Motormouth’s Mutterings- The Day Senna Raced at Mondello!

Some people used to think this was a myth. “Senna, in Ireland, at Mondello? C’mon, I suppose he banged wheels with Schumacher into turn three, did he?” Well the truth is, Ayrton Da Silva, as he was then known, was on the entry list for the Leinster Trophy meeting back in 1982, listed as number 11 in a Rushen Green Van Diemen RF82- the latest offering from the Van Diemen stable.

Yes, I was there, in fact I still have the “Benson and Hedges Leinster Trophy Race Meeting” programme! Back then Dad and I rarely missed a Mondello meeting. (If Mondello was not on, we would head to Santry to watch “Captain Fantastic” and the rest of the stock car racers do battle!) Anyone who was there will tell you that they knew that this young Brazilian was going to go all the way, that he had a god given talent, almost that his path was already laid out. I, and this will be controversial, am not so sure. Yes, Da Silva was quick and had dominated everywhere, but everytime the Euroseries visited there was a new star that was headed for F1. In fact there was a far bigger fuss over Tommy Byrne’s win a year earlier, I can still remember the crowd around the car afterwards. Thinking back, how lucky were we to see these future stars racing in county Kildare each year?!

Mondello on that day back in 1982 is a bit like the GPO in 1916- everyone reckons they were there on the day. John Morris and Fergus Brennan were on the bank marshalling that weekend and on the Friday, Senna (let’s call him that- it sounds far better-) spun off coming into the Esses and beached the rear wheels of his FF2000 machine in the gravel. Three marshals jumped off the bank, ran over and push-started number 11 and the driver waved as the car fired up. One of this trio was Fergus Brennan and he still knows the other two- but he says he has met about another ten or fifteen people who claim they pushed the future F1 champ that day! Leinster Motor club stalwart Ann Stevens remembers the day well, and still has the sign on sheet from that weekend, with Senna’s signature on it!

In the event, Senna qualified on pole , as expected, with most of the Irish pacesetters struggling with the different spec rubber required by the Euroseries regs. Alongside him on the front row, however, was a man who was about to give himself the best story ever- Joey Greenan. Joey was fast, spectacular and always on the edge. Senna got the drop but Joey, a Mondello specialist, sat around the outside at Shell Corner, and somehow grabbed the inside line for BOAC (turn two), sensationally snatching the lead in front of the RTE cameras, broadcasting the race live! Greenan held on, against all the odds before Senna finally displaced him on the run to turn three. The pass around the outside at turn three has often been described as the “Senna” move but in reality, the young Brazilian had completed the move before the pair entered the corner.  Joey claims, and the video appears to back it up, that he fluffed a gearchange at BOAC slowing him on the exit, costing him the lead. He had won the earlier Irish race and they had apparently removed the linkage for repair but had to refit it quickly as the Euroseries race was called to the grid. No matter, Joey had assured himself of a place in the annals of Irish Motor Racing history- even if Senna then drove away to win as he pleased. Another thing that I notice from the video is that Senna appears to have an absolute stonker of an engine! On a few occasions he doesn’t get a better exit than Joey out of Dunlop, yet the pair are side by side as they go by the grandstand. Joey of course, maintains that had the gear linkage not let him down momentarily, would never have let that Brazilian by- and who would blame him?! I have the race on VHS, recorded on the day and a few years ago, I uploaded it to youtube. Despite the desperate quality, it had already has the guts of 60,000 hits and comments from all over the world. if you haven’t seen it, enjoy!!

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