‘From the Pit Lane’ is back, but, this time, it is taking on a very different approach. After all, you ask anyone in Motorsport and they will agree; the sport we love just could not survive without the support of its legion of loyal fans.
Some attend races, others meet their heroes and many attempt desperately to convert those close to them to this fast-paced lifestyle.
Some fans in particular create a community which draws together country and language, religion and ethnicity – such is the way of the racing world, of course.
Earlier this year, I was introduced to ‘Bruno’s Girls’. Twitter-based, the girls support Bruno Senna and have been seen celebrating his success in the World Endurance Championships with Aston Martin this year.
I admit, I was initially sceptical, assuming that they were just another fan group who would leave soon after their formation. Not only have ‘Bruno’s Girls’ remained ever faithful to their beloved Brazilian driver, but their group is growing. Upon delving deeper into their lives, and speaking to the girls personally, I discovered that their love of the sport was very similar to mine.
With an average of 36, there is more to Bruno’s Girls than meets the eye.
Lynn Podevyn was one young woman gracious enough to share details of her life with me. Much to my amazement, she had been a Motorsport fan from the age of 11 having attended some races with her father at the 24 Hours of Spa not far from her home in Belgium. One thing became abundantly clear; Bruno Senna’s fan base has spread far beyond Brazil.
I asked Lynn to describe her experience watching him race in the iconic Le Mans in 2013.
“I arrived on Monday in Le Mans, so one of my missions of course was to meet Bruno and to get a picture with him. On Friday I finally met him after I was walking in the paddock with my Dad. We were standing between the buildings of Aston Martin and Audi in the paddock and suddenly I saw Jacky Ickx in the Audi building. I was really excited to see Jacky, because he’s just a national hero.
“Meanwhile, my dad heard Bruno’s teammate Fred Mackowiecki saying that he was going to get Bruno and go to the pit lane with him. So suddenly Bruno was there as well, so I was speechless for that moment. Thank God, my Dad was there to do the talking so he asked Bruno if he could take a picture with me and he answered, of course. ‘Suuure’.”
Giggling at the reminder of Bruno’s trademark phrase, I was awe-struck by Lynn’s emotions in that moment.
At the parade of the 24 hours of Spa I met him again. My dad asked again to take a picture with him, but now we could talk to him more. We talked with each other for a few minutes and it was really nice. I told him I was a Bruno’s Girl and that I was also in Le Mans and met him there too. He was really pleased to hear that”.
The two times she met Bruno, Lynn revealed she almost forgot to ask for a photograph yet another reminder of the impact that a driver or sport can have on our lives; she was momentarily speechless. Her story moved and reassured me that many others feel the love and adoration that I do. Only those in the Motorsport fraternity could understand the significance of Lynn’s seemingly basic story.
Today, Bruno Senna turns 30 (yes, 30), a landmark birthday by anybody’s standards and for Bruno’s Girls, the celebrations will be big! Through our discussions, I realised that Ayrton’s life would be celebrated as much as his nephew’s.
Some of the girls discovered Bruno first, others see the Brazilian as a form of nostalgia – a reminder of the racer they lost. This was something Sandra Ponti described with accurate detail.
Hailing from Spain, Sandra has been an Ayrton fan since the age of 13 describing him as “the best driver who ever lived”. When Bruno entered Motorsport as a fresh faced youngster, “it was like a moral duty to support him”, she explained.
Myself, I have always tried to view the two differently, practically ignoring the famous surname they share. This is difficult, it must be said. Whether Bruno likes it or not, for some, his uncle’s legacy will never be forgotten.
Sandra’s words moved me. Indeed, they reminded me of the way I often speak of my beloved Jim Clark. She fully described just what kind of impact a driver can have.
“Numbers, statistics, the records that other drivers can get, don’t matter. Ayrton’s way of driving can’t be classified or measured with numbers or described with words. It was pure talent, excitement, courage, determination, faith, effort, achievement, confidence. Magic”.
This is what Motorsport fandom is all about.
For Nikki, aptly referred to as @SennaLoveAlways on the group’s main platform, Twitter, Bruno’s emergence into Formula 1 in 2010 brought a sense of nostalgia. “Seeing him on the grid in Bahrain looking out of his visors…my heart almost stopped! It was like Ayrton was back.”
What Nikki said next brought much relief.
“I forced myself to wait and see though – Bruno deserved for me to be a fan because of HIS achievements and HIS racing in his own right and sure enough, he didn’t disappoint”.
Here, Nikki sums it up. Being a racing fan is not about seeing all drivers as a collective grid, but instead, the individual who is often hidden behind the helmet. A helmet can hide a driver’s emotions, feelings that a fan will notice and understand.
Some came late to the sport, Lucy is the eldest member of the group but their newest addition. “Next thing I know this 62 year old young gal is rooting and cheering for him, his crew and his fans”, proof the sport knows no bounds. For a new member of the Motorsport community, Bruno’s Girls has provided Lucy with a sense of “absolute dedication of core fans, as family nearly, with a total will to support, it’s solid and unlike any fan club I have ever known”.
Jolanda Koek shared these sentiments.
“I have just spent a nice weekend in Monaco with one of the other Bruno’s girls and we have become friends for life, really!”
Being a Motorsport fan is more than attending races, it something within the heart. A feeling we will all share with millions around the world. These girls feel a connection to each other similar to that of a family and they are held together by one crucial bond: their love of one racing driver in particular.
Their stories show one thing also; Bruno’s generosity to his fans is remarkable.
“He was super kind, he signed our shirts, we picked up some photos and we talked about the race. During all the weekend he looked after us a lot… he and all the team!”, recalled Spain’s Nica Soles.
“Thank you and Happy Birthday!”
I would like to thank the girls for sharing their lives with me and the wonderfully touching photos you can see throughout this interview. Those featured here are a just a few of the girls who make up this community; the support for Bruno extends far beyond this. Happy Birthday Bruno! Now, who has some cake?
Follow the girls on Twitter: @BrunosGirls