Review: Ayrton Senna: The Last Night

Telling the story of Ayrton Senna is not easy, even 23 years to the day of his devastating death.

But through one hundred unique photos, Ayrton Senna: The Last Night brilliantly retraces the life of a Formula 1 legend from the moment he first buckled up in the 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix until his final chapter 10 years later.

The book is absolutely timeless: it has no sell by date because the spirit of Senna has, and will continue to, magically live on beyond the two decades it already has.

And thanks to prize-winning writer Giorgio Terruzzi and veteran photographer Ercole Colombo it has been possible for Senna’s portrait to remain intact.

With over 600 Grand Prix races under his belt, Colombo captured all of Senna’s feats and controversies, his expressions and idiosyncrasies, his allies and enemies. Never losing sight of the extreme sport’s protagonist at the time, Ayrton Senna.

You can spend forever studying each photo in the book, it’s perfect for racing fanatics.

It takes you through the triple world championship winner’s journey: from Toleman to Lotus, from Lotus to McLaren, and from McLaren to Williams. Covering all his best podium finishes in the glory they deserve.

But the book is so much more than celebrating the achievements of a sporting icon. It delves into Senna’s personal side, his family life, his past times and his religion.

You learn how, like many Brazilians, Senna dedicated his life to God and how his faith impacted his racing.

As the old English idiom goes – ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ – an image of a subject conveys its meaning or essence more effectively than a description does.

There’s a shot of Senna early in the book. It’s a dark depiction of him in action during the Austrian GP in Zeltweg some 31 years ago.

It’s so ill-lit that the only thing you can clearly make out is Senna’s famous yellow helmet.

Designed by the late Sid Mosca, the helmet followed Senna through an illustrious career, and it has maintained an impact even to this decade – when British triple world champion Lewis Hamilton sported it in 2015’s Brazilian Grand Prix. Quite fitting really.

The colours, identifiable with the flag of Brazil, had their own meanings: the blue and green stripes symbolised movement and aggression, while the overall yellow colour symbolised youth. Like this fable, each photograph has its own.

Emotionally, the book hits home during the closing pages. The photos are enough to take you back in time to the starting grid, the Tamburello Curve and the impact upon Imola’s podium on that fatal weekend in 1994.

If you’re a Formula 1 follower or general sporting admirer, this true piece of romantic history shouldn’t be missed out on.

Ayrton Senna: The Last Night can be passed through generations while maintaining its original impact. It’s significant, educational and inspiring. 

Image courtesy of Cannik via Flickr, with thanks.

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