SÃO PAULO –Racing drivers tend to avoid hospitals and graveyards because those places can remind them of the dangers of the sport.
Those reminders, however, didn’t stop two-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon from paying his respects to Ayrton Senna, the legendary Brazilian racing champion, who is buried in São Paulo’s Morumbi Cemetery.
“Popped out to see Senna’s grave,” Dixon wrote on Twitter. “Very quiet in a busy city. What a legend!”
Senna remains a hero to many drivers from around the world but no place more than in his home country. The fact that the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle occurs on the 17th anniversary of his passing (May 1) provides extra motivation to the five Brazilian drivers in the field.
“It would be an extremely important win to me because he was a hero not only to me, but for all of Brazil,” said three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves. “(Winning on Sunday) would be a memorable day for me not only to win here in Brazil, but on a very special day to many Brazilians. I am going to do everything I can to make sure that can happen.”
Like Castroneves, Ana Beatriz considers Senna her hero, even though she had only begun to race go-karts a few months before his death.
“Senna means a lot to me,” said Beatriz, who like Senna is a native of São Paulo. “He is still a big reference when I think about the sport. We can still watch his races on video and we can see his determination and focus when he raced. He’s still a big hero in Brazil and everyone remembers the anniversary of his death and his birthday. Racing on May 1 and maybe winning the race in Brazil will be the perfect way to say thank you to him for all he did for us. “
Vitor Meira will carry a very personal tribute to Senna during the race weekend. Meira had his helmet painter Art Rotondo paint a mural of Senna’s racing accomplishments on the back of the helmet he will use in the race.
“I remember May 1, 1994, when he unfortunately passed away,” Meira said. “It’s just a way to say he’s still in our minds. I put him on my helmet and wanted to do something individually out of respect to what he meant to me.”