Top Gear Festival Australia gave us the fantastic opportunity to do a brief interview with racing driver Bruno Senna, the nephew of the legend Ayrton. Bruno is widely regarded as one of the best drivers of the modern era and has raced in many different series including Formula 1. We jumped on the phone at 7:30am, dialing in straight from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Here is the transcript:

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M: Hi Bruno, tell us about what you’re planning to do at Top Gear.
B: First of all, it’s a massive pleasure for me to go to Australia, I’ve been there a few times and loved every single time. Any opportunity I get to go far from Brazil, I take it. And this time is very special, heading to Top Gear and celebrating 20 years since [Ayrton] died.

We’re going to see his 1988 car and everybody’s going to be able to go and check it out, it’s a really special car. I had the pleasure of driving it; unfortunately this time I won’t be able to drive it, but I’m really looking forward to going there and seeing it.

Indy Lyall (Ayrton’s Chief Mechanic) will be there as well so can ask a few stories about Ayrton.. I know he knows plenty of bad ones, so it will be fun for everybody. Be good to be there with Jeremy and James May and also the Stig, every time I’ve watched Top Gear they make me laugh, it’s a great great show.

And we’ll be doing some track activities, which is what we’re really looking forward to, getting together with the fans as well and get personal with them and answer some questions about Ayrton.

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M: Racing seems to run in your family; how long have you been racing competitively?
B: My first proper race was 2004 in Formula BMW UK, since then I’ve done 3 years of British Formula 3, 2 years of GP2, 1 year of Le Mans and almost 3 years of Formula 1. Last year I did World Endurance Championship. So I’ve done lots of racing, mostly single seater, but since F1 I’ve done a year of endurance racing. This year I have a couple of races with Aston Martin again including 24 hours of Le Mans, so looking forward to that. I’ve been very successful in many ways, just getting to F1 and racing for Williams and Lotus was a pretty awesome achievement.

M: I can only imagine something as mindblowing as racing in F1. So why did you choose to leave it?
B: The conditions were difficult. The one thing that always motivated to race is to be competitive and win races and I realised that in F1 unless you have the perfect conditions you can’t do that. Very few drivers get the chance to go to good teams and I never got the proper shot at being competitive. Losing 6 months while I was at Lotus and losing practice time was really difficult to catch up on. Staying with a small team and not under the right conditions was not something that I really looked forward to, so I decided to move on to something where I would be competitive again. I’ve won races and been on the podium in every single championship I’ve done except F1, so that shows that with the right equipment I can be competitive. That’s what I take my pleasure from.

M: It’d be more exciting to be on the podium and win in different classes than struggle with a smaller team in F1. Are you planning to stay in endurance racing and with Aston Martin in particular?
B: Endurance racing is something that I’m very fond of, the races are great, the qualifying super close, but there are lots of things on the horizon. Something new and upcoming is Formula E. I’m looking very seriously into that, so hopefully I can make a good variety of racing through my career.

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M: So it looks like Formula E might be the way of the future?
B: It’s what the car industry seems to be going to. It’s definitely not easy to start a new championship, especially with the new technologies like in Formula E. The best thing about is that it definitely develops new technologies for road cars. We definitely need to look after our planet and make a change so that our next generations have a better life.

M: On that note, how do you feel about the new engines in F1?
B: It’s giving teams a lot of trouble. The drivers’ feel it’s a downgrade because it’s less power. But I’m sure as with all changes, everyone will get on with it and make the most of it. The teams are having big struggles technically with this new configuration and it is an expensive technology, so it’s widening the gap between the larger and smaller teams. But F1 is all about cutting edge and they need to keep pushing. So hopefully this will be something that comes to the automotive industry very soon.

M: Do you prefer wet or dry track?
B: I like wet track, I learned a lot about it in England when I was starting my racing.

M: If there was a classic F1 car that you could drive, purely for your own pleasure, what car would it be and what track would you drive it on?
B: It would be definitely the 1988 McLaren MP4/4 at Suzuka. That would be my indulgence in terms of racing cars and tracks.

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M: Are you doing anything exciting in Sydney other than Top Gear?
B: If time allows me, I’ll head down to Manly Beach. My sister used to live there so I’ll visit old friends.

M: Manly’s a great location. Thanks very much, and we look forward to seeing you in Sydney!
B: Thank you, see you soon!


Ayrton Senna’s legendary 1988 McLaren MP4/4 will also be on display at the Top Gear Festival Sydney. Some quick facts:

  • Won 15 of 16 races for McLaren during the 1988 season
  • Ayrton Senna took pole position 13 times in this car and won 8 races
  • Principal Drivers: Ayrton Senna / Alain Prost
  • Estimated value: £5M (~$8.66m AUD)
  • Examples built: 6
  • Engine/Power: Honda 1.5 litre V6 twin-turbo, 900bhp
  • Weight: 540kg

Bruno will host a world­‐first Senna on Senna curation at Top Gear Festival Sydney as part of the 20th Anniversary Celebration of Ayrton Senna. Remembering the uncle who inspired him to take the wheel, Bruno will pay tribute to Ayrton’s memory in four free entrance sessions over the course of the weekend, providing a personal account of his uncle’s legacy, inside stories of his career and what made him one of the most legendary F1 drivers in history. Festival-­goers will unlock the secrets behind the legend in open Q&As with Bruno, and can take home their own piece of history with the opportunity for autographs.

Tickets to the Top Gear Festival Sydney are on sale now at Ticketek.

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