F1 Flashback: Senna disqualified on McLaren debut (VIDEO)

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Ayrton Senna’s first F1 start for McLaren ended in a controversial disqualification from his home race on this day 25 years ago.

Senna planted his Honda-powered McLaren MP4-4 on pole position at the Jacarepagua circuit in Rio de Janeiro. But as the cars prepared to take the start a gear linkage broke, Senna waving his arms calling for the start to be aborted.

The grid re-formed with Senna now starting from the pits in the spare McLaren. Nigel Mansell became the de facto pole sitter but his normally aspirated Williams-Judd was outgunned by Alain Prost’s turbo-powered McLaren.

While Prost motored off into the lead Senna was slicing his way through traffic. He came around in 21st place at the end of lap one, but by lap 13 he’d broken into the top six points-paying positions.

Thierry Boutsen (Benetton) and Nelson Piquet (Lotus) were next to succumb to the McLaren. Mansell stopped with a blown engine on lap 19 and now Senna was in a podium position. He came around the next lap in second place having dispensed with Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari.

But it was all in vain. The rules prohibited drivers from switching cars after the start had been given and Senna was belatedly black-flagged after 31 laps.

Prost ran out an easy winner – the first of 15 victories for McLaren that year in a season they dominated. But in their first season as team mates Senna ultimately proved too much for him, beating Prost to the drivers’ title.

Sadly construction work for the forthcoming 2016 Olympic Games has led to the demolition of the Jacarepagua circuit. It held ten rounds of the world championship between 1978 and 1989 and its oval course was later used for CART IndyCar races.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”