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1994: Race ace Senna killed in car crash
The Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna has been killed in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, near Bologna in Italy. He was just 34-years-old.

His Williams FW16 Formula One car was travelling at a speed of 192 mph (309 km/h) when it ran wide at a curve and crashed into a concrete wall.

Winner of 41 Grands Prix, Senna was considered the finest motor racing driver of his generation and will be mourned by fans the world over.

This is the blackest day for Grand Prix racing that I can remember
Murray Walker, veteran BBC sports correspondent
Only yesterday, the Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger was killed at nearly the same spot, known as the Tamburello curve.

The two tragedies have rocked the racing world - and the people of Brazil who regarded Senna as a demi-god.

"This is the blackest day for Grand Prix racing that I can remember in the many, many years I have been covering the sport," said veteran BBC sports commentator Murray Walker.

"For there to be two casualties on successive days is quite appalling - and that arguably one of them should be that of the greatest driver that has ever lived in the history of Grand Prix racing makes it doubly so."

Senna was well-known for his aggressive driving style. In 1989 he collided with French driver Alain Prost in the Japanese Grand Prix. He was disqualified and lost his title.

The following year, the same thing happened and this time, Senna went on to win as Prost dropped out. Afterwards he told reporters: "Winning is like a drug. I cannot justify in any circumstances coming second or third."

The cause of the accident remains a mystery but already many are blaming new regulations designed to make races more exciting.

The sport itself is now set for a critical period of self-examination.

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Ayrton Senna in racing car shortly before his death
Ayrton Senna: One of the world's finest Formula One drivers

In Context
Ayrton Senna's body was flown home, and on 5 May about half a million people watched the coffin pass by in a state funeral in Sao Paolo.

In 1997, Williams-Renault team principal Frank Williams, Adrian Newey, the team designer and Patrick Head, the technical chief were put on trial for manslaughter under Italian law. They were accused of being responsible for what the prosecutor said was a faulty steering column weld on Senna's car.

The FIA, the sport's governing body, threatened to boycott Italy if any of the defendants were found guilty. But all three were acquitted and the verdict upheld after an appeal in 1999.

Then in January 2003 the Italian courts said Patrick Head and Adrian Newey would have to be tried for a third time because of "material errors" in the 1999 hearing. The move threatens the future of Italian and San Marino grands prix.

Senna Facts
Born March 21 1960 in Sao Paolo, Brazil

First race - and first win: 1981 Formula Ford at Brands Hatch

Grand Prix debut: 1984 Brazil with Toleman

First Grand Prix win: 1985 Portugal with Lotus

Total Grands Prix: 161

Pole Positions: 64

Grands Prix wins: 41

World champion: 1988, 1990, 1991

Source: Daily Telegraph

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