Last month Pierre Gasly made a very special appearance at Enstone, driving into our team’s factory at the wheel of the Toleman TG183B. The car holds a special place in Formula 1 history. It was raced by the late, great Ayrton Senna on his Grand Prix debut at Rio on March 25, 1984. Despite qualifying 16th on the grid, his home race didn’t last long, as the Hart engine lost turbo boost pressure after only eight laps.



The whole team gathered to watch Pierre pilot the TG183B into the factory in tribute to the recent passing of Ted Toleman. By the mid-1980s, the Witney-based team was sold to Benetton and then Renault, before becoming Alpine.



As we turn our attention to racing in Imola this weekend and pay tribute to the 30th anniversary of Ayrton’s passing, we wanted to remember his debut season with Toleman.



Despite the inauspicious start in Brazil, Ayrton had shown impressive pace in pre-season testing. As he got to grips with the throttle lag of the turbo, as well as Pirelli rubber, he set a lap time at a cold Silverstone (in November ’83) that was a second quicker than Derek Warwick’s qualifying lap from that year’s British Grand Prix.



In 1984, Senna was engineered by Pat Symonds in a car designed by Rory Byrne and both men would go on to have successful world championship winning careers in their own right. And the highlight of that season was undoubtedly Senna’s drive at a soaking wet Monaco, in which he could easily have scored his maiden Grand Prix victory.



In only his fifth F1 start (having failed to qualify for the only time in his F1 career at Imola) and now at the wheel of the new TG184, Senna displayed his prodigious talent to the world. After qualifying 13th he was seventh by lap seven. By lap 30 he was second and hunting down Alain Prost for the lead. As the rain hammered down, Prost was frantically waving to have the race stopped. The red-flag appeared on lap 32 just as Senna was about to pass the Frenchman for the win…



But it wasn’t just in the rain where Senna and the Toleman showed pace. At a hot and sunny Brands Hatch in July, the Brazilian chased Elio de Angelis with great persistence for much of the race. With five laps to go he surged past him to the cheers of the British crowd to score his second podium in only his ninth F1 start.



It was clear Senna’s talent was going to take him forward quickly and late in the year it was confirmed he was switching to Lotus for 1985. But an agreement that stated Senna had to inform Toleman that he was talking to another team wasn’t honoured, so boss Alex Hawkridge suspended Senna from the Italian Grand Prix that year. In his final race, at Estoril, Ayrton qualified third and finished on the podium again behind the two McLarens of Prost and Niki Lauda.