March 21, 2014

Top Gear remembers Ayrton Senna

This is a bit of a change of pace, I know, but the timing is right. Today would have been the 54th birthday of Ayrton Senna, arguably the greatest Grand Prix driver ever. Senna was killed in an accident during the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994; already a legend, what kept Senna from then becoming a myth more than a man was the way he had lived his life, as you'll soon see.

There are many reasons why I ranked Top Gear number one on my Top Ten list, but amidst the wackiness and absurdity and dumb fun, one of the things the show does best is to draw out the romance of cars and the humanity of those who drive them.  Never was that more apparent than in this tribute to Senna from four years ago on the occasion of his 50th birthday.  James May introduces the piece as "a slight change of mood," but even though the show's off-the-wall humor is replaced by an uncommon solemnity, the underlying theme is no different than it has been on so many occasions.

There is something magical about the automobile - always has been.  And when someone drives a car, as Senna did, doing things that few people had ever seen done before, then we take note that this is a special person.  It is right that we should honor people like that, for their accomplishments, for doing things that we would like to do but can't, for doing what we might not have even considered possible.  He was human, as we all are, oftentimes for better and occasionally for worse, and we remember him for his extraordinary humanity.  But when he got behind that wheel, Ayrton Senna ceased to be human; he was a visible representation of a gift that had been given to him and which he sought to make the most of, and in doing so he guaranteed that we would never forget him.

So here's Top Gear's remembrance of Ayrton Senna, which says much about both the man and the program.

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And now for something completely different.