Ayrton Senna da Silva (Brazilian Portuguese: [aˈiʁtõ ˈsẽnɐ dɐ ˈsiwvɐ] (About this soundlisten); 21 March 1960 – 1 May 1994) was a Brazilian racing driver who won the Formula One World Drivers’ Championship in 1988, 1990 and 1991, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time, and by some as the greatest ever.
Jacques Dallaire, a doctor and performance specialist who worked with Senna early in his career, told Auto123.com’s Rene Fagnan: “He was not aware of the level of physical demands Formula One was asking for. We evaluated his physical fitness in the lab and provided him with a tailored, complete training program.” This led to Senna hiring a personal trainer in Brazil.
According to his official website, Senna’s training program included runs of up to nine miles (14.5 kilometres) per day as he sought the conditioning that would allow him to perform at the same level throughout a two-hour race.
Throughout his career, Ayrton Senna had the help of great professionals who guided his training and physical conditioning. One of them was Austrian Josef Leberer, a physical therapist who arrived at McLaren in 1988, just like the Brazilian.
“I met Ayrton in 1986, when Willy Dungl (Leberer’s mentor) funded his new training center, but our work began in earnest during the 1988 season, at McLaren, during the Brazilian Grand Prix”, says Joseph, mentioning the race that was held at the Jacarepaguá raceway, in Rio de Janeiro, at the time. “Ayrton was already in good shape, but that wasn’t enough (for an athlete): he was too light. He was strong-minded, but there was still room for physical improvement. Step by step, he got there”.
Ayrton Senna described a series of daily training exercises that began at 8:30 am with a 3 mile run that reached 9 miles per day by the end of a month. All of the aerobic training had the objective of perfecting the oxygenation of his body.
Taking care of the neck muscles is characteristic of racecar drivers. Stretching and strengthening exercises of the area are important so that they don’t suffer from the effects of lateral acceleration in the corners and braking events. But other parts of the body are not forgotten; there is a complete series of exercises for the legs, arms, abdomen, back and chest.
After the season begins, the driver should maintain a training pace that will allow them to reach the end of the season with equal endurance. This includes weight training and, in the case of Ayrton Senna, weekly runs.