Ayrton Senna was one the greatest highlight of the 1983 Formula 3 season, when he became champion. The Brazilian driver had an impressive run, winning 12 out of 20 races and securing 14 pole positions. That meant he started attracting attention from the press – both in Brazil and abroad – even before his Formula One debut.
So much so that the biggest TV network in Brazil, Globo, did a live broadcast of Senna’s next-to-last race in the British F3, at Silverstone (in October 2, 1983), which would be completely unthinkable, today, since it was just an entry category in motor sports. If he won, Ayrton would become champion, besting Martin Brundle with one race still to go in the season.
In an interview to Senna TV, sports commentator Reginaldo Leme recalled what it was like to air an F3 race on Globo TV for the first time.
“Before the broadcast we had to prepare the Brazilian audience for what they were about to see. Only motor sports fanatics knew about F3, so we had to explain it to the pubic at large. I had interviewed Senna several times before that day, as well as Keith Sutton – who was his official photographer at the time – his team principal (Dick Bennetts), and his rivals Martin Brundle and Eddie Jordan”, said Reginaldo.
Senna had opened up a hug lead at the beginning of the season, with nine straight wins. Brundle gradually closed the gap, until he was just three points behind the Brazilian driver (116 – 113). But since the rules stated that the three worse results for each driver would not be considered, the difference was actually seven points.
Senna had an unlucky qualifying session, since he entered the track just as it was starting to drizzle. Some of the other drivers had already posted their times, and the best he could do was a fourth place on the starting grid. Senna also crashed into the tire barrier during the qualifying session, but his team, West Surrey, was able to fix his race car. Davy Jones took the pole position, and Brindle would be starting right beside him. Allen Berg, Brundle’s teammate, had the third spot.
On race day, Jones had a bad start and lost his third gear. Brundle stayed ahead of Senna, who had jumped from fourth to second place. Due to technical issues, Globo TV did not air the first lap of the race. So, when the connection went back up, Ayrton Senna was already in second. Halfway through the race, the two rivals were separated by no more than 1s5.
In the final lap, Ayrton tried to take the lead from Brundle, but he feared causing an accident and decided to step back. The Britton won the race and got an extra point for posting the fastest lap, which meant he was now the championship leader. But everything changed in the final race, three weeks later, when Senna won at Thruxton, taking his F3 title. Ayrton was getting closer and closer to securing a place in Formula One.
Check out the race, with commentary by Galvão Bueno and analysis by Reginaldo Leme.