Ayrton Senna won the 1987 Detroit GP 29 years ago, on a June 21. The race went down in motor sports history as a masterclass on how conserving one’s tires can secure a victory in F1.

In the previous year, Senna had already scored an epic win in Detroit, when he came up with one of his signature gestures: holding up the Brazilian flag while still in his car to celebrate a victory. Once again, in 1987, the Lotus driver had Nigel Mansell as his main rival. In the American track, tires tended to wear out much quicker than normal.

How much quicker? Senna won 41 times in F1, and in 22 of those races, he didn’t make a single pit-stop. In Detroit, however, that type of strategy was pretty much out of the question. The street-circuit was heavily damaged, with potholes that could blow up the cars’ tires at any moment.

Mansell started the 1987 GP in the lead. But the Williams driver made a pit-stop on lap 34, and Senna jumped 21 seconds ahead of him. That was when TV commentator Galvão Bueno said: “It’s time to stop – time to quickly change the tires and come back in still in the lead” – in allusion to how long it took for Williams to put the “Lion” back in the race.

Ayrton, however, opted for not stopping. He was the only driver who adopted the strategy and still scored points. Not only that, he started taking faster and faster laps. It looked like the Brazilian driver was in his own private qualifying session. On lap 39, he posted the race’s quickest lap, with 1min40s464. He was also lucky, since Mansell started suffering cramps right after that.

Nelson Piquet took the second place, but he was too far away from Ayrton – more than one minute behind, in the last few laps. When Senna realized there was no one in his rearview mirror, he was able to take it a little easier and win for the second year in a row at the challenging Detroit street-circuit.

Take a look back at the race’s highlights: