The late Brazilian Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna holds near god-like status among fans of the sport. When a Senna-driven F1 car comes to auction, it’s an event. Get ready for an event.
On May 11 in Monaco, Bonhams will offer the 1993 McLaren-Ford MP4/8A that Senna drove to victory in that year’s Monaco Grand Prix. Mark Osborne, global head of motorsport for Bonhams, is cagey about giving the presale estimate as a precise number, saying only that “we expect the car to achieve a considerable seven-figure sum.” London newspaper the Telegraph, however, has reported that it could sell for roughly $6.1 million.
Although it is not the first Senna-driven race car to come to auction, it will be the first of his from McLaren to do so. Senna won the F1 world championship three times, always with McLaren. Less than a year after his Monaco victory, he died in an accident during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. He was just 34 years old.
Adding to the race car’s already strong appeal is a sweet coincidence. Senna won his sixth Monaco Grand Prix with this car, and its chassis bears the number six. “Any Grand Prix-winning car is important, but to have the golden combination of both Senna and Monaco is a seriously rare privilege indeed,” says Osborne. “Senna and Monaco are historically intertwined, and this car represents the culmination of his achievements at the Monegasque track. This is one of the most significant Grand Prix cars ever to appear at auction, and is certainly the most significant Grand Prix car to be offered since the Fangio Mercedes-Benz W196R, which sold for a world record at auction.”
Osborne is convinced that the machine will make history once again. “This car will set the world record for a Senna car at auction,” he says. “We are as certain as you can be in the auction world.” The McLaren-Ford remains in fully working order. “In theory, the buyer could be racing immediately upon receipt of the cleared funds after the auction,” he says. “All systems are primed and ready.”
Senna’s race car will be on view during the Bonhams auction at the Grand Palais in Paris, from February 6 through February 8.