|Ayrton Senna’s Principles of Race Driving, by Ayrton Senna|
|© 1991 Hazleton Publishing, ISBN 9781874557401 (Hardcover)|
There have been just a handful of technical race driving books written by Formula 1 drivers over the years. Jackie Stewart’s Principles of Performance Driving, Niki Lauda’s The Art and Science of Grand Prix Driving, Alain Prost’s Competition Driving and, more recently, Derek Daly’s Race To Win are some examples.
All are overshadowed by Principles of Race Driving, a comprehensive tutorial by the late World Champion Ayrton Senna, written by the Brazilian after he claimed his third and final title in 1991.
Of the many Senna books available for purchase, this is among the rarer and more valuable titles.
It’s a purely instructional title, devoid of opinions of his main rivals, and with a mammoth 24 chapters dedicated to individual aspects of a race driver’s preparation, it’s a compelling and detailed read from the mind of one of the greatest racing drivers in history.
It starts with the basics and then gets more detailed. From seating position in the cockpit, it moves on to hand steering techniques and pedal work before diving into cornering techniques, racing lines and throttle control.
Subsequent chapters cover critical concepts like accelerating in wet and dry conditions, gear changing, tyre management, wet-weather driving, testing, car set-up. The racecraft section looks at the importance of the warm-up and formation laps, the race start and managing the opening laps of the race, as well as the finer arts of overtaking, slipstreaming, pit strategy and signals.
The excellent text is supported by a healthy mix of diagrams and photographs – many from Senna’s perspective inside the cockpit – to explain pedals, gearshifts, cornering, and overtaking.
The book doesn’t just focus on the technical aspects of driving. The final chapters look at the concepts of a driver’s diet, exercise and fitness regimes and mindset – all of which Senna used to his advantage in racking up 65 pole positions, 41 wins and three World Championship titles. He truly embodied the ‘all round’ driver.
While the book is now nudging 25 years old and F1 technology has changed enormously since his era, there are still concepts which are valuable for today’s aspiring racing drivers. Even as an armchair fan, his opinions are insightful and fascinating.
Now out of print, Ayrton Senna’s Principles of Race Driving will probably be a lucky find in a specialty book re-seller or second-hand bookstore.