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Review: Senna

New documentary relives Brazilian Formula One legend's storied career

Brazilian Race Care Driver Ayrton Senna

— Photo: Dario Mitidieri/Getty Images

En español | Ayrton Senna blazed through the racing world like a comet. He was a three-time Formula One world champion and lightning rod of controversy who gave the citizens of his native Brazil something to cheer about as their country emerged from years of military dictatorship. He died in a 1994 Formula One car crash at the age of 34. Senna, a documentary about his life premieres August 12.

See also: Summer flicks with a Latino twist.

"He was a tough driver on the track, but away from the track he was always fighting for safety, standing up for other drivers," says Asif Kapadia, director of the documentary. "He was always fighting corruption [in the Formula One establishment]. And he came from Brazil, a poor country, but took on the Europeans and beat them, making [his countrymen] proud to be Brazilian."

Told with fascinating archival material, including fabulous driver's-point-of-view footage shot during Senna's races, Kapadia's film tells how a handsome child of São Paulo privilege began racing go-karts in Europe as a teen, and quickly graduated to the prestigious Lotus racing team. Senna won his first Grand Prix in his second Formula One year, then joined the McLaren team, where he was paired with top driver Alain Prost.

That relationship proved to be love-hate throughout Senna's career, as he and Prost traded world championships, and the Frenchman accused his teammate of on-track recklessness.

"Senna had an almost intimidating way of driving," says Kapadia, "But that was his style. He said, 'I cannot be happy in second place, I have to be leading.'"

Next: Senna's crusade for increased safety standards. >>

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