There are few other people who can compete with Ayrton Senna for the title of “Most Loved Brazilian Hero” except perhaps for Pele.
Following his death on1 May 1994 in a Formula 1 accident, an estimated three million people flocked to the streets of Senna’s hometown of São Paulo to offer him their salute as his hearse took him to the Legislative Assembly building, where over 200,000 people filed past as his body lay in state.
The day was declared a National Day of mourning, attended by rich and poor alike as his final victory parade took place. Voted the best driver of all time in various motorsport polls, he had been the most successful racing car driver since Fangio and some say the most determined to win at all costs.
At a price that he ultimately paid for with his life.
Since then, more than 30,000 Brazilian motorists have followed in his wake each and every year, as the death toll on Brazilian roads takes it‘s terrible retribution against those who believe that they have inherited his incredible driving skills.
You only have to venture out onto your local “rodovia” for a few kilometers before you will encounter an avid fan. You do not need to search for him, as he will spot you immediately as being ripe for the plucking. Nothing will prevent him from accelerating up behind you at maximum velocity, then swerving at the last micro-second to avoid collision with your rear bumper and tearing past your wing mirror so near that the turbulence will cause you to sheer dangerously close to the verge, and then wrenching his steering wheel, he will occupy the space immediately in front of your front number plate for a few tantalizing seconds before releasing a cloud of hydrocarbons from his exhaust pipe and disappearing off into the haze.
No, he will not be driving a Ferrari, nor will he have a collection of advertising across every square millimeter of bodywork. He is more likely to be driving a Mercedes with a sign on the back of his 20 metre long pantechnicon truck that says “Go with God”.
Needless to say that meeting one of these head on while he practices his favourite maneuver on a blind bend is a sure fire way to obey this slogan.
For those who do not own the right to call themselves a “caminhoneiro”, the minimum time to reach your destination is not the most important goal, as long as there is no one in front of you.
Driving lazily along with one arm hanging out of the window, while chatting to your companion is perfectly acceptable, albeit at a speed that will be in excess of the limit required by the law. Should you appear in front of him however, a ghostly spectre wearing white overalls and face scarf will immediately interrupt his reverie, and with a fleeting smile baring his gleaming white teeth he will spring into Formula 1 action. It matters not if there are double yellow lines, warning signs of dangerous bends, rows of oncoming traffic or simply the engine of a tired old Fusca to contend with, he will never rest until he has passed you by, only to once again return to his former speed, but most importantly of all, right in front in poll position.
© 2014 Alastair Kinghorn