Senna vs Prost: Elf Master Karting, Bercy 1993
The recent celebrity-driver karting event at the Palais Omnisport in Paris-Bercy, in which a number of international racing stars did battle in electric karts around the indoor circuit, brings back memories of the inaugural event in 1993.
On that December weekend 18 years ago, fans were treated to the final competitive head-to-head between Formula 1 giants Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. And, predictably, the pair took it very seriously: four-time world champion Prost having tested extensively before the event; Senna, a three-time title holder, having a kart shipped to Brazil so that he could practise.
The format for the two-day event organised by French racer Philippe Streiff, wheelchair-bound since a pre-season F1 testing accident in Brazil in 1989, pitted over 60 drivers – more than a dozen of them contemporary grand prix racers – against each other around a 600-metre circuit.
Young karting stars, including Danilo Rossi, Nicola Gianniberti, Miku Santavirta and Sebastien Enjolras, strutted their stuff on the first day, with Rossi coming out on top in their final.
But it was the team events that fans had really come to see. Following two qualifying sessions, teams were made up of three drivers (one F1 star from each of the two sessions and one karting youngster).
And with Senna and Prost joined by Philippe Alliot, Paul Belmondo, Eric Bernard, Andrea de Cesaris, Yannick Dalmas, Betrand Gachot, Jean-Marc Gounon, Olivier Grouillard, Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert, Pierluigi Martini and Olivier Panis, the fans were in for a treat.
In the first relay, the Prost and Senna squads both hit trouble with their 100cc karts, leaving the team led by Minardi ace Martini to win.
The finale promised one last hurrah for Prost and Senna. Sadly for fans, Ayrton’s kart broke as he was reeling in erstwhile leader de Cesaris. The Italian soon fell behind Prost, leaving the world champion to uphold local honour.
Senna, who twice finished runner-up in the world karting championship, later gave a group of journalists a few tips on how to master karting.
“You have to drive sideways because go-karts are small, short-wheelbased and very quick to react. You are always sideways at some stage of the corner so that you can position yourself better to get a feel for the grip. In that respect it’s very different from a racing car.
“In a racing car, if you try to lean on it you just slide and go off. In a kart you have to be hard and aggressive, but also precise. You use your body a little bit and normally your back suffers from the seat, especially if you haven’t been in one for some time.”