Twenty years ago this week Ayrton Senna put in a sublime drive to win a rain-affected Japanese GP in his penultimate start for McLaren. It was the Brazilian's fourth victory of a 1993 season otherwise dominated by the Williams FW15C, and once again he beat the odds on a day when driver skill and sheer chutzpah counted for much.
But that race at Suzuka is remembered as much for what happened afterwards, when Senna triggered a verbal jousting match with a newcomer he'd come across in the course of the race. Their debate ended with Senna launching a physical assault that landed him in hot water with the FIA.
The debutant who got his attention was Eddie Irvine. Forgotten in Europe, at the time the Ulsterman was in the third year of his exile in Japanese Formula 3000. Racing against others who had run out of options in Europe, as well as veteran local heroes, he was earning a good living, and had pretty much given up any thoughts he'd had of ever making it to F1. Meanwhile, at the time I was living in Tokyo and covering the local scene, and spent much of my time hanging out with Irvine or travelling to the races with him.
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