1991 Acura NSX: Ayrton's Car
October 22, 2011
For those who have followed Formula One or the evolution of the NSX, this will come as no surprise to you. For the rest, I hope this helps confirm why the NSX is special.
The man driving the silver Honda NSX above is Ayrton Senna. This Brazilian driver is one of the best the sport has ever seen, winning three drivers championships and 41 races until his tragic death in 1994. He was brash, narrowly focused and incredibly intense; often raising the ire of fellow competitors and race officials. And he had a hand in the development of the NSX.
As the story goes, Senna was at the Suzuka International Racing Course (built as a Honda Test track in the 60s), testing his Honda-powered McLaren F1 car. At the same time, the NSX was being tested before it went into production. The engineers handed the keys over to Senna and he came back with some critiques; most notably saying it felt fragile. To the engineer's credit they took him seriously and went back to the drawing board to increase the chassis' rigidity. Senna also chipped in on the suspension and handling prowess-- something I hope to explore sooner rather than later.
For the uninitiated, this would be akin to having Mario Batali running your backyard BBQ or getting the Rolling Stones to play a few songs at your 40th birthday party. Senna was a magician behind the wheel and was as exacting a driver as there ever was. His soul lives on in this car. Honda gave him a few NSXs as a thank you, one of which is still in the family's possession. If any of his NSXs were to go up for sale, I'm sure it'd fetch a tidy sum.
In 2005, I visited the memorial to Senna at the Imola Circuit in Italy, the site of his tragic last race. It was not a race day and everything was eerily quiet. Still, there were fresh flowers adorning his bronze statue.
And of course, a video of Senna behind the wheel. Apologies for the Japanese Michael Bolton soundtrack. Also, notice how far back he sits, with his arms outstretched. At the two-minute mark, watch how hard he's driving it as he dips into the turn 11 hairpin. Wow.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor