THE stories of the pranks that Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger executed on each other are the stuff of legend, but their McLaren Formula 1 team mechanics weren’t shy about getting involved – as shared by Adrian Burgess on the latest edition of the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Repco.
Burgess, now Supercars’ Head of Motorsport, joined McLaren as part of its test team in 1991, a hectic role in the 1990s when F1 placed no restrictions on testing.
“I came in as a Number 2 mechanic on the test team,” Burgess told the V8 Sleuth Podcast.
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“We were actually bigger than our race team! We had the ability to run four test cars in two different locations around the world on the same day.
“I’d go to Italy and do a test at Imola for three or four days, you’d come back home and a day later you’d get on a plane and go to Japan for a three-week stint.
“I was a single guy, 21-22 years old … I thought I’d gone to heaven! It was just awesome, it was mega.”
The role meant working with a suite of drivers, including future sports car heroes Allan McNish and Emanuele Pirro, as well as its race drivers.
One such time included a trip to the Pembrey circuit in Wales, where Burgess and the test team were joined by Ayrton Senna.
It had been a while since Brazilian’s most recent trip to the clockwise circuit – a fact the crew took full advantage of.
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“Pembrey’s a very small circuit; I don’t think there was even a garage structure, there was just a scrutineering shed which you could get your two cars in and your equipment, so we used to operate out of there,” Burgess recalls.
“You drove out of there onto the track … you basically drove through a gate; it wasn’t like a pit exit, so it wasn’t obvious.
“So (instead of turning right) we told him to go left…”
It didn’t take Senna long to realise something was amiss.
“He does two or three laps and comes back into this big apron, does a donut, turns it around and goes ‘you funny f***ers’, and gets back on the circuit and does three laps the right way!” Burgess laughs.
“When you had him in environments like that, away from the media and events, he was a really fun bloke.
“I’m so lucky to have had that time with him and understand that side of him.”
It’s just one of a host of incredible stories Burgess shares in Part 1 of the episode, which focuses on his years in F1 prior to his move to Australia in 2006 to join Dick Johnson Racing in V8 Supercars.