The Importance of family
As he himself acknowledged, Ayrton Senna da Silva
was born with everything needed to be a winner:
"If I have achieved what I have, and managed to do everything I did, it is largely due to having had the chance to grow up well in a family environment, living decently with no economic problems, and being guided towards the right road at decisive points in my life."
Every since he was a baby he adored cars. This is why Milton gave his son a small go-kart at the age of four.
"Whenever I tell them, no one ever believes that I started to drive at the age of four", recalls Ayrton. "My father had a metal-mechanical workshop, and could thus build a tiny go-kart just for me, with a one HP engine. At this point I was already driving his car, when he put me on his lap to park in the garage at our house. He also took me into the streets around our home to train in my tiny go-kart."
This helped spur his passion for cars and mechanics.
Milton was a generous father, but somewhat austere and serious. He knew how to instil a sense of responsibility and obligation in his children, showing them that hard work, sacrifice and honesty are the top priorities in life. This is how Ayrton learned very young to apportion his time between studies, school and pleasure. For him, this was based essentially on water-sports and - particularly since he got his first go-kart at the age of four - driving his own little racing car. More than merely drive, he soon learned to make the best possible use of its tiny engine and wheels, always trying to push it a bit further. The go-kart was a reward for good grades at his school in the Santana district, where he is still today remembered. This represented a challenge in racing, and encouraged his development in mechanics.It is amazing to note just how early little "Beco" defined himself as a future Formula 1 racing driver, in a school essay. The school educational advisor analysed Ayrton's enthusiasm for motorsports as a child's fantasy. However, his father was certain that this useful essay was more than childish wishful thinking, it was already a dream that "Beco" was determined to make come true. This made Milton very proud, and he lost no time in providing his son with a new machine.
"I was eight years old when he bought my first real go-kart. It was my favourite toy. I only felt good sitting in it and training, as much as possible."
His father began to take him to the go-kart track at Interlagos, and soon showed him that this was a very special place for Brazilian motorsports, the cradle of champion - like Emerson Fittipaldi - who had driven go-karts there. At that time, Fittipaldi was already twice Formula 1 world champion. Whenever he could, Ayrton practiced at Interlagos.
Ayrton managed to take place in his first go-kart race, a private event:
"I was only eight years old and most of the others were aged 15, 18 or even 20. The way that the positions were determined on the grid was by a lucky draw. They put a few scraps of paper with numbers on them into a helmet. As I was the youngest, I was the first to draw. I pulled number one."
So in his first race he went straight to the pole position. A matter of destiny, the destiny of this future outstanding record-holder in Formula 1 pole positions, a benchmark which it would in future be almost impossible to beat.
"I was small and light, which was why my go-kart was the fastest of all. Thanks to this advantage, I kept out front in the race for many laps. They were faster than me on the bends, but on the straight I roared out ahead, thanks to my light weight. This is why they could not manage to overtake me. But finally, on the fifteenth lap, they swept past me. Three laps from the end, when I was lying third, the guy behind me - who was insisting on overtaking - touched my rear, and I left the track. I didn't finish the race, but it was great fun."
Right from the start it was very clear that "Beco" took go-karting very seriously.
First official competition
On 1 July 1973, one week after his first private race, Ayrton made his debut in an official race at the Interlagos race track.
Victory in first race, with chequered flag dropped by future teacher - "Tche".
Student of a master-shaper of champions
The dream of motorsports was already dominating much of his life, to the extent that one year a friend took his school examinations for him.
"Then I let myself be talked into going to the FAAP college to study business administration, through sheer inertia, but three months later I left."
From then on, Ayrton Senna da Silva was to vanish from student lists, moving on to the record charts.
Throughout 1980, 1981 and 1982 Ayrton continued to pursue his dream of being world go-kart champion. First at Nivelles-Baulers in Belgium, he was pushed off the track at the start by Switzerland's Marcel Gysin, losing all chances. Even so, he was runner-up. In 1981 the International Go-kart Commission, chaired eternally by Ernest Buser, changed the rules, upping engine capacity for the new Formula K - in which the world championship was disputed - to 135cc. DAP was financially unable to produce new engines and lost every chance of beating its more powerful rival IAME.
Nevertheless Ayrton remained faithful to his friends the Parillas and lined up at the world championship in Parma with engines with a capacity of only 127cc. Right out of the title due to lack of power, Ayrton nevertheless gave yet another magnificent performance and took fourth place.
Even with four Formula Ford 1600 and 2000 titles by the end of September 1982, Ayrton took a last stab at the world go-kart championship. At the invitation of the Parilla brothers he went to Kalmar in Sweden, but failed completely. Utterly out of date, the DAP equipment gave problems during qualifying (a poorly-assembled valve) and Ayrton failed to chalk up a single time, coming in 60th. With his usual determination, he managed to get ahead of the pack, but a crash in the finals ended all his chances, leaving him at a depressing 14th. place. This was his last major international go-kart race. At the end of this year, with one foot already in Formula 3 racing, Ayrton took one last Brazilian championship, in Porto Alegre.