Tuesday, April 29, 2014

RETRO: San Marino GP weekend - 20yrs later...

The affable Rubens Barrichello. (Source: bing.com images)
Anybody who's a fan of Formula 1 knows what happened on that horrible day May 1st, 1994, which I refer to as Black Sunday, when arguably one of the sport's greatest Formula 1 driver's life was taken from us, as three time world champion Ayrton Senna met his maker at Tamburello  corner at Imola that day...

And whilst countless stories and accolades will be written commemorating this twentieth anniversary, let's not forget the often overlooked Roland Ratzenberger, who lost his life the day prior, not to mention all of the other mania that occurred that dreadful weekend all those years ago.

Thus, from a book I'm reading at an overt Snail's pace, having been interrupted multiple times; when I first began reading The Life of Senna 'Wayback in early 2013, I decided to take notes of some significant passages from the controversial author Tom Rubython's fantastic yarn! As my notes sez' that the opening chapter's title says I-T all:

Life: 2:17pm Sunday 1st May 1994
(Such a powerful beginning! Title sez' it all)

Keith Sutton writes a very interesting forward to the book; Yeah, the very same person as in Sutton Motorsport Images these days, which you'll notice from time-to-time as the photographic credit of various F1 stories - usually on the Internets.

As the 20-something Sutton describes riding a train 8hrs to Brands Hatch circuit - courtesy of a free railway ticket, and upon a free weekend decided to go photograph up 'N coming Brazilians further, which in turn leads to his being approached by Ayrton and ultimately being offered the job of personal photographer.

Naturally Sutton took the job, which he held for three years, from Senna's beginnings in F3, and culminating with the pair's making it into Formula 1, where Ayrton served his rookie apprenticeship with the Minnowesqe Toleman Motorsport team, which then became Benetton.

Sutton notes the absurdity of it all, especially since its even a rarity for F1 Drivers today. As Sutton served as not only Ayrton's personal photographer, but press Officer and whatever else it took to get him noticed by the power brokers of the sport, i.e.; F1 team principals...

Friday, April 29, 1994
While I wasn't at Imola that weekend, nor did I watch any of it upon thy 'Telie, since I was thousands of miles away in "Sin City," which only seems appropriate now... Friday's first practice session was an ominous forbearing shadow of events to come.

As the weekend started off with the horrific looking shunt of Rubens "Rubino" Barrichello's Jordan 194 Hart V-10 when the Brazilian clipped a kerb at some 140 miles-per-hour at the Variante Bassa corner, launching 'Rubino's car skywards and striking the top of the corresponding tyre wall!

Damon Hill, who at the time was Ayrton's team-mate at Team 'Willy, (Williams ) in just his sophomore season as a fulltime Grand Prix driver was simply astounded over the Marshall's handling of Barrichello's accident. Simply manhandling the Jordan Grand Prix chassis that had come to rest upside down and crudely  tipping over the entire car with the Brazilian driver still strapped into the cockpit! As Hill notes that 'Rubino was unconscious at the time of this abrupt up righting of his stricken car.

Hill can clearly see Rubino's head flaying around and claims that these types of activities had led to neck & spinal injuries to both J.J. Letho and Jean Alesi in testing earlier that year! (Letho suffered neck injury, with Alesi suffering spinal damage)

While I know of Letho's injury, due to his being a Benetton racing driver, with Jos "THE BOSS" Verstappen substituting for him at the beginning of the year, I was unaware (or had forgotten) of Alesi's testing accident which occurred at Mugello whilst Alesi drove for Scuderia Ferrari and ironically, his back accident precluded him from participating in the Pacific and San Marino Grand Prix's that fateful year, with Italy's Nicola Larini deputizing for the injured Frenchman.

Ironically Senna himself notes that the cars are difficult and very dangerous to drive, saying "We'll be lucky if nothing serious happens."

Barrichello luckily escaped his horrific shunt with only chipped teeth, cut lips, a swollen and broken nose and injured arm; all of which were treated, with the Brazilian being airlifted to hospital as a precautionary matter. As Rubens would tell his countryman Ayrton, who'd come to check upon him after his accident, I'll watch the race from home in England Sunday morning. As obviously little did he know that his friend would be dead by that Sunday's afternoon!

While thankfully to Dr. Sid Watkins, fondly known in the F1 fraternity simply as "Prof" or "Sid," Watkins immediate arrival on the scene via the medical safety car saw him quickly save Barrichello's life as the stricken driver had swallowed his tongue!