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Classic onboard - Senna passes Nannini in vain at Suzuka ‘89

05 Oct 2016

Having infamously tangled with team mate and title rival Alain Prost at Suzuka’s chicane in 1989, Ayrton Senna’s hopes of victory - and championship glory - appeared lost. But after re-joining the action, the Brazilian roared back into contention, before teeing up a move on erstwhile race leader Alessandro Nannini in the closing stages. We ride with Senna for what many observers will tell you should have been the defining moment of not just that race, but of the season itself…

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Going into the penultimate round of the 1989 season at Suzuka, Ayrton Senna trailed Alain Prost by 16 points in the standings, meaning the Brazilian needed to win both Japan and the final race in Australia to retain his world championship crown. In the immediate aftermath of his late-race collision with Prost, it looked like Senna’s chance had gone, but as the Frenchman strode away from his car, Senna bump-started his McLaren back to life and re-joined the action. A quick pit stop to repair his front wing followed, with the Brazilian emerging in second place, around 5s behind Alessandro Nannini’s Benetton. On maximum attack, Senna closed in mercilessly on the Italian before showing no fear in making a move at the very same place where he’d come a cropper with Prost, even throwing in a quick wave for good measure. Victory was his - or was it? No sooner had he taken the chequered flag than Senna was controversially excluded from the results on a technicality, having rejoined the circuit via the escape road after his clash with Prost. Nannini duly collected the only victory of his short F1 career, while Senna was fuelled with the overwhelming sense of injustice that would eventually lead to equally dramatic scenes at the Japanese circuit only a year later...