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Ayrton Senna remembered 20 years after fatal Formula One crash

Ayrton Senna.......honored on 20th anniversary of tragic death at Imola racetrack.
Ayrton Senna.......honored on 20th anniversary of tragic death at Imola racetrack.

Millions of Formula One fans around the world are remembering the death of three-time world champion racecar driver Ayrton Senna today, Saturday, May 3, twenty years after his car crashed into a concrete wall killing him in 1994, according to Grand Prix 247. As Senna rounded the high speed Tamburello corner on lap 7, his Williams FW16 was clocked at 191 miles per hour seconds before his tragic death at the Imola, Italy racetrack on May 1, 1994.

Telemetry informed the world he braked his car two seconds before the collision which reduced his speed on impact to 145 miles an hour. Senna had complained during the days leading up to the race that the car was not handling well.

Fellow Formula driver Roland Ratzenberger, an Austrian rookie, was killed the day before during preparations for the race.

Born March 21, 1960 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Senna was leading the San Marino Grand Prix at the time of his untimely death. Senna won his world championships in 1988, 1990 and 1991 while driving for the British McLaren racing team under the direction of Ron Dennis.

Ayrton's niece Paula said today, that the love of all the people who turned out to honor her uncle meant a lot to her family. She said it showed he was still alive in their hearts even though it's been 20 years since his accident.

Organizers have planned events from May 1-4 in Italy to remember one of Formula One's greatest drivers. Officials reported that more than 20,000 turned out in Imola on Thursday, the first day of the ceremonies.

Two-time Formula one champion Fernando Alonso, of Spain, also showed up along with onetime word champion Kimi Raikkonen. Both of them now drive for Ferrari.

Three-time champion Niki Lauda said that Senna had the personality, the charisma and the speed necessary to be a great champion. He said it was no wonder he won so many races with his abilities.

It was reported following an intense investigation into the crash that a tie rod penetrated Senna's visor and that a right front wheel and suspension pushed back into the cockpit striking his helmet. He was helicoptered to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Dr. Sidney Watkins said he had told Senna he should retire from racing and go fishing with him before the accident. Senna told him he couldn't quit racing, despite the risks. It was Watkins who raced to Senna's side and tried to save him followig his accident. Watkins was a pioneer in making racing safer.

A hero in his native Brazil, several days of national mourning were declared at the time of his death. Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians walked past his casket during funeral ceremonies for their beloved racing icon.

As part of this weekend's many ceremonies honoring the racing great, his favorite soccer team known as the Corinthians donned replicas of his yellow jersey.

A square in Imola will also be named for him and a memorial football match will be played in his honor as part of the festivities this week.

Senna won 41 races and 65 poles during his illustrious career. He is third on the alltime list of victories behind only Michael Schumacher and French driver Alain Prost.

It has been a traumatic season for the close knit Formula One community as Schumacher remains in a medically-induced coma three months following a skiing accident on Dec. 29 in the French Alps.

Senna's principal at McLaren Ron Dennis said the great driver lived for racing.

Millions of Formula One fans around the world have been on an emotional roller coaster all year as memories of the death of Senna and the critical injury to Schumacher have dampened their spirits. In the normally glamorous and highly-competitive universe of Formula One thoughts of these two great champions have crowded out the normal focus on who is leading the world championship points race this year.

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