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Tony Kanaan Gets Emotional After Driving Ayrton Senna’s 1991 McLaren F1 Car

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Racer via YouTube

Former IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan was named Arrow McLaren’s Sporting Director in October, but that isn’t actually the best thing to happen to him recently. Over the weekend, during the Velocity Invitational event at Sonoma Raceway, Kanaan had the chance to drive Ayrton Senna’s championship-winning 1991 McLaren MP4/6 Formula 1 car.

Senna wasn’t only Kanaan’s racing hero, but also his friend. Kanaan also credits Senna as the savior of his career. During a 2020 interview with Racer’s Marshall Pruett, Kanaan told a story about the 1993 Formula Vauxhall Lotus race at Hockenheim. He placed on pole position, but his team’s lack of sponsors meant it was going to be his last race. Or at least it would have been, if Ayrton Senna hadn’t personally vouched for the young Brazilian driver to the owner of the team.

Racer via YouTube

“I did some cool stuff in my career, I have to say but this tops off everything I’ve done, for many reasons,” Kanaan told Racer, just moments after climbing out of Senna’s car. “I don’t think I have enough words to describe what this day meant to me.”

The specific car Kanaan drove is one of the cars Senna used to help secure his championship-winning 1991 season, which saw him take the drivers’ title and McLaren, the constructors’ title. It was also the car he used to snag podium finishes in Italy and Japan. As if all that wasn’t enough to make Kanaan emotional, he also had the unique pleasure of driving such a brilliant F1 car.

Racer via YouTube

Powered by a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V12, the 1991 McLaren’s noise will make even the most internal combustion-averse electric vehicle enthusiasts shiver. It’s a glorious, spine-tingling howl that instantly takes you back to the glory days of F1. I’m not a big “things were better in the old days” kind of guy, but that sentiment certainly rings true for F1 engines. Modern F1 cars may be far more technically advanced than the ’91 McLaren, but I’d rather watch the slower, more exciting race.

Even without the emotional backstory and Senna’s incredible racing career, just watching this video of Kanaan’s lap and hearing the McLaren’s astonishing motor are enough to thrill. Kanaan’s emotions only make it better.

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