Motor Racing: Brazil mourns a national hero: Not since Pele had there been such a hero to his nation. Rik Turner reports from Sao Paulo
THIRTY-FOUR years old, Ayrton Senna da Silva was Brazil's most popular sports idol since the footballer Pele, and his death at the Imola race track yesterday provoked nationwide mourning and an offer by President Itamar Franco of his personal plane to bring the driver's body home for burial.
Senna's fatal accident took place just after 9 o'clock yesterday morning in Brazil and crowds began to gather outside the family home in Sao Paulo, as well as at the nearby Ayrton Senna Fan Club.
The decline in Brazil's national football teams, whose last World Cup victory was in 1970, allowed Formula One racing to become a rival as Brazilians' favourite sport, particularly after their countryman Emerson Fittipaldi was world champion twice in the Seventies. Senna was a worthy successor.
His life was the subject of national interest. This week's edition of Caras, a leading gossip magazine, is still on the newstands with a cover story on the driver. Senna and his 21-year-old girlfriend, Adriane Galisteu, are photographed at his farm in Tatui, 100 miles outside Sao Paulo, and Ayrton talks about love and the possibility of marriage.
Senna was such a well loved figure in Brazil that he was developing a lucrative parallel activity in marketing. He had advertised for a leading bank since 1984, and had recently launched a fortnightly children's comic featuring 'Little Senna and his gang'.
The country's television networks spent yesterday interrupting programmes with news flashes about Senna's death. Frequently replayed was his last interview, given over the telephone on the eve of the accident, in which Senna complained about the current rules in Formula One racing and the conditions at Imola.
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli scored as many goals for AC Milan on second debut as he did for Liverpool in the Premier League last season
Cyprus vs Wales match report: Gareth Bale's bullet header has Welsh on brink of Euro 2016
Jose Mourinho: Chelsea manager has four Guinness World records hanging in his office
Sir Alex Ferguson: 'I place discipline above all else and it might have cost us several titles...' but Manchester United boss wouldn't change it
Manchester United will pay Monaco £7.2m extra if Anthony Martial scores 25 goals in four years as deal could rise to incredible £58m
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 President Obama leaves touching comment on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 4 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 5 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...
£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...
£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...
£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...