Ayrton Senna along with Emerson Fittipaldi took part in an IndyCar test with Team Penske at the Firebird Raceway, Phoenix in December 1992.
However, many people assumed Senna’s test was only a ruse to gain an advantage in his contract discussions with McLaren. After all, Penske had already finalized its driver lineup for the coming season.
“If Senna was available, we’d have tried to figure something out” – Roger Penske aimed to sign Senna for his team. Yet if they had an actual chance, Roger Penske would’ve gone all out on him.
“I think he was using us as may be somewhat of an impact against the McLaren guys at that point to try and get his deal put together, which we certainly understood. If Senna was available, we’d have tried to figure something out.” Penske said
— F1 in the 1990s 🚦🏎🏁🏆🍾 (@1990sF1) December 20, 2021
With only 24 laps around the relatively small and unknown circuit, he demonstrated his class and talent. Senna quickly caught up to the two cars after initially struggling with the differences between them.
Senna expressed his delight at the new enduring adventure by stating: “The car behaves in a very particular way, but the sensation, the feeling, is great. I’m very happy for finally being able to actually experience an Indy Racing car.”
“One day I’ll drive this car, it’s just a matter of time,” he said.
A dream that could not capitalize and a roaring comeback to Formula 1
Unfortunately, Senna’s IndyCar career never really took off as he signed on with McLaren for his final season in 1993, but lost the championship to his adversary, Alain Prost driving for Williams. He then switched to Williams for 1994 but sadly passed away in the same season at Imola.
That doesn’t negate the significance of the few hours he spent at Firebird 29 years ago. Many believe Senna’s association with IndyCar to be one of the most significant boosts the series received at the time in terms of visibility in Brazil and Europe.
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) December 20, 2014