'Ciao Legend': Thousands remember Senna in Imola on 25th anniversary of death

Imola (Italy) (AFP) –


In Imola, time passes but the memory of Ayrton Senna has barely faded.

A quarter of a century after the Brazilian icon was killed aged just 34 years at the San Marino Grand Prix, thousands travelled to the Italian circuit on Wednesday to pay tribute on the anniversary of his death.

Twenty-five years ago to the day, Teddy Borring was already there in the pit lane.

For the former Formula 3000 team manager, the sound of Formula 1 at the time was like "music" to the ears. But what he has remembered since is the deathly silence of that afternoon of May 1, 1994.

"Suddenly, Imola became totally silent, we didn't understand what had happened, but we knew it was something strange, it was so quiet ...", he recalls.

Senna had lost control of his Williams FW16 at the Tamburello corner and hit a wall at full throttle. Evacuated to hospital in Bologna, he was declared dead just after 18:00.

"We left around 19:00 and we knew he was dead, my head was empty, my eyes were wet, there were tears in my eyes and those of my wife, we could not understand and today, we still don't understand," said Borring.

On Wednesday, the many thousands of fans who came to commemorate the three-time world champion's death saw the famous black Lotus JPS that the Brazilian drove in 1985 make some laps of the circuit.

His McLaren of 1990 and Williams of 1994, the season of his fatal accident, were also on display in the paddock. Behind, a large poster was installed, so everyone could write a tribute.

- 'Ciao Legend' -

"Best of the best", "Ciao Legend", "Always in our hearts", read some of the many messages from fans, many of whom had travelled from his native Brazil, but also from Poland, Mexico and Great Britain.

There were also tributes and Austrian flags to remember Roland Ratzenberger, the other victim of the fatal weekend of May 1994, who died the day before Senna, during qualifying.

The 34-year-old Austrian is not forgotten. Simply, the memory of Senna is infinitely stronger.

"We always feel his presence, especially here on this circuit, we feel his presence, as if his spirit has remained," says Riccardo Giorgi, 18, who has followed Senna's life and career after hearing his mother talk about the "greatest champion in history".

"When they started his Lotus, I started to cry, for this champion who is no longer here and who didn't deserve to finish like that," said Giorgi.

Around the circuit the yellow and green of the Brazilian flags were everywhere, along with t-shirts of Senna and memorabilia for sale.

Ruggero Fioravanti wears a jersey of Santos, the club of Brazilian football legend Pelé and Neymar. But he's here for Senna.

"Ayrton Senna was a good guy, honest, he could even have become president of Brazil," he believes.

"He continues to be respected by Brazilians for his character, his sporting values. He became a world idol, a world idol...," insisted the Brazilian.

Just before 14:00, the crowd entered the track and headed for the Tamburello corner, flags "Ordem e Progresso" (Order and Progress) draped their shoulders, some even walking in full Formula One driver suits and helmets.

Then everybody gathered at the corner where the Brazilian died and an outdoor mass was celebrated by two priests, one from Imola and the other Maranello, historic seat of the Ferrari team.

It began at 2:17 pm, the exact time of the 1994 accident. Behind, cyclists enjoyed the open track, bypassing the assembled crowd and continuing to the finish line.