RACER May/June 2024: The Heroes Issue

It’s been 30 years since Ayrton Senna lost his life at Imola’s San Marino Grand Prix, May 1, 1994.

Naturally, given such a milestone, Ayrton graces the cover of RACER No. 328, our annual Heroes Issue.

The Brazilian’s Formula 1 career stands among the all-time greatest, but accomplishments aside, he had a charisma and a complexity that continues to resonate not just with motorsports fans, but with a wider audience in a way that few sports stars attain.

Inside the issue, we explore two chapters from opposite ends of his F1 career: The bidding war for his F1 services that saw him test for four different teams in a frenetic few weeks in the summer and fall of 1983 — and choose a less than obvious destination for his ’84 rookie campaign — and his final McLaren season in 1993.


With McLaren on the back foot after losing factory engine partner Honda and forced to run customer-spec Ford HB V8s, it was touch and go if Senna would even drive for McLaren in 1993. But once committed, and taking on the role of underdog to a rampant Williams-Renault team, Ayrton delivered one of his finest F1 seasons.

Staying with the Brazilian theme, we also head back to the second act of Emerson Fittipaldi’s illustrious career. Four decades ago, in 1984, the two-time F1 champ came out of self-imposed racing exile to test the waters in the U.S. racing scene; five years later, he’d added an Indy 500 win and the ’89 CART title to his resume. And there’d be more to come with a switch from Patrick Racing to Team Penske.

We also recall that it’s 50 years since France’s Michele Mouton made her first FIA World Rally Championship start from the driver’s seat, having switched from a co-driver’s role.

After being signed by Audi to drive its rally-redefining Quattro, she took her first WRC victory in 1981, and a year later came within a handful of points of winning the world championship.

A trailblazer and a role model, Mouton remains the only woman to win a WRC rally as a driver. But as impressive as that is, it’s a singular accomplishment we hope is emulated within years, not decades.

Our heroes are of a current nature, too, beginning with Kyle Larson.

In an era when so many of motorsports’ stars tend to “stay in their lane” and concentrate exclusively on their destination championship of choice, Larson is a refreshing throwback to a time when the top drivers of the day would shuttle between series as a matter of course.

Sure, 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champ Larson’s decision to run the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s longest race, Charlotte’s Coca-Cola 600, on the same day is an extreme, yet not unprecedented example of old-school versatility, but keep in mind that this is a racer whose norm is to run a whirlwind schedule of sprint car races in between the Cup Series “day job.” Add in the 2015 Rolex 24 At Daytona win on his resume, and we’re impressed by his desire and his ability to switch disciplines and perform at the highest level. On May 26, it will be fascinating to see how Larson performs in his quest for “The Double.”

Ditto when NTT IndyCar Series standouts Scott Dixon and Alex Palou head to France in June as part of Cadillac’s lineup for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Dixon, a three-time winner of IMSA’s Rolex 24, has five Le Mans starts to his name; Palou has raced the Cadillac at Daytona, but is a neophyte at La Sarthe. That each is motivated to take on the challenge – on track and logistical – of the world’s greatest endurance race in between IndyCar stops at Road America and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is laudable.

In contrast, Ayrton Senna put his sole focus on Formula 1, bar one Group C start and an eye-catching sedan-racing performance in his 1984 F1 rookie season – which is perhaps another example of how the great Brazilian defined the template for modern F1 drivers. Fernando Alonso’s laps-leading debut in the 2017 Indy 500 is the outlier, but how cool would it be to see Max Verstappen or Lando Norris competing in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”?

Also in RACER No. 328, we take a look at jilted Ferrari F1 driver Carlos Sainz’s options for 2025, mull the chances of a privateer Porsche 963 taking a 24 Hours of Le Mans victory, check out Winward Racing’s winning ways in IMSA GTD, and head for two-wheeled territory with a chat with Ducati MotoGP rider Enea Bastianini on his prospects for 2024 and beyond.

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Story originally appeared on Racer