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GP Week : Issue 200
F1 >>> FEATUrE I first saw Ayrton at Thruxton in 1981. I was a shy photographer and I didn't introduce myself to him. However the next weekend, at Brands Hatch, he recognised me and introduced himself. He was looking for a regular supply of photographs to be sent to Brazil and asked if I could help him. I immediately agreed and so began a three-year working relationship where I handled his photography and Public Relations ser vices. So from my point of view my relationship with Ayrton was professional yet warm. We both set about targeting Formula One as our goal in our respective professions and we both achieved that. Obviously my most precious and personal memories of him are from that period. We were of a similar age and shared the same ambition ... to reach Formula One, the pinnacle of motorsport, in our respective fields. During 1981 and 1982 he lived in Norfolk, close to Van Diemen and Rushen Green Racing, and I would often stay with him at the home which he shared with fellow Brazilian driver Mauricio Gugelmin and his wife Stella. I followed him up through the junior ranks until he invited me to his first Formula 1 race in Brazil for Toleman in 1984. I declined to take up his offer to be his personal photographer as he wanted to pay me a salary and work exclusively for him. I wasn't prepared to enter into a deal whereby he would own the copyright to my images. Instead I went on to form a motorsport photographic agency in 1985 with my brother Mark. Inevitably, the close personal ties between us became looser in later years. The pressures on a Formula One World Champion, from sponsors and the press, are almost intolerable. In 1986 Ayrton moved away from England to Monaco, and the chances to see him socially were no more. Nevertheless, I knew that the special relationship would always be there. Talking relationships, the relationship and rivalry between Senna and Prost is legendary and unparalleled in the history of Formula One. I was very lucky to have caught the moment the pair collided at the final chicane in Suzuka in 1989 which handed that years championship to the Frenchman in hugely controversial circumstances. I was also at the first corner to witness and capture the following year’s end to the championship, again in Suzuka and again very controversial. The build up to the race was intense but that turned to utter dismay as Senna intentionally collided with Prost's Ferrari going into Turn 1 in what was a highly dangerous act but one that ultimately handed the championship to Senna. It took Senna two years to admit his actions – and there was certainly an element of revenge for what happened one year before. I shall never forget May1, 1994. It was about 7pm that day when I learned that Ayrton had succumbed to his injuries and that memory will remain with me forever. The news was given to me by a grim-faced waiter at Bologna airport and an over whelming numbness took me over. I was still shocked and upset from the previous day's accident which had taken my friend Roland Ratzenberger, so I boarded the plane and stumbled to my seat as I wrestled with my emotions. Johnny Herbert came looking for me and offered me some comfort and I'll always be grateful to him for that. – Keith sutton Formula Ford, kerb-hopping in 1981 (above); The first win, with Liliane, 1981 (middle); Suzuka 1990, Turn 1 ... (right); Imola, May 1, 1994 (far right). 24 GPWEEK.com // 24 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: