This Thursday, we celebrate the birthday of the Interlagos Speedway. The Brazilian motor sports Mecca, which has been hosting races for the main national and international categories for 76 years, was opened in May 12, 1940.
The circuit’s history is full of exciting moments, and Ayrton Senna was at the center of several of them. That’s why we are listing six unforgettable stories involving the three-time F1 world champion at his home country’s main track, which was renamed Autódromo José Carlos Pace in 1985.
1- From go-karts to Formula One
While Emerson Fittipaldi and José Carlos Pace made history by winning the first three Brazilian GPs (Fittipaldi in 1973 and 1974 and Pace in 1975), Aytton Senna was starting out in go-kart races, at the Interlagos Go-Kart Track, located in the same complex. In July of 1973, Senna had his first official victory – right at the track that now bears his name.
2- Senna’s S
Rio de Janeiro hosted the Brazlian Grand Prix from 1981 to 1989. Ayrton Senna, born in São Paulo and crazy about Interlagos, was one of the main advocates for bringing the race back to what many considered its rightful place. The driver oversaw renovations and even acted as a consultant to several changes in the track’s layout, such as the “Senna’s S” construction, and the shortening of the track, from 7.874 meters to 4.325 meters.
3- Pole position and podium in 1990
The return of Formula One to Interlagos was marked by loud cheers from the Brazilian crowd. Ayrton Senna secured the pole position, six tenths of a second ahead of Gerhard Berger, who would start next to him in a first row dominated by McLaren. During the race, Senna was well ahead of Alain Prost (Ferrari) but ended up losing the car’s nose after hitting Satoru Nakajima, who drove a Tyrell and was a backmarker. Ayrton changed the broken part and was able to make it to the podium, in third place.
4- The historic first victory, in 1991
In 1991, Senna scored the pole position three tenths of a second ahead of Williams’ Ricardo Patrese, who would be his biggest rival in the race. On Sunday, Senna won from start to finish, but not before going through the nightmare of losing every gear but the sixth in the final laps. Ayrton finally broke the curse of never having won in Brazil. He had gotten close a few times since 1986, when he finished in second, at Jacarepaguá, with Lotus.
5- Spectacle in the rain in 1993
Even with an inferior car when compared to the Williams, Senna put on a spectacle in the rain and, especially, on wet track. He was able to overtake Damon Hill and win for the second time at Interlagos. The Brazilian was so far ahead of his rivals that, even after being given a 10-second stop-go penalty, he finished the race 16s625 ahead of Hill.
6- Pole position in 1994
In his last race at Interlagos, Ayrton Senna scored his 63rd pole position in F1. With 1min15s962, the three-time world champion was 0s328 quicker than Schumacher in the qualifying rounds, which took place mostly in the rain. Even though drivers would be unable to improve on their times due to the downpour, Ayrton took an extra lap just to greet the fans, who were there exclusively to see another great Ayrton Senna performance.