Sunday night, Greektown broke into a samba and Jefferson Avenue was strewn with green and yellow Brazilian flags. From the street carnival you might have thought the Lakers were playing a team from Rio, not the Detroit Pistons, in the National Basketball Association championship. No, all the hoopla was over a brilliant young Formula One driver from Sao Paulo, Ayrton Senna, who easily won his third consecutive Detroit Grand Prix.
From green light to checkered flag, the Brazilian led the annual 150-mile, 64-lap race through downtown with his McLaren teammate, Frenchman Alain Prost, finishing second, nearly 39 seconds behind. The Brazilian also made motor racing history by again qualifying first on the starting grid and thus tying the all-time record of six consecutive pole positions, jointly held by Englishman Stirling Moss and Austrian Niki Lauda.
The two McLaren drivers and their Honda turbocharged cars have won all six of this year's races - three each for Prost and Senna. Prost, who also has three second places to his credit, now leads Senna in championship points, 45 to 33.
Because of accidents and engine failures, only eight of the 26 cars entered actually finished the race. Most drivers blamed the horrible quality of the track surface, which quickly began disintegrating beneath the heat and monstrous traction of the turbocharged cars. ``The track was breaking up so badly, it was almost impossible to stay on the road,'' said Senna after accepting his victory trophy.
Drivers have traditionally criticized the Detroit street race, the only Formula One race in the United States, as the bumpiest, slipperiest, most dangerous on the prestigious 16-race circuit. Consequently, they welcomed Detroit Mayor Coleman Young's announcement that, because of real estate development pressures on downtown portions of the current course, next year's race will be run on the west end of Belle Isle, an island park three miles up the Detroit River.