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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 April, 2004, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Keeping Senna's name alive

By Jonathan Legard
BBC motor racing correspondent

Ayrton Senna's sister Viviane
Senna's sister Viviane has made his dream to help disadvantaged children come true
The San Marino Grand Prix, set among the springtime greenery at Imola, comes in marked contrast to Bahrain's desert debut three weeks ago.

The first of Formula One's European races in 2004, it could also be the last at the circuit which has become inextricably linked to the death of the one of the world's greatest sporting icons.

Ten years have passed since the three time world champion, Ayrton Senna, was killed at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari - the same weekend that an F1 novice, Roland Ratzenberger, also lost his life in a separate high-speed accident.

Set alongside the startling new structures at Bahrain and Shanghai, the Imola track appears frozen in time, among the tranquil, rolling hills of northern Italy.

The events of the 1994 race led to its layout and character being changed significantly; meanwhile, its facilities have grown tired and worn.

The bronze statue of Ayrton Senna on the inside of the Tamburello corner where he died is now a permanent reminder of its most tragic hour.

Ayrton was passionate about Brazil and it was natural that he would think of giving others the same opportunities that he had
Viviane Senna
Ayrton Senna's sister
This weekend's memories will undoubtedly make it a focus for race goers, among them Senna's older sister, Viviane, who will make her first appearance at a Grand Prix since his death.

Her visit is part of a worldwide series of events to celebrate his life and to highlight the work of the Ayrton Senna Foundation, the non-profit organisation established by the family in his name.

Tragically he never lived to see the Foundation which he and his sister had discussed two months before his accident.

"Ayrton spoke to me about the idea of doing something to help children and teenagers by donating royalties from the licensing of the Seninha cartoon character," Viviane told me in a BBC Radio interview.

"He was passionate about Brazil and it was natural that after achieving so much success and acquiring his wealth that he would think of giving others the same opportunities that he had."

Senna waves the Brazilian flag after winning the 1993 Australian Grand Prix
Senna's success made him a superstar in his native Brazil
The Foundation, based in Sao Paulo, Senna's home city, runs educational projects in key target areas, from the Amazon rain forest to inner city housing estates.

Over the last 10 years, sponsorship from companies and sales of official Senna merchandising have enabled the Foundation to raise more than 20 million.

Currently there are more than 370 products worldwide with Senna-related endorsements, from nappies to helicopters, all vetted by the family.

The money is invested in the Foundation's activities which have reached out to nearly four million young people in Brazil, through a range of sport, dance, music, health and environmental projects run alongside regular schooling.

Children like 14-year-old Fulvia come, free of charge, in groups from school in the morning or the afternoon to the University of Sao Paulo where Senna used to go training.

"I never saw him race but the teachers tell me a lot about Ayrton," she said.

"I've learnt that you must love your sport. It should be a passion."

Rubens Barrichello
Senna made the good people and the bad people smile in Brazil, and he made all those Sundays a prestigious day
Rubens Barrichello

Luan is another proudly wearing the distinctive blue Foundation T-shirts.

"It means a lot even though I'm only 12. It means the name of a great man who's a symbol for the children here," he said.

Brazil is one of the 10 major economies in the world but it also has one of the highest levels of poverty.

In Sao Paulo, South America's largest city, for example, more than half its population of 18m people live in tumbledown shacks, clinging to hillsides or muddy river banks.

Most children are failed by the state education system with very few reaching university.

Just as Senna the man acted as a national inspiration, particularly at a time when the Brazilian football team was in the doldrums, so the Senna name is pointing a path to success.

Using the teaching methods pioneered by the Foundation, one state school in central Brazil has been able to save and reinvest 20m over the last five years.

"People felt proud of him and of being Brazilian - that way of taking the Brazilian flag," explained Sao Paulo's mayor, Marta Suplicy.

"For Brazil, he was more than an idol, he was a myth."

"He was a superhero," according to Rubens Barrichello, once a teenage fan in the suburbs, now a Ferrari driver.

"He made the good people and the bad people smile in Brazil, and he made all those Sundays a prestigious day. Everybody was going to watch the TV."

After the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, Brazil's love affair with F1 turned sour when one of F1's richest careers had so much more to achieve.

"He wanted to equal if not beat Fangio's record of five world titles," insists Viviane Senna.

"He also wanted to race for Ferrari. Then he would have stopped. Those were his objectives - that would have kept him going.

"I feel if Ayrton was alive, it would probably be very difficult for anyone to beat his records.

"That's not only my opinion, it's [F1 boss] Bernie Ecclestone's too."

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