The car Ayrton Senna made his Formula 1 debut in 40 years ago fired back into life at Silverstone earlier this month with Pierre Gasly at the wheel.

Gasly is a lifelong fan of the Brazilian three-times champion, who died at Imola 30 years ago. The 28-year-old Alpine racer wore Senna’s helmet design as a tribute the first time he raced at the track in F1 in 2020 and will do the same this weekend.

He also wore the helmet when he took the Toleman-Hart TG183B around the home of the British Grand Prix recently. Senna drove the car at the beginning of the 1984 season. Toleman, which entered F1 three years before that, eventually became the team Gasly drives for today.

“I can’t remember such an incredible experience,” said Gasly. “Driving Senna’s first-ever F1 car exceeded all my expectations.

Gasly will wear Senna’s helmet again this weekend

“It was so emotional. I had never before been in a racing car older than me and the purity of the driving was incredible – just three pedals and a simple steering wheel, quite unlike what I’m used to in a modern F1 car. It was a once-in-a-lifetime episode that I will never forget. Very, very special.”

Senna and the TG183B

At just 540 kilograms, the TG183B weighed almost one-third less than Gasly’s usual A524. Designed by Rory Byrne, it sported an unusually tall front wing which housed its oil and water radiators and a double rear wing arrangement which was also novel for its time. Power came from a 1.5-litre turbo designed by Brian Hart, producing around 700bhp.

It was based on a car Toleman originally introduced for the final races of 1982. Derek Warwick gave the team its first points finish with the TG183B late in 1983, and the team continued with the car for the first four rounds of 1984.

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Senna retired eight laps into his debut on home ground at Jacarepagua with a loss of turbo boost. He’d already signalled his potential by qualifing over 1.7 seconds quicker than team mate Johnny Cecotto. He took his first point next time out at Kyalami with sixth place, despite damaging the TG183B’s nose when he struck debris.

Ayrton Senna, Toleman, Jacarepagua, 1984
Senna made his F1 debut in a Toleman TG183B

He repeated that result at Zolder, though only took the point several weeks after the Belgian round when Tyrrell were disqualified from the championship and Stefan Bellof lost sixth place. On his final weekend in the TG183B Senna registered the only ‘did not qualify’ of his career: He didn’t run on Friday as Toleman had fallen out with tyre supplier Pirelli and technical trouble confined him to the garage on Saturday, meaning he missed the cut by over two seconds.

However once Toleman introduced its new TG184 and ditched Pirelli for Michelin (a decision which caused the team great trouble 12 months later) it enjoyed its strongest ever season. This not only cemented Senna’s status as a star of the future but also sowed the seeds of his future legendary status.

At Monaco, the TG184’s second race, Senna starred in dreadful conditions, hauling his way through the field and taking seconds out of race leader Alain Prost’s advantage when the race was controversially abandoned. He added two more podium finishes before the season was over, at Brands Hatch and Estoril.

That proved the finest hour for the team created by Ted Toleman, who passed away earlier this year. Toleman was bought by the Benetton clothing company and later taken over by Renault, which now operates it under its Alpine sports car brand.

Pierre Gasly, Toleman TG183B, Silverstone, 2024
Pierre Gasly, Toleman TG183B, Silverstone, 2024
Ayrton Senna, Toleman, Jacarepagua, 1984
Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B, Jacarepagua, 1984


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