Car-Vid Classics: Aryton Senna loafing around in a Honda NSX

David Linklater
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Ayrton Senna does some fancy footwork in the 1992 Honda NSX Type R.

This week’s Car-Vid Classic features one of the greatest Japanese sports cars ever made and arguably the most revered Formula 1 driver in history. So it’s a bit weird that the real star is a pair of slip-on shoes.

In 1992, Aryton Senna was on hand at Suzuka International Racing Course for demonstration laps in the then-new Honda NSX Type R. In-car footage of one of his laps on the short circuit has become legendary, thanks to a close-up look at Senna’s steering, and an inset of the three-time F1 Champion’s fancy footwork: heel-and-toe and his somewhat unique throttle technique, rapidly blipping the pedal as he accelerates out of a corner.

That was all impressive from the start. But what has grown over the years is an appreciation of Senna’s 1990s fashion. Casually dressed for the event, his brown slip-on loafers, white socks and beige trousers are now iconic… in an ironic way.

NSX was Honda's first-ever Type R model (launched in 1992).

It adds a lighter touch to all that NSX/Senna mythology. Contrary to popular opinion, Senna did not sketch the NSX on a napkin in the 1980s. But he did get involved with the car at Suzuka in early-1989: NSX engineers were signing off their creation and the McLaren-Honda F1 team was testing at the same time.

Senna drove the car on track and although he was reluctant to give too much advice on a production vehicle, he said the NSX felt a bit “fragile”. Senna’s suggestions were enough to make Honda put yet more work into chassis rigidity and suspension tune, helping make the NSX what it was and still is today: sensational.

There’s footage of that test too, but it’s not as thrilling as what Senna achieved in those shiny shoes.


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