Motorsport fans often have their “JFK moments”, as they did 25 years ago: May 1, 1994. The day Ayrton Senna died. Remember where you were?
Its hard to believe its been a quarter of a century. I was a student at the time, but I had returned home for a family occasion. In sunny Italys Imola, Formula 1 was already reeling from Rubens Barrichellos narrow escape from a plane crash on Friday. Then came the horror of Saturday when the popular newcomer Roland Ratzenberger lost his life when his Simtek crashed into a wall almost head-on. This was the first F1 fatality in a Grand Prix since 1982. It was not supposed to happen anymore.
On race day, a cloud of darkness hovered over the circuit. Then, at first, a collision catapulted the debris into the crowd, causing minor injuries. Whats next? The unthinkable, thats what happens. The greatest and most famous racing driver of his generation would die in Tamburello when his Williams inexplicably shot off the track and crashed into the wall.
I saw the accident on TV and I had to go to mass. I couldnt think of anything else. After the service, I scanned the car radio (there were no mobile phones or Internet at the time), but the news didnt get out until after 6pm. When I went back to college the next day, my friends treated me as if I had suffered a family duel.