Senna’s first stepping stone after his successful go-kart career was in British motor sports, more specifically in Formula Ford 1600, a category already notorious as a breeding ground for F1 talents at the time.

Senna’s first race took place at Brands Hatch, on March 1st 1981. Using an outdated car (it was the previous year’s model, since the new one wasn’t ready in time), Senna finished in a satisfactory fifth place, behind drivers with at least one year of experience.

The following Sunday, Senna was third at Thruxton, and climbed on the podium for the first time in his young international career.

The victory he dreamt about would come soon, only 15 days after his debut, in an incredible race at Brands Hatch. It was run in two heats, and the Brazilian overcame Argentine Enrique Mansilla and Mexican Alfonso Toledano in both of them, opening a comfortable lead of nine seconds overall.

The laurel wreath from his first victory has become a relic. A rare trophy, to this day kept by Ralph Firman, Ayrton Senna’s first boss, at the Van Diemen headquarters, in Snetterton, England.

After the podium at Thruxton and the win at brands Hatch, Senna kept going, finishing the nine following races in the top-three, including five victories! The great results meant a considerable lead in the championship standings.

After the race in which his podium streak was broken – the 13th, out of 20 races – Da Silva (as he was known at the time by the European press) remained unstoppable. In the last seven races he scored nothing less than six victories and one second place, which earned him the titles (Towsend Thoresen and RAC British) ahead of time.

01/03, Brands Hatch: 5th place
08/03, Thruxton: 3rd place
15/03, Brands Hatch: win
22/03, Mallory Park: 2nd place
05/04, Mallory Park, 2nd place
03/05, Snetterton: 2nd place
24/05, Oulton Park: win
25/05, Mallory Park: win
07/06, Snetterton: win
21/06, Silverstone: 2nd place
27/06, Oulton Park: win
04/07, Donington Park: win
12/07, Brands Hatch: 4th place
25/07, Oulton Park: win
26/07, Mallory Park: win
04/08, Brands Hatch: win
09/08, Snetterton: win
15/08, Donington Park: win
31/08, Thruxton: win
27/09, Brands Hatch: 2nd place

Colocação: Piloto: Pontos:
Equipe Van Diemen
Carro Van Diemen/Ford F80/F81
Total de provas 20
Vitórias 12
Poles 3
Pódios 12
Melhores Voltas 10
Abandonos -
Pontos 218
Classificação no Campeonato 1