In various motorsport polls Ayrton Senna (1960-1994) is still today voted as the greatest of all times Formula One driver . He streaked through the Formula 1 sport like a comet, becoming a superstar whose brilliance as a driver was matched by a dazzling intellect and exceptional charisma.
As a driver, no one tried harder or pushed himself further. Intensely introspective and passionate in the extreme, Ayrton Senna endlessly sought to extend his limits, to go faster than himself, a quest that ultimately made him a martyr (he remains the last driver fatality in Formula One) but did not diminish his mystique.
Not only in his native Brazil where he is idolized by all the country but also for so many around the world he was actually a greater man out of the car than in it.
It was the dream of brothers, best friends and partners Jarrod and Justin Del Prado at DP Custom Cycles to build a Senna tribute motorcycle. As a matter of fact they built 2! They explained to me: “Six months ago, we originally built a bike called “Defensor” inspired by Ayrton Senna, our F1 hero. A lot of folks in the motorsports community noticed it, including Factory Volvo driver Alex Figge. He is a huge Senna fan as well, so he contacted us and asked if we could re-create another version of the bike that was faster and a bit more modern, the original being based on an Ironhead. We normally won’t build a bike that looks similar to anything else we’ve done, but Alex was a cool and passionate guy, so we said “it’s on.” The goal was to build a bike with a similar polarizing livery of Senna’s helmet, but with many changes as well…”
First, I have to explain to some of you that Senna’s helmet is almost as iconic as he was as driver during his career. Ayrton experimented with several designs to satisfy him such as a white, yellow and green helmet before settling on a design that included a yellow background with a green stripe that surrounded the upper visor and a light metallic blue stripe surrounding the lower visor with the design having been created by Sid Mosca who also painted helmets for Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet. According to Mosca, the blue and green stripes symbolized movement and aggression. The helmet colors never had significant changes, apart from sponsorship, and of course the Del Prado brothers used this design as the main visual theme of their Senna project.
The Del Prado started with a low miles 2001 1200cc Evo Harley and went to work on it. They ditched everything except the motor and the front section of the frame. Early in the build, for a meaner look, they decided on blacking out the motor and also the sprocket in contrast to the polish work on the original one. For a racer stance, they crossed drilled the Brembo brake rotors and fitted their bike with an 18″ rear wheel to compliment the 19″ in the front. They wrapped them in Pirelli tires, since their client Alex Figge is driving in the GT class of the Pirelli World Challenge. Front end was lowered and stiffened and to improve front view, a small fairing was fabricated and installed. On the performance side, they used a Crane Single Fire Coil/Ignition and opened up the breathing with a Big Sucker intake. Justin created one of his signature exhausts, this time with a performance enhancing x-pipe. The brothers tell me that throttle response is instant, that power curve is smooth and that the bike sound is really tight.
One of the unique things about DP Customs is that they do in-house their own paint and bodywork. On this Senna tribute bike they slightly modified the colors from Senna’s helmet by using a brighter green and black (rather than ultra-dark blue) in the stripes. The reason is that they used a matte finish clear, this way ensuring that the end result would really pop in the sun. Including the primer and clear coats, they ended up shooting the gas tank in 10 different stages… DP Custom Cycles (photography copyright Jed Strahm Photography for Cyril Huze)