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Today marks 20 years since we lost Ayrton Senna, but his legacy endures

May 1, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

AUTO-PRIX-F1-MONACO-SENNA Getty Images

Icon. Legend. Hero.

He’s as revered now as he was on that fateful Sunday in Imola, Italy, and yet as today marks 20 years since May 1, 1994 when his fatal accident occurred, Ayrton Senna’s spirit continues to endure.

We don’t need today to be a reliving, or retelling, of what happened to that Williams-Renault as he passed the front straight and veered off course at Tamburello.

What it can be is the latest chance to retell the good from his 10-plus year career in Formula One and what he meant to his home country of Brazil.

Senna was something special; a sublime talent who was as complex an individual as F1 had seen in ages.

He was compassionate, yet ruthless.

Concerned with his fellow drivers’ safety (think the Erik Comas at Spa in 1992 moment), yet determined to pummel them into submission if he got the chance (1988. Monaco. Prost.).

He transformed F1’s profile in his native Brazil – lifting the country’s spirits during a challenging time in its history. His 1991 home Grand Prix victory remains one of his all-time triumphs of his 41 career victories.

He was an incredible talent, still revered to this day and named by such a high percentage of current drivers as either their favorite driver, their hero, or both.

The 2010 film Senna – the brilliant documentary directed by Asif Kapadia – has done the job of exposing Senna’s story, mixing archival family footage and his F1 career, to a new generation who would otherwise not have discovered the legend.

On this, the 20th anniversary of May 1, 1994, we continue to remember him – and Roland Ratzenberger, as well, who perished as well during the San Marino Grand Prix weekend – this day and going forward.

And what better way to remember him than with what many consider the greatest single lap in F1 history: his opener at Donington Park, in the 1993 European Grand Prix.

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