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How in 1981, a young Ayrton Senna found solace in $260,000 worth rural Norwich bungalow

Tejas Venkatesh

How in 1981, a young Ayrton Senna found solace in rural Norwich

In 1981, a young Brazilian karting sensation named Ayrton Senna would arrive in England. The 20-year-old dreamed to be an F1 Champion, and to fulfil his ambition, he would land in European shores to compete in the Formula Ford championships.

Ayrton had won the 1977 South American Karting championship. The Brazilian arrived in England but barely could speak fluent English.

Formula Ford was a big deal back then. It was the first step for drivers moving from karting to professional racing and the first of many to race in F1.


Yet young Ayrton was fine with the challenge of acclimatising to a new country. It’ll be rural Norfolk where the future F1 Champion would find his next drive.

Also Read: How Ayrton Senna once won a race without front brakes?

How Ayrton Senna landed in rural Norfolk

In 1981, Ayrton Senna found himself closer to his goal of racing in F1. He got a chance to drive for Ralph Firman’s Van Diemen company in the BRSCC and RAC Formula Ford 1600 championships.

Van Diemen had a reputation in the Formula Ford series for producing successful cars. The team were based in Snetterton, a village in Norfolk.

Senna, however, chose to live closer to the city on Rugge Drive, Eaton with his first wife Adriane Yamin. Eaton was a quiet residential suburb on the outskirts of Norwich. It was like any other old English town, filled with families who enjoyed a calm life.

Senna chose this place, just 20 miles from the Snetterton circuit. The Brazilian rented a rented two-bedroom semi-detached bungalow while preparing for his Formula Ford series.

However, he was a quiet neighbour, and local residents barely recognised him even after winning multiple F1 titles. However, if you head to Eaton, Senna’s old home is now a popular deal.

The bungalow was sold in 2015 by UK’s real estate agency William H. Brown for $260,000. And the manager of the property didn’t even know Senna had stayed there until it was revealed later

Also Read: Ayrton Senna was called ‘Harry’ by his mechanics for this particular reason

How a Senna’s friend got him a Formula Ford seat at Van Diemen

Ayrton Senna and Chico Serra were old friends. The two were both natives of Sao Paolo and had climbed the racing ranks. Serra who was a few years elder had moved to England to compete in European junior Formula categories.

Here Serra met Ralf Firman who would recommend Dennis Rushen of the Rushen Green Racing team to give him a racing seat. And Serra would immediately impress his new team boss.

Rushen recalls, “Chico said to me ‘I’m quite quick, aren’t I?’ And I went ‘Well, yes you are, you win everything.’ To which he said ‘Well, one day, I’m going to bring someone over who’s proper quick’.

The person he was talking about was none other than Senna. Rushen adds, “That was the first thing I knew about Senna. He didn’t even say his name, but he gave me the nod that there was someone special coming from Brazil.”

Rushen would recommend Ralph Firman to let Senna test their cars. And Senna impressed Firman by a mile. And in no time Senna found himself racing the 1981 Formula Ford Championship with Van Dieman.

He would win the 1982 British and European Formula Ford 2000 championships next year. And in the years since he would go on to win 41 Grand Prix, 3 F1 World Championships and write an immortal legacy of his own in racing.

Also Read: Family of Ayrton Senna once tried to talk him out of his future $200 million racing career

About the author

Tejas Venkatesh

Tejas Venkatesh


Tejas Venkatesh is a Motorsports writer at The SportsRush. He started watching F1 in 2007 and fell in love with the sound of the revving V8s. A technical nerd, tejas loves to nerd over the technical beauty only motorsports can achieve. He calls himself a Vettel fanboy and spent the night crying after Hockenheim 2018. Apart from F1, Tejas is an avid Chelsea Fan and loves football.

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