Ayrton Senna had a great friend by his side every step of the way in his journey from Formula Ford to Formula 3 to Formula One: Mauricio Gugelmin, who turns 57 on April 20.
In the British towns of Norwich and Esher, they were roommates – in the case of the former, both shared the rent, so that their budget remained under control in a country known for the high cost of living.
Ayrton raced in Formula Ford 2000 and Gugelmin was starting out in F-Ford 1600. Take a look at a few excerpts from the book “A Star Called Senna”, by Lemyr Martis, in which Gugelmin tells a few stories about his day-to-day living with the Brazilian idol.
“Becão [Senna’s nickname] was a generous guy. He was very fun with those close to him. He liked kidding around, but this side of his personality remained hidden, because most people only got to know Senna-the-driver, the serious, dedicated, super-professional man who left everyone in awe of his talent on the track. But the little kid – now, that one was dangerous. When eating next to him, you had to be as focused as on the starting grid of a race. If you relaxed for just one second, you could end up with a plate full of vinegar or glass of milk full of pepper. Toothpaste and shaving cream had to be kept under lock and key, so you didn’t end up with a sticky face or a foamy mouth”.
“Around 1985, I competed in Formula 3000 and Ayrton was driving the John Player Special Lotus. Instead of the beaten-up Alfasud, our very first car in England, we were parading around in a Escort, then a Renault, a Honda and finally a Mercdes-Bez. While in our first house, in Norwich, the £360 rent was split in two, in Esher I didn’t even had to pay, Becão bought the property and didn’t charge me anything. I lived there for quite a while”.
“I recall that, in our leaner times, between 1981 and 1982, when he was in Formula 2000 and I was in Formula Ford, the prizes for winning were £100, £200 – around R$400 and R$800 right now, in the beginning of the millennium. So, we went to town, when we won. We had a feast at the notorious Doric restaurant, the only one in Snetterton where Ralph Firman, Van Diemen’s owner, took Brazilian drivers to sign their contracts”.
“Our culinary skills were pretty tragic, at home. The best we were able to do was a pasta dish with heavy cream, and I still don’t know how it could end up so hard. It was only edible right after it was made; otherwise it turned into a brick. We only ate food that tasted and smelled good when Mrs. Neide, Becão’s mother, came to visit”, said Gugelmin, who competed in 74 Formula One races and achieved his greatest moment in the category when he made the podium in the 1989 Brazilian GP.