Martin Brundle on Ayrton Senna: My Greatest Rival

In 1983 two drivers dominated British Formula 3. Martin Brundle remembers his firecracker season with a shrewd Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna celebrates winning the 1983 British F3 championship at Silverstone next to Martin Brundle

Mike Powell/Getty Images

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I could have chosen myself as my greatest rival. So much of sport is all in the head, every driver has his demons, the pressures, the insecurities, and I had those with Ayrton Senna when we battled for the British Formula 3 Championship in 1983.

There’s always a genius driver who comes along to spoil your day, and Senna’s reputation preceded him. He won the first nine races, and that started to do my head in. Then, when I won at Silverstone in June, and he crashed trying to keep up with me, I realised I could beat him in the same car on the same day. That race was a turning point and I won the next two rounds. We both had Toyota-powered Ralts, his run by Dick Bennetts with a good budget, mine by Eddie Jordan with virtually no money. I was still selling cars for a living.

I knew Senna was beatable but it became incredibly intense when I started winning. He was rattled, he started complaining about the stewards, convinced they had it in for him and were trying to nail him for his aggressive tactics. Things came to a head at Snetterton. He’d got alongside me coming out of Sear, drove half on the grass, and connected with my rear tyre. He went up in the air, landed, but kept his foot in, and T-boned me at the next corner which, ironically, is now called Brundle. He’d tried to have me off the road. There was a ruthless streak in him, but strangely, as we saw later, there was also compassion in him.