The curious tactic of Senna to be champion of the British F-3
23 October 1983.
Qualifying: 1:13.55(1); 1:13.36(1). Pole.
The shootout, all to gain and all to lose. Irene Ambrose, one of the team owners, said “knew he was going to win and I wanted to be there. It involved getting into London at the crack of dawn, getting a train to Andover, switching to a branch line’ somewhere in Hamphire’ and the very long slog, dodging traffic down windy country roads to the circuit.The day went quickly… “The first session lasted no more than 10 minutes because mist hung over the circuit and the session didn’t begin until 9.20. It had to end at 9.30 because by convention no cars ran during Sunday service at a local church.
Before the church bells rang, Senna pitted, Bennetts adjusted the wings and Senna had time for the “scorching” provisional pole. “I came across a couple of cars stopped at the Complex on the lap and although the car felt good it wasn’t perfect for the conditions.” The temperature rose from the second session, Senna and Brundle (third overall) improving.The race proved anti-climactic, Senna making a fast start lead by two lengths from Jones by the Complex, Jones holding Brundle back. Motoring News reported that “the Brazilian quite simply buckled straight down to the job and began to pull away in a relaxed fashion. Bothered by nothing mechanical or human, Senna swiftly vanished into the blue yonder.” Behind this lay a potent ploy which almost cost everything.
Senna’s team had taped over the oil radiator outlet to heat the oil more quickly, giving Senna a chance to wield The Tactic. “It was perfect. The oil was up to proper temperature within a lap or so rather than the usual six or seven.” On lap 6, as anticipated, the water temperature climbed. Senna loosened his seat belts enough to reach out with his right arm and tear the tape away.He’d practised this the week before. “By the time I looked back up I was almost at the chicane. I thought I had lost it for a minute. All of a sudden I was not part of the car. I was sliding around inside. It was quite hairy.”
Ambrose remembers the tape over the radiator incident. She wondered what is he doing? But “assumed he knew”). He got through the chicane and, as he did, settled the race and the championship. He hammered out a lead of seven seconds over Jones, with Brundle – down on power – powerless in third. “Everything was under control from the start.” Ambrose went to the West Surrey truck and “it was getting dark. Eventually, I got my chance and dived in to congratulate him on his victory.
Anyone who ever glibly said he was cold or unfeeling should have seen him that evening. He was as genuinely overwhelmed as anyone I have ever seen. As I trudged out of the circuit I was torn between a we and the elation of knowingI’d witnessed history being made – and being grateful for it – and the knowledge that with Formula 1 beckoning it could never be the same again.”
• Podium: Senna 18m39s78, Jones at 5.43, Brundle at 8.53.
• Fastest lap: Senna.
• Championship: Senna 132, Brundle 127 (123 counting), Jones 77.