Death Returns

Death Returns to Formula One Racing My first hint that something was wrong came Sunday afternoon when I logged on to the BBS (bulletin board service, a central computer acting as a host for other users to exchange messages) for auto racing. Someone posted a short but gripping note, “I think I just witnessed the death of Ayrton Senna,” he said. My eyes widened as I exclaimed “what,” in shock and dismay. A few hours later, the facts became more clear. Senna had crashed on the sixth lap of the San Marino Grand Prix while leading the race. It happened at a section called “Tamburello” – a gentle bend taken at top speed, about 186 miles per hour. His car had suddenly veered off the course and crashed into a solid concrete wall. Senna was already considered one of the top drivers in grand prix racing history. He had more pole positions than any other driver and his total wins were surpassed only by Alain Prost who retired last year. His driving was characterized by incredible intensity and deep concentration. Mistakes from him were rare. It was shocking that he would have a serious crash, even more inconceivable that he would be in mortal danger. On the BBS, all of us were experiencing a sense of loss and were having a difficult time finding solace among outsiders to the sport of auto racing. Crashes like Senna’s tend to bring out the worst critics who insist that racing events are watched by those who want only to see crashes. And so we turned to each other expressing first our anger, then sadness and finally a candid assessment of the sport and how it could be made safer. This was the second death of the weekend as another lesser-known driver was killed during a practice session before the race. The modern formula one or grand prix car is a masterpiece of engineering and contemporary design. Incredible sums of money are spent by the top teams to develop the cars to their maximum potential. Their shape is wind tunnel tested. Exo…

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