Suzuka Special

Pictures from Peter Grooff and Robin Day

For 5 years in a row from 1987 to 1991, Japanese GP was the drivers' championship decider. However, it is what happened in 1989 and 1990 that makes the Suzuka track famous - the collisions between Alain Prost and the late Ayrton Senna. Some time earlier I read in a Usenet newsgroup that some Senna fans were talking about taking legal actions to hand Senna the 89 World Championship. Of course the nonsense went on without any success. Remember Senna had ZERO point for 9 of the 16 GP.

"He who has gone was gone." I do not make this Suzuka Special to offend anybody. I am here just to point out something which many may have omitted. I hope this puts them in a better position to judge for themselves. Of course, being a Prost supporter myself I can't say my analysis is without bias.

The issue is highly controversial. Christopher Hilton, author of the biography of Alain Prost, put it in this way,

"...anybody who has heard a court case over a car crash could tell you: nothing is simple when witnessed from different standpoints."

So, use you own judgment.


Suzuka Part I, Japanese GP'89.

The folloing table shows some points people usually omit when they talk about the Suzuka'89 crash and why they omit them.

Why Prost should let Senna through. They chose to ignore how dangerously Senna was overtaking.
How Prost could let Senna through. They chose to ignore or didn't see how Nannini let Senna through.
What Prost could have done to Senna (but didn't) They witnessed the Crash of 1990 but chose to ignore it.



Prost meant to win the race. He was denied an almost sure victory. He was the victim of Senna's reckless overtaking. Senna was disqualified on 8 counts by FISA (then FIA), including the dangerous overtaking manoeuvre. FISA was themselves responsible for the crash. Before Suzuka'89 they did nothing to suppress dangerous driving. They did not warn Senna until Senna appealed. They imposed only a suspended ban which meant nothing at all. It was this FISA attitude that led to the Crash of 1990. The stupid best-11-of-all scoring system was responsible too. But of course we know this is the rule of the game.

And let's not forget McLaren, in defence of Senna's cutting through the chicane to rejoin the track, argued that Prost, their own McLaren driver Prost, did the same in San Marino. Ron, that is disgusting!

Suzuka Part II, Japanese GP'90

Christopher Hilton asked interviewees to give their verdict on Suzuka in Alain Prost biography. Below is the essence of all the answers. Judge for yourself.

John Watson "In my mind Alain's strategy was must not dismiss the mentality of a Senna...(he) is coming down the inside, it looks like he's not going to stop."
Rene Arnoux "I think the crash in 1990 was recompense for the crash in 1989."
Keke Roberg "I think Senna drove into his back...I wouldn't like to say he drove into Ayrton (in 1989), he tried to close the door... (In 1990) Alain took a compromise line which didn't leave enough room on the inside to be overtaken but would give him the speed for entering. The other guy just went for it."
Derek Warwick " 1989 I think Senna was wrong because Prost was in a situation where if he stopped Senna winning he was World Champion - so you do not take chances. And 1990 was the reverse of that."
Slim Borgudd "I think Senna either gambled or calculated in doing what he did."
Kenny Acheson "I know what position you would have to be in to overtake into that corner...and Senna wasn't in it... He wasn't even near that. In my mind Senna knew he had lost the corner... I think Senna did what he had to do to win the World Championship... He (Prost) didn't open the door, he made a clean start, he got away and he moved out to take the right line."
Anders Olofsson "I've driven Suzuka a lot of times, and I know if you're not side by side... there's no way you can pass like Senna tried to do."
Teo Fabi "The first year it was Prost's fault and the second year it was Senna's fault. They did the same thing to each other."
Jean Sage "I say it was fifty-fifty in 1990, because Prost opened the door a little bit and Prost knows that Senna is a bit risky and usually Prost is very wise and doesn't do things like that."
Jacky Ickx "Suzuka Part Two is the result of Suzuka Part One... Part Two is the logical answer to Part One even if it was a desperate attempt to overtake."
Stefan Johnasson "In my opinion it was 100 per cent Senna's fault... the first man into the corner chooses the line. That's the way I've always been taught to drive... You cannot drive through a car if that car is on the line, and there's no [expletive] way you can outbrake anybody into the first corner at Suzuka. There is absolutely no discussion that there was just no room... Prost was totally correct."
Hughes de Chaunac "When you are on the road and a car is following you and it hits you it is always the fault of the car which is behind... it is he who must be in control of his vehicle."

We can make a little summary here. People think Prost was wrong because they think Prost should know that Senna would drive into him. People think Senna was right because they think that it was right to take revenge! There were some who didn't believe Senna drove into Prost on purpose. And Senna told them that they were all wrong.

On his way to the pit, Senna waved to fans triumphantly.
On October 20, 1991. Senna won his third world championship with a second place in Suzuka. He was asked about the Crash of 1990 again, and here came the answer.

"Balestre gave an order not to change (pole position). I told myself OK you try to work clean - and then you get [expletive] by stupid people.

"If on Sunday at the start, because I'm in the wrong position, Prost gets the jump and beat me off the line, at the first corner I'll go for it. It just happened, I guess. I just wish it hadn't happened. I really wish that I could have had the start because then we could go and go. It's unbelievable that it happened. He got the jump and he was turning in and I hit him. We were both off and it was the [expletive] end to the Championship. It was the result of a bad decision influenced by Balestre. I contributed to it but it was not my responsibility."

Shame to FIA, that they let it happen.


Back to Front Page