Winning without brakes
On April 9th, 1982, Senna won one of the most amazing races of his life, and it became one of the legends that surrounded the driver’s career even before he debuted in F1: a victory in England in a racecar with serious brake problems since the first lap.
It all happened in Snetterton, a city more than 259 km (150 miles) away from London. It began as a regular race for Ayrton: he started in the first place and kept the lead at the first turn, but it soon turned dramatic. When slowing down to avoid debris from a crash during the first lap, the Brazilian realized he had lost his front brakes.
That caused Senna to be overtaken by Russell Spence, his teammate and Kenny Andrews. Even with severe brake issues, Senna successfully adapted his driving style and started going faster than the rest, regaining the lead.
In the end, Senna crossed the finished line using only his rear brakes, and was forced to stop his car at the track’s first turn, close to the pit-lane. Ayrton walked up to his garage and told the mechanics and engineers what had happened, but everyone thought he was exaggerating – after all, he had just won the race. The real surprise came when they collected the Brazilian’s car: the front brake disk was cold, meaning it hadn’t been used!
Some say that Senna finished the race not only without the front brakes, but also without the rear ones, since they would have to be worn out from performing double-duty since the first lap. The victory put Senna on track for the Formula Ford 2000 title.
More than just winning a race, Ayrton accomplished a feat that, for many, was all but impossible.