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Wednesday, September 23, 1998 Published at 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK


Senna still a seller

Senna was killed in a crash at the Imola circuit in Italy

A motor-racing helmet that belonged to Ayrton Senna has sold at a London auction for more than £35,000.

The rare 'Rheos' helmet worn by the three-times Formula One champion dominated the Sotheby's automobilia sale, fetching £37,250 from an anonymous telephone bidder.

The helmet was from the collection of Roland Bruynseraede, the official starter for Grand Prix between 1987 and 1995.

[ image: A telephone bidder bought the distinctive helmet]
A telephone bidder bought the distinctive helmet
With its distinctive yellow and green livery, it was the most sought-after item in the sale.

But some of the more macabre Senna memorabilia did not reach expected prices.

One lot, which included a gun cartridge from the 21-gun salute at Senna's funeral in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in 1994, made only £805 - well short of the £1,500 estimate.

And a lot that included a crucifix worn by a guest at his funeral did not sell when the bidding stopped well short of the reserve price.

A set of Christmas cards that Senna sent between 1985 and 1993 also failed to sell.

But the steering wheel which the Brazilian used to win the 1988 Japanese Grand Prix, made £4,600, as did the signed gloves he used during his record sixth win of the Monaco Grand Prix in 1993.

[ image: Senna wins the Monaco Grand Prix]
Senna wins the Monaco Grand Prix
Even his used longjohns made more than £400.

Another highlight of the 342-lot sale was fierce bidding for items related to the 1950s British driver Mike Hawthorn.

The British Racing Drivers Club Gold Star presented to the 1958 world champion fetched £23,230 - more than four times the catalogue estimate.

A 'prancing horse' Ferrari bronze given to Hawthorn when he raced for the Italian team in 1958 also sold for well beyond estimate, at £10,120.

Hawthorn died in a crash in Surrey, one year after becoming world champion.

'Ultimate prize'

Sotheby's auctioneer Toby Wilson was not surprised by the high price paid for Senna's helmet.

"He was a great driver with a significant fan base and since his tragic death these fans are keen to get hold of things that stir memories of him.

"It's rather macabre, but if a driver passes away, especially if they were a world champion, then the value of anything related to them rockets.

"Helmets are the ultimate piece of motor racing memorabilia and even though the 'Rheos' model helmet doesn't have his name on it is so distinctive you could walk down the street and people would know it was his".

Senna died aged 34 in May 1994 when his Williams Renault crashed at 196mph on the Tamburello curve at the Imola circuit in Italy during the San Marino Grand Prix.

The Brazilian-born driver was Formula One world champion in 1988, 1990 and 1991, winning 41 of his 161 races.

He claimed 65 pole positions and set 19 fastest laps.

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