Despite testing for storied teams like Williams, McLaren, and Brabham in 1983, Ayrton Senna decided to make his F1 debut the following year with the small and unfancied Toleman team.
The TG184 was by no means a bad car, but it was built by a small, reasonably new team, had a 600bhp 1.5-litre Hart engine (which was underpowered at the time) and was firmly stuck in the midfield.
Until the Monaco Grand Prix, that is. Senna shot through to finish second and announce himself as the incredible driver he would go on to become. It’s that exact car that’s being offered for sale by Bonhams in Monaco later this year.
It was more than just a run-of-the-mill second place, too (if there is such a thing). Senna had only qualified 13th, but race day was wet - soaking wet. That meant the horsepower disadvantage of his Toleman mattered far less, and Senna’s natural talent was allowed to shine through. He very quickly shot through the field and after just 19 laps was running second as the rain continued to get worse.
In the lead was the McLaren of Alain Prost. Prost was never a fan of racing in wet conditions and started furiously waving each time he passed the pits, imploring officials to stop the race. Meanwhile, Senna was catching him - at over three seconds a lap.
At the end of lap 32 of the scheduled 76, Senna passed Prost to take the lead on the pit straight at the exact same time as officials threw out the red flag to stop the race. Senna believed he’d won, but under F1 rules, when the red flag comes out the results go back to the last complete lap. In this case that was lap 31, when Senna was still second. Prost was given the victory whilst Senna had to settle for a lower step on the podium.
It was still a mega result, but there’s a bit of controversy surrounding the finish. Clerk of the course was former F1 driver and wet-weather ace Jacky Ickx, and it was he who decided to throw the red flag. He was also a factory Porsche driver in endurance racing, and Prost’s McLaren was running a TAG engine which had been designed by Porsche…
Senna (and fellow rookie Stefan Bellof, who’d been catching the pair of them) was the star of the race though. And the car he drove that day is an incredibly significant piece of F1 history - last time it was on the market it sold for £1 million, but that was a few years ago. Who knows what it might fetch now.
Even without the Senna connection, it’s a cool car. After all, it has not one, but two rear wings and the sponsorship is a picture of 1980s cool.
As well as his three world championships and countless brilliant performances over his F1 career, Senna won the Monaco Grand Prix a record six times. The last of those came in 1993, and the McLaren MP4/8 he was driving at the time is for sale at the same auction.
That’s expected to fetch a few more million notes than the Toleman, but bundle the two together and you can almost pretend that it’s good value. Talk about the perfect two-car garage…