On December 13, 1989, Ayrton Senna took part in the “Gazeta Esportiva” awards ceremony, which celebrated the best go-kart drivers of the season – it was like the Oscars for promising young drivers competing on the tracks of Brazil.
That season, Senna had finished the F1 World Championship in second place after a controversial Japanese GP, when he was taken out of the race by Alain Prost and, even after losing time with the accident, was able to get back on the track, change his McLaren’s nose, take back the lead and win the race. The Brazilian, however, ended up being disqualified for not entering the track through the same place he had exited it – which would actually be more dangerous, since they were at Suzuka’s chicane.
Back in Brazil, Senna presented the trophies for “Pole Position”, “Performance”, “Newcomer” and “Incentive”. Some of the drivers awarded with trophies would go on to have brilliant careers in motor sports themselves, like Tony Kanaan (Indy Racing), Felipe Giaffone (Indy Racing), Enrique Bernoldi (F1), among others.
One of the Lucky winners at the time was Eduardo Neves, who still takes part in karting competitions, such as the Go-Kart 500.
Eduardo has fond memories of the awards ceremony in which he met the Formula One idol. “I remember I was worried because he hadn’t arrived yet and my award was coming up”, says Neves, who now races on team Karteiros, at Granja Viana.
“In the end everything worked out and I received the trophy from his hands. It was a great honor that I still cherish, and I’m lucky enough to still have pictures from the event”, says Eduardo, who sent the image below to the Ayrton Senna Institute archive.
Neves is the rightmost driver on the picture, wearing a brown shirt. “I won the Pole Position trophy in the A category. The kid in the middle is Oscar Sala Neto, from the B category, and the one on the left is Rodrigo Rocha, who was in the C category and now races for Sprint Race. Senna was already a role model for kids, and his influence only grew over the following years of Brazilian karting”, says Eduardo, who remembers taking the pole in five out of ten races that year, with Mirco Kart.
Now working as a businessman, Eduardo recalls that many drivers who came up with him in the early ‘90s were inspired by Senna, and went on to compete in the most important categories of Brazilian and international motor sports.
“In 1992, I remember I raced in the Pan-American Go-Kart Championship, and both there and in other competitions I was up against big names in karting who also took cues from Ayrton’s success. It was the case of Danilo Dirani, Felipe Massa, Ricardo Maurício, Giuliano Losacco, Felipe Giaffone, Vitor Meira, Bruno Junqueira and other great drivers”, says Neves.