started when I was 3 or 4 years old. I had a small yellow bike. That was how I got started and that bike was everything, to me. I rode it until I was 12, when I already was way too big for it. But I didn’t want a bigger, better bike, because that was the one I had learned how to ride on – how to keep my balance, how to go in a straight line and race other children. It was a very healthy and pleasant activity”.
Ayrton’s interest for cycling didn’t wane and, in 1994, he even launched an exclusive line of bicycles by renowned manufacturer Carraro, in a partnership with the Senna brand. The profits from units sold at the time helped fund the Ayrton Senna’s Institute’s very first social education solutions.
Today, in motor racing, it’s not unusual to see F1 world champions, like Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, riding their bikes throughout the world’s circuits.
Angra dos Reis
This was the place where many funny stories occurred and plainly show his good humor and relaxed manner when he was far from the race tracks.
Like this one that is told by his cook Maria: “One time, Senna was at the Angra dos Reis house with his German friend Gerty, an executive with Mercedes Benz in Germany, who really enjoyed smoking a pipe much to the dismay of Senna who didn’t like the smell. Gerty left the pipe on the table and left the room for a few moments. This was enough time for Senna to take some black pepper powder and put it in the pipe. Gerty returned and performed the entire ritual that pipe smokers make without noticing anything. When he lit the pipe and inhaled the first puff, he felt the strong taste of pepper, and he knew that something was wrong but didn’t let on or make a comment even though his face was red from the heat of the pepper. Of course, Senna sat quietly and pretended he didn’t know anything…”
In Sintra, Portugal, Ayrton Senna was staying at the home of a friend when a funny thing happened. One night, he was out for a drive in a red Honda with a female Portuguese friend. Returning home early in the morning, he drove through a long stretch of sand and the car got stuck.
There was no one to help him so Senna calmly knocked at the door of a house a few yards away. The resident, woken in the middle of the night, changed his mood when he saw the famous visitor who was knocking at his door at an ungodly hour in the morning. And above all, asking for help to get his stuck car out of the sand. After much effort, they freed the car and the new friend got a helmet-shaped pin as a reward.
It was the only thing Senna had in his pocket.
Em 1991, voltando da Austrália, onde disputou a última corrida da temporada, Ayrton Senna parou em Buenos Aires para passar a noite e continuar viagem para o Brasil no dia seguinte.
Como fazia sempre que ia para Buenos Aires, convidou Juan Manuel Fangio, pentacampeão mundial de Fórmula 1 e um mito para os argentinos, para jantar. Gentil, Fangio foi buscar Ayrton Senna no Hotel Sheraton, onde o brasileiro estava hospedado.
Após algum tempo conversando, tomaram o elevador para ir para o restaurante. O elevador parou num andar e entrou um argentino. Ao olhar para ambos, murmurou: ‘Fangio? Senna? Vou pegar o outro elevador. Nem os meus filhos vão acreditar que eu estava no mesmo elevador com os dois maiores pilotos do mundo.’”
Roberto Ferreira, jornalista