One of Ayrton Senna’s most iconic wins took place at the 1986 Detroit GP, when the young Brazilian driver won the race with team Lotus and, during the cool-down lap, was given a Brazilian flag by a fan.

The flag was a little small, but it had a huge influence over Ayrton Senna’s career. After all, it was the first time Senna took a lap while holding a Brazilian flag up high, a scene that would be repeated in most of his future celebrations. The win in the US was just his fourth out of a total of 41 in F1.

Garth Stein, an American writer, was another lucky fan who was right there, watching the Detroit GP. As an Ayrton Senna admirer, he was inspired by the Brazilian driver to write “The Art of Racing in the Rain”. The book became a best-seller and was recently adapted as a major motion picture, released in 2019.

In the movie, Senna is mentioned a few times by both main characters: Enzo, the dog, and Denny, his master, who dreams of becoming a Ferrari driver. The rain, mentioned in the title, is another reference to Senna. The Brazilian won several races on a wet track throughout his career, even when driving cars inferior to his rivals’.

Stein remembers the first time he saw Senna racing: “I was there [in Detroit]. It was a crazy race. There were several Brazilian flags on the stands. It was a great and very moving win by Senna”, recalls Stein, in an exclusive interview to Ayrton Senna’s official website.

Check out the full interview with Garth Stein:

AS Website – How Senna inspired you in your work as a writer?

Stein – His dedication, thoughtfulness, deliberateness and skill are great, of course. But also, his creativity, inspiration, and spirituality are important, I think, in elevating the “craft” of racing into the “art” of racing.

AS Website – Why do you think Senna was so good at the rain?

Stein – Because he understood that everything is connected and that the rain is just a part of himself. In that regard, Senna has much in common with Neo from The Matrix. Do we call him a super hero, or just someone who is entirely in charge of his destiny? Is there any difference?

AS Website – You are also a racer – and how much Senna inspired you on the track as well?

Stein – I raced at the amateur level and began as an adult, so I don’t pretend I was chasing the myth of Senna on the track. My goals were to drive within myself and improve my driving and my car set-up and to get myself into a competitive position. And I always had a great deal of fun!

AS Website – Would you imagine Ayrton Senna racing for Ferrari?

Stein – In a different era, in a different world, on a different planet, in a different solar system? Sure, I could see that!

AS Website – What is your favorite Ayrton Senna Grand Prix? Donington Park 1993? Why?

Stein – Of course, Donnington Park is considered the best F1 lap of all time. But I love Senna at Monaco. Something magical always happens there, and, of course, in 1998 is when he spoke about being “disembodied” while driving the car to a record-setting fast lap and pole position.

AS Website – Do you consider Senna the best driver of all time?

Stein – In my heart, there is no better. But Hamilton is pretty darned good!

AS Website – During this pandemic of coronavirus, how Ayrton Senna values can help us getting thru this difficult times?

Stein – Compassion, empathy, faith, perseverance, love…these are all qualities that made Senna great. If we follow his example, and if we do the work—no one said we would find success without dedication and effort—then we will hold together as a society and a civilization. However, if we worry only about the difficulties and the strain, and if we point fingers and yell at each other, we may feel some level of satisfaction, but we will not have succeeded. To succeed, we must be fully dedicated to improving our position on the track. We should remember the past, so we are not condemned to repeat our mistakes. But we must be fully focused on the future and the things we can control: our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our intentions.