30 years to the day since Ayrton Senna’s opening lap at Donington Park

Easter Sunday of 1993 saw the European Grand Prix at a rain-soaked Donington Park in the UK, the first time Donington had ever hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix, having hosted the British motorcycle Grand Prix since 1988, and thanks to the fact a deal with Bernie Ecclestone in 2010 fell through due to funding issues, it’s the only time Donington has played host to Formula 1.

Having won his home Grand Prix in Brazil a fortnight prior, Ayrton Senna in his underpowered McLaren-Ford started 4th, alongside Michael Schumacher in a Benetton-Ford, and behind the dominant Williams-Renault duo of Damon Hill and polesitter Alain Prost, prior to the commencement of the greatest opening lap ever witnessed in a Grand Prix.

Off the line, Senna was boxed out at the first corner by Michael Schumacher and Karl Wendlinger’s Sauber, falling to 5th.

Recovering quickly, Senna overtook Schumacher for 4th by the third corner (The Craner Curves), and overtook Wendlinger for 3rd seconds later with an effortless sweep move around the outside, just before Wendlinger was taken out by Senna’s teammate Michael Andretti.

Four corners later at McLean’s, Senna effortlessly disposed of Hill to take 2nd place.

And, completing the epic charge from 5th to 1st, Senna overtook Prost at the Melbourne hairpin, proceeding to annihilate the field for the remainder of the afternoon.

All that in the space of 8 corners.

What happened for the remainder of the afternoon was perhaps Senna’s most sublime performance, on a par with his maiden win in Portugal in 1985, as the 3-time World Champion judged the conditions to near-perfection (Despite losing 20 seconds due to a problem in the middle of the race) and went on to win by 83 seconds from Hill, who was the only driver not to be lapped by the Brazilian, with Prost finishing 3rd having made 7 pit stops.

There were some other quirky moments from that afternoon:

Senna set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 57, which was achieved thanks to an aborted pit stop – Pit lane speed limiters weren’t introduced until after Senna’s death a year later, and Donington’s pit entry is located before the final corner on to the pit straight, allowing Senna to go full throttle through the lane and effectively create a shortcut.

With the race being sponsored by SEGA (Who were also a major sponsor of Williams), Senna received a trophy of company mascot Sonic The Hedgehog, which was simply a marketing op for SEGA, and Sonic was promptly replaced by the official trophy that Senna received.

The Sonic trophy was long thought to have been lost and vanished into myth like the Ring of Power, until the 25th anniversary of Senna’s win rolled around and people questioned McLaren on Twitter as to what happened to the Sonic trophy, and to great cheer, the team revealed the trophy was hidden in one of their storerooms:

Thanks to public demand, Sonic now sits in the trophy cabinet at Woking.

So there we go, 30 years to the day that Ayrton Senna went from 5th to 1st in 8 corners, and won Sonic The Hedgehog.

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