1997 Jun 25 - Aug 31 : NewSfile #6
Senna Trial: The Black Hole
1997 June 25
A TV special entitled "Senna Trial: The Black Hole"
was transmitted yesterday by the Italian station Italia 1.
The program produced by Alessandro Mischi, Giorgio Teruzzi
and Luca Budel analysed the evidence presented so far in the
trial, the 13th session of which resumed today at Imola.
The TV program detailed the various phases of the investigation
Incongruities (the 14 seconds of interference) in the video
images transmitted from Senna's in-car camera and those of Berger's.
Film of a Damon Hill pit stop taken on May 1 1994 which depicted
two Williams technicians, one of whom apparently removed something
from the front of Hill's car, possibly a sensor.
Williams were later fined $10,000 for infringing regulations
which maintain that flameproof overalls should be worn in these
The infamous I don't remember testimony given by Damon
Hill at the trial session on June 2.
The existence of a super-witness, namely a French engineer,
who immediately after Senna's crash was responsible for downloading
the telemetry data contained within the Renault black box.
Presumably a Renault employee, this individual who was said
to be known to the state prosecution, has not revisited Italy
nor attended any further Grand Prix, and has not yet testified.
The S Files
Williams: Steering column was perfect
1997 June 26
The trial continued on Wednesday June 25 with testimonies
regarding the modifications made to Ayrton Senna's steering column.
Witnesses were called by the Williams' defence lawyers, the
first and most significant being Tony Pilcher, in charge of production
for the Williams team.
Pilcher was asked by Dominioni if he was involved with the
manufacture of modified parts for the steering column assembly,
Pilcher replied that he was responsible for the production.
This modification is thought by the prosecution to have
caused the accident in which Ayrton Senna died.
Professor Stortoni, the lawyer representing Adrian Newey,
then raised an objection asking whether Pilcher was under investigation,
this was overruled by the judge.
Dominioni then continued by showing two drawings of the steering
assembly to Pilcher who explained:
The original drawing was dated February 3 1994. It shows the
steering column of the FW15 to be 905mm long. This was elaborated
from the plans of Alan Young and was given to him (Pilcher) on
March 10 1994 for production.
As Senna requested a modification, the new column measurements
were to be 917.3mm and two new elements were introduced. The
assembly consisted of nine components each manufactured simultaneously
by different departments at Williams.
The assembly was produced to specified standards, and inspected
to assure conformity between drawing and product. If the part
failed inspection procedures it would either be reworked or discarded.
The same procedure also applied to the quality of the workmanship,
if satisfactory the piece and its components would be placed
in the stores.
Each item would carry a label of identification, and from
there would be withdrawn for fitment to the car by the technicians.
Williams produced three column assemblies and the modifications
were executed immediately after March 10, to be in time for the
Grand Prix of Brazil.
All the manufacture was contained at the Williams factory.
The defence strategy was to show that the steering column
modifications had not been performed in a rash or hasty manner
and that Senna's steering column was the same as Hill's. Pilcher's
testimony supported this.
Maurizio Passarini then questioned Pilcher regarding the dates
of the modifications and the materials used.
Pilcher testified that at least 2-3 days were required for
that type of modification.
The parts were machined from two types of compatible steel,
T45 and EN14.
Other Williams witnesses were Max Nightingale, responsible
for the aerodynamics and hydraulic steering. Williams first utilised
the power steering system in the 1994 season.
He (Nightingale) was asked about the tests performed after
the Senna incident with respect to the steering and suspension.
Nightingale said: Patrick Head had asked for the tests to
be performed. Our data was based on the high peaks of Senna's
telemetry, which were probably due to bumps on the track. These
are incompatible with a break otherwise they would have reset.
As a precautionary measure the power steering was disabled on
Hill's car after Senna's crash.
The testimony of Simon Wells, responsible for the hydraulic
Wells testified that he had not found any signs of stress
on the steering of Damon Hill's car, but he had not carried out
Passarini then accused Wells "of being a technician who
conducted an examination that he is unable to accomplish."
There has been no confirmation of the report contained in
the TV program "Senna Trial: The Black Hole" and broadcast
on June 24 by the Italian TV station Italia 1.
The program stated: A mysterious Mr. X (presumed to be a French
engineer) would know the truth about the crash
in which Ayrton Senna died.
Maurizio Passarini would make no comment when
asked about this news, and the Williams lawyers said they had
no knowledge of the program.
Roberto Causo, the FIA lawyer was more forthcoming saying
that the French engineer only transported the box from Imola
Dates for the next hearings have been amended as follows:
The June 30th session is cancelled, the next session will
be on July 3.
The S Files
Williams engineers testify
1997 July 4
On Thursday July 3, in the first of this weeks Senna manslaughter
trial hearings, Williams' engineers Gary Woodward and Richard
Stanford testified for the defence. They maintained that the
crash in which Ayrton Senna died was not caused by steering column
Gary Woodward who was responsible for the anterior mechanics
of Senna's car, and therefore the steering column, testified
that the column in Senna's Williams-Renault was carefully checked
before the race.
Woodward said: After each GP the cars are subjected to a crack-test,
using penetrating liquids to identify any fractures in the suspensions
or steering columns.
The steering columns are replaced halfway through the season.
The tests carried out after the Japanese GP found no defects
in Senna's car.
At that point Maurizio Passarini asked him if he was aware
of the modifications made to Senna's steering column and Woodward
replied: Steering column modifications, which complied with the
rules, were made to Senna's car. All three cars suffered the
same modifications prior to the race in Brazil.
Simon Scoins, a Williams electronics engineer responsible
for the downloading of telemetry, admitted he had taken the Williams
black box from Senna's car after the crash.
Scoins said: I was shocked when I lifted the material cover
from Senna's car. The Williams data recorder was above the gearbox,
180cm from its natural position. Three of the four connectors
were disconnected or damaged, I carried it to the garage where
I attempted to connect it. It was useless. I tried inserting
the ram card but without success. I have no knowledge of the
Renault data recorder.
Composite materials specialist Brian O'Rourke, a long-standing
member of the Williams team, testified: As the right front wheel
of Senna's car hit the wall, the violent impact caused a torsion
on the steering column, causing it to break.
On Friday July 4 Maurizio Passarini introduced the enhanced
Betacam video images.
These images were taken from Senna's in-car camera and according
to the prosecution show anomalies regarding Senna's steering
Two fixed points were shown located on Senna's steering wheel:
a yellow button and a V mark, the first with a distant radius
83mm from the center of the steering wheel, the second of 55mm.
Relative arcs showed the shift of the points indicated with
reference to two moments in the race, the period behind the safety
car and the first lap of the restarted race.
Then Passarini produced a new video regarding the evidence.
The circumference traced from the yellow button was relative
to the movements of the chassis, whereas just before the crash
the yellow button lowers to the level of the V, which is a deflection
Dominioni introduced a video brought from the factory: the
steering of Senna's car showed it had a flexibility of 15mm.
Forghieri exploded: Any pilot would have refused to drive
with steering in that condition.
The next trial session is scheduled for July 9.
The S Files
Senna could not have survived
1997 July 9
In the last Senna trial hearing prior to the summer recess
it was war in the courtroom between the prosecution and the Imola
track defence lawyers.
Witnesses were Roberto Nosetto and Professor Antonio Dal Monte,
prosecution; for the circuit Minelli, Marchionna, Saliti (general
secretary of the Csai) and Muscioni (inspector and member of
safety for the FIA).
Roberto Causo, defence lawyer for the FIA delegate Roland
Bruynseraede (present in court for the first time) attacked the
conditions with regard to the concrete run-off area and the escape
route from the track at the time of the crash.
Nosetto, who in '80 to '89 was director of Santerno (the company
responsible for the circuit) explained:
There were two rules, that of the Csai of '62 and an international
one which had evolved with time. The wall at Tamburello into
which Ayrton Senna crashed met the standard. It was constructed
of resilient cement, made to absorb any impact at an angle not
exceeding 30 degrees. Senna's impact was 22 degrees.
In 1989 when he (Nosetto) finished his administration, to
the rear of the grass border, a course layer of wide cement was
constructed measuring 9-13 metres. This area was to allow for
The prosecution then asked Nosetto about the way in which
Senna's Williams-Renault left the track: Leaving the circuit
the Williams flew, in the sense that that the front wheels rose
and fell leaving tyre tracks which could be seen. It then crossed
over the grass/cement areas, with a breaking distance of 38.5
meters which happened in 0.6 secs.
On the track the deceleration was of 4 G, on the grass/cement
of 0.8 G.
Lawyer Roberto Landi then intervened saying:
The word 'flew' is misleading. Better to say 'a slight lifting'.
Professor Dal Monte stated: The Williams lost ground adhesion.
The average gradient of the track then was +3.1%, the average
of the escape shoulder +2.1%. At Tamburello there was not a way
of escape as denoted by the regulations. There was not enough
space to reduce the speed of the car.
Nosetto said: The escape area should have had the same inclination
as the track. There could be some undulations provided that the
ideal line of track continuation was consistent, without gradients,
and with a maximum radius of 50 metres.
Then the defence lawyers for the Imola circuit produced a
CD, based on the telemetry data, full of diagrams with which
Giavotto reconstructed the real and optimal breaking times.
According to this presentation Senna hit the wall at 188km/h
against the 216km/h calculated by the experts for the prosecution.
In ideal conditions Senna would have crashed at 167km/h, against
the 140km/h estimated by the prosecution.
But in both cases the front right wheel of Senna's car would
have become detached, hitting his head at the same point, and
with enough force to kill.
The S Files