It has been 20 years since the racing world lost Ayrton Senna, arguably one of the greatest racecar drivers of all time. On Sunday, May 25 during the 98th Indianapolis 500 mile race, Simon Pagenaud will celebrate the life of his hero, three-time Formula One World Champion Ayrton Senna, by wearing a helmet with a unique blend of Senna's design and Pagenaud's trademark red scheme.
"Ayrton Senna has been the inspiration for my entire life, whether I'm in a race car or not," Pagenaud said. "He was my hero as a child, my role model as a teenager and my example as a human and a race car driver."
With the help of 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran, Pagenaud contacted the Senna family several months ago to discuss the idea of bringing the famous yellow helmet to "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"Ayrton's yellow helmet is recognized all over the world for the aura it had around one of the most special race car drivers we have ever known," Pagenaud said. "After meeting people who knew and worked with Senna and realizing how blessed I am to have made a life in racing for myself, as well, I wanted to carry Ayrton with me to another checkered flag."
The helmet will feature Senna's familiar yellow design on its front and sides, mixed with Pagenaud's traditional red design on the back.
"I have always found myself in Senna's explanation of what driving a race car feels like," Pagenaud said. "I have read, analyzed and studied his racecraft. I've always found so much strength in the dedication he committed to driving to perfection."
After the Indianapolis 500, Pagenaud will auction the commemorative Senna helmet to benefit the Ayrton Senna Institute, which promotes children's literacy efforts.
"Senna inspired people throughout the entire world, and his legacy lives on through the Ayrton Senna Institute, which was established by his sister, Viviane," Pagenaud said. "I'm truly honored that Viviane and her son Bruno Senna have allowed me to be part of this special opportunity to commemorate Ayrton's memory at the Indianapolis 500. I'm so excited to have this opportunity to thank Ayrton for what he has taught me up to this day and what he will continue to teach me in the future."
Senna, from Brazil, won the Formula One World Championship in 1988, 1990 and 1991 and is credited with 41 victories, 80 podium finishes and 65 pole positions in 162 F1 races between 1984 and 1994. He lost his life at age 34 in a racing accident in Imola, Italy.
"We are really pleased to receive this special homage," said Bianca Senna, Ayrton Senna's niece and Director of the Ayrton Senna Institute. "In 2014, celebrating 20 years of Ayrton's legacy, we are happy with all the tributes that he is receiving around the world. I also want to thank Simon Pagenaud for creating and auctioning off this special helmet. It will help us in our projects at the Ayrton Senna Institute which benefit two million children and young people each year."
You can follow all the action of the Indy 500 this weekend on the ABC family of networks, and stay tuned to this column for continuing coverage of the "Great American Race."
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