The day a motorsports legend became an unwitting Sonic the Hedgehog icon

In the pouring rain on April 11, 1993, Brazilian Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna raced into history with one of the greatest performances of his career. In treacherous conditions, he held off a spirited challenge from arch-rival Alain Prost to take a famous victory, one of the last he would savour before his tragic death a year later.

So it's typical of the internet, then, that the race is remembered more these days for the trophy Senna was presented with than for the victory itself.


The image you see here may be familiar, as it pops up and does the rounds of both gaming and even sporting sites every 6-12 months before settling in and awaiting its next time around. It looks absurd. One of the greatest sporting heroes of the 20th century being presented with an enormous, tearful Sonic the Hedgehog trophy? Please.

The thing is, it's real. Sega, in a taste of the PR disasters that were to come with its British football sponsorships later in the decade, thought it'd be a good idea in 1993 to sponsor the entire weekend's racing at English circuit Donnington, to the point where the race was known officially that year as the XXXVIII Sega European Grand Prix.

It meant Sega got not only naming rights but also prominent sponsorship placement throughout the race at places like the starting grid and the podium. It also meant the winner of the race would receive that glorious Sonic statue, which has entered myth as the actual trophy Senna earned for his victory.


Which if true would be amazing. The enormous Sega logo, the stoic pose adopted by its then-triumphant platforming hero, the raising of a hand to a teary face even hinting at some humility beneath Sonic's usual brashness, it would make for one the greatest sporting trophies of all time, if only because it had absolutely nothing to do with the event itself other than sponsorship rights.

Sadly, that's not the case. As you can see in the video here to the left, after he hoists the Sonic trophy for a photo op, it's quickly dropped and he's given the real cup, the Sonic one no doubt binned or thrown in a closet somewhere at Sega's UK offices.


Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

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