The numbing memory of the great ayrton Senna’s final accident at Imola imprints May 1, 1994 indelibly on the minds of Grand Prix fans everywhere but fewer people remember that the three-time World Champion’s first taste of Formula One power also came in the back of a Williams car.
Back in July 1983, when (as Ayrton Senna da Silva) the abnormally gifted Brazilian was locked in combat with Martin Brundle for the British Formula 3 crown, he was tested by the TAG Williams Racing Team in chassis FWO8C-09 at Donington Park.
Senna impressed team boss Frank Williams, making the jump from 160bhp to 500bhp with consummate ease as expected and recording competitive lap times in the course of an 83-lap session. Senna worked his way down to 60.90s on the short circuit, his impeccably smooth style and consistency belying his pace.
Although Williams viewed the trial as a “long-term investment”, rivals Toleman, Lotus and McLaren snapped up Senna’s services in turn, and Frank was unable to gain Senna’s autograph until that fateful year.
The Cosworth DFV-powered FWO8C-9, which defending World Champion Keice Rosberg and Jacques Laflite raced in 1983, has gone on to further success in Thoroughbred Grand series with John Wilson.
Now, following a change of plan, this piece of history is for sale. Fettled by ex-F1 personnel, and raced once since a rebuild, Ayrton Senna’s first F1 car is available for about £185,000.