A steering wheel used by one of the greatest Formula One racing drivers of all time – Ayrton Senna – is coming up for auction in November.
The wheel was given as a gift to Midlands man Robert (Bob) Preece who worked in F1 for more than 20 years from the mid-80s onwards.
The Lotus wheel, presented on a wooden plaque, bears the inscription, ‘Presented to Bob Preece for his help and co-operation in helping his friends at Team Lotus – Senna Imola 87’.
The 1987 San Marino F1 Grand Prix was held on May 3 at the Autodromo Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy. The race was won by British driver Nigel Mansell in a Williams FW11B. Mansell finished 27 seconds ahead of Brazilian Ayrton Senna driving a Lotus 99T.
The steering wheel, which is being sold together with photos autographed by Mansell and Senna, will go under the hammer in Hansons Auctioneers’ Iconic 20th Century Design sale on November 6 with a guide price of £3,000-£5,000.
Bob, 68, from Cannock, Staffordshire, was a familiar face on the F1 circuit. Known as Pop Preece, he worked as a truck driver for Goodyear and Renault.
He said: “Formula One was my life for around 25 years until I retired. I transported F1 racing cars to events all over the world. We all worked as team. We travelled, slept and ate together for months at a time. The job was everything to me. It was a labour of love. He didn’t get any time off in the racing season.
“After my duties were finished with Goodyear, another team mate and I sometimes volunteered to help out the Lotus team. It was something we did on a regular basis for nothing – and I was richly rewarded. One day, the Lotus team presented me with the mounted Senna steering wheel to say thank you.
'Pop' Preece with Nigel Mansell.
“A photo signed by Ayrton Senna, which is being sold with the steering wheel, is made out to my son, Adam. Ayrton was a really nice, friendly person.”
Rik Alexander, who is managing the sale for Hansons, said: “This is a truly iconic item. Senna is regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time, some say the greatest ever. He won the Formula One World Drivers' Championship in 1988, 1990 and 1991.
“Sadly, he died young, killed by the sport he loved at the age of 34 in 1994. He lost his life in a racing accident while leading the San Marino Grand Prix at the Imola track - poignantly, the venue where Bob received his gift a few years earlier.”
Senna has often been voted the best and most influential F1 driver of all time in various motorsport polls. From 1989 to 2006 he held the record for most pole positions. He was also acclaimed for his wet weather performances. He is the fifth-most successful driver of all time in terms of race wins.
Rik said: “Bob has many great memories of his days spent trackside but feels the time is right to part with his steering wheel memento. We hope it goes to someone who is truly passionate about Formula One, a Senna fan who understands and respects the risks, skill and dedication displayed by top drivers in a competition that entertains the world.”
The Ayrton Senna steering wheel will be sold on November 6 in Hansons’ Iconic 20th Century Design sale. Lots will also include a Renault shirt worn by Bob Preece. To find out more, email [email protected]. Catalogue and bidding: www.hansonslive.co.uk.