Japanese GP 1989
OCTOBER 22, 1989
Japanese GP, 1989
Three weeks after Ayrton Senna's dominant victory at the Spanish GP, the Brazilian needed to win again in Japan to keep the World Championship open. Senna duly took pole position from the World Championship leader Alain Prost with the Ferraris of Gerhard Berger and Nigel Mansell sharing the second row. Then came Riccardo Patrese (Williams), Sandro Nannini (Benetton), Thierry Boutsen (Williams), Philippe Alliot (Larrousse Lola Lamborghini), Stefano Modena (Brabham) and Nicola Larini in an Osella. At the start Prost made a good start and took the lead and for the first half of the race he chipped away to build up a lead of five seconds. Then Senna began to come back at him and by lap 40 they were only a second apart. Prost had the advantage on the straights, Senna was better in the corners.
At the end of lap 46 Senna made his move at the chicane. Prost saw him coming and turned into his teammate's path. The two interlocked McLarens slid up the chicane escape road. Prost, thinking the World Championship was over, climbed out.
To separate the cars the marshals pushed Senna backwards on to the track. They put the car into a dangerous position and so had to push it forwards again. As they did so Senna bump-started the engine. He drove through the chicane and rejoined. The nose of his car was damaged and he had to pit but he rejoined only five seconds behind Nannini. Senna's chase was furious and merciless. On lap 50 Ayrton sliced past Nannini at the chicane to take the lead and won the race.
But it was Nannini who appeared on the podium. Senna had been excluded for missing the chicane. McLaren appealed the decision but the FIA Court of Appeal not only upheld the decision but fined Senna $100,000 and gave him a suspended six month ban.
In the record books the win still belongs to Nannini but anyone who was there will remember it as one of Senna's greatest days. A day when, in equal machinery, the titans of the 1980s went up against each other - and Senna won the battle.