On this day in 1994 the racing world lost a legend. Ayrton Senna died in an accident while leading the San Marino Grand Prix. His Williams FW16 left the track at the Tamburello corner on lap seven, and he flew into the concrete retaining wall at almost 150mph. Despite immediate medical attention, he could not be saved.
Video: When Ayrton Senna saved the life of Erik Comas at Spa
Aged just 34 at the time, the Williams driver was, then as he is now, considered to be one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all time, winning 41 races and three championships over a 10-year Grand Prix career. But hand in hand with his success went humility, and no-one knows that to be truer than Erik Comas, whose life Senna undoubtedly saved during qualifying for the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix.
When the Frenchman crashed into the barriers at Spa-Francorchamps’ Blanchimont corner at close to 200mph, he was rendered unconscious, his foot pinning down the accelerator and an explosion becoming ever more likely as the seconds ticked on. As other drivers wound their way around the wreck, Senna stopped his car on the live circuit, ran to the wreckage and searched frantically for Comas’s Ligier engine cut-off switch, before supporting his opponent’s head until the medical crew arrived.
Comas later credited Senna with ‘likely saving his life’, but in a cruel twist of fate was unable to do the same when he came upon Senna’s crash less than two years later. In an interview years after the accident, Comas said: “When I just arrived it looked like a bomb had exploded in Tamburello. There was a very strange atmosphere in that area and without knowing the details at that moment, I knew that something very bad had happened.
“A certain paralysis hit me because I was standing next to the man who had saved me from death two years earlier. At that moment there was nothing I could do and I felt terrible. I had the feeling that I came too late, I am not a doctor but I knew that he was in much worse shape than me in Belgium two years earlier.”
In Senna’s honour, today’s Elevenses features that incredibly valiant moment that he put his own life on the line for another, reminding us that his humanity shone far stronger than his desire to succeed.
Welcome to Goodwood Elevenses, a mid-morning helping of motoring-related amusement to help break up your day. Watch the last video: How to lap the fast, blind and scary old Circuit Zandvoort
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