After years as a successful go-kart driver, Ayrton Senna made his official debut with open-whee cars in 1981, in England. The car with which Senna achieved his first ever podium finish – and which he started driving in the second race of that season – has just been restored and will be displayed at the British festival Race Retro.
With that Van Diemen RF81, Ayrton Senna raced 19 races and took 18 podiums and 12 wins, becoming Formula Ford 1600 champion in two separate leagues: Townsend Thoresen and RAC British.
The car driven by Senna was restored by none other than Ralph Firmann, the owner of the British team, who was introduced to Senna by Chico Serra.
The Brazilian drove the car for the first time at Thruxton, on March 8, 1981, and he finished in third place. In the previous race, Senna’s Formula Ford debut, the driver had competed with a Van Diemen RF80, built for the team for the 1980 season.
One week after his first podium, Senna won his first non-karting race, at Brands-Hatch. Before getting to Formula One, the Brazilian also won titles in the British and the European Formula Ford 2000 in 1982, besides becoming the Britsh and European F3 champion in 1983, driving for team West Surrey.
“We are deeply honoured to have the Van Diemen at Race Retro and thrilled that our visitors will be the first to get a closer look at this incredible racing car,” said Race Retro’s acting show director, Lee Masters.
Race Retro takes place from February 22 to 24, in Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, near the city of Birmingham. You can learn more by visiting the expo’s website at: https://www.raceretro.com/