Friday, November 29, 2013

Josef Leberer was Ayrton Senna's most trusted friend in Formula 1

Josef Leberer, Austrian, fitness trainer, masseur, nutritionist and most trusted friend of Ayrton Senna in Formula 1, worked with him between 1988 and 1993, the years during which Senna drove for McLaren.

Physiotherapist Josef Leberer working on Ayrton Senna's hands
At the beginning, joining McLaren in 1988 was not easy for Senna. Alain Prost was king of the hill, having won the World Championship twice already. But Senna had a nice surprise when he arrived. He immediately found a person he was to bond with and who would remain a lifelong friend: physio Josef Leberer. The main impact on his life would come from Josef Leberer, an Austrian expert in sports medicine and a top physiotherapist. Senna had never really had contact with a top physiotherapist and nutritionist. All his training was done by Nuno Cobra in Brazil, who he had worked with since starting in Formula One.

Josef Leberer joking with Ayrton Senna, Gerhard Berger and engineer Giorgio Ascanelli
Leberer was a protégé of another Austrian,Willy Dungl, who founded the world-famous Dungl Clinic in Gars-am-Kamp in Austria. Dungl was famous in Formula One circles for his work with Niki Lauda in the 1970s. 

Ron Dennis had hired Leberer for the start of the 1988 season to ensure that Senna and Prost were in tip-top condition. Not just keeping them physically fit, but mentally strong as well. Leberer worked well with both Senna and Prost, but quickly drew close to the Brazilian, as did most of the team. He looked after him mentally and physically and stayed close. He quickly devised a new training programme and diet for Senna, and personally cooked as many of his meals as he could, also briefing the housekeepers in his houses in Brazil and Monte Carlo. (Source: The life of Senna - Tom Rubython)

Leberer would accompany Senna through his racing career until the very end, since the night before Imola 1994, where Senna lost his life in the accident at the Tamburello turn, Josef Leberer was also present, because Senna wanted to celebrate his most trusted confidant's birthday.

On that Saturday evening at Imola, Senna had dinner with Josef Leberer and a few close friends to celebrate his most trusted confidant's birthday.
(Source: "Senna vs Prost" - Malcolm Folley)

Josef Leberer is one of the most experienced people in Formula 1 and Mark Sutton, from Sutton Images, brother of the famous Keith Sutton, who associated to Senna in the early to take car of his Public Relations area, said this about Leberer:

Josef has been around in the sport for a very long time and as you can see in the older pictures has worked with some of the greats, such as Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. He’s spent over 25 years looking after drivers and there are not many people who have been around that long, let alone a trainer. He’s such an nice guy and knows everyone in the paddock – he must have lots of stories to tell and I’m surprised he’s not written a book!
                                                                                                                     Mark Sutton

"Sauber trainer Josef Leberer working on Esteban Gutierrez’s neck ahead of a session and I took the photo because it’s quite rare to see this happening in the garage" - Mark Sutton © Sutton Images
Leberer's role these days is to ensure Sauber's drivers Esteban Gutierrez and Niko Hulkenberg, are in the best physical and mental condition they can be. This was a job he once performed for Ayrton Senna. But Leberer's place in Senna's life went far beyond his contracted function of masseur, fitness trainer, nutritionist and cook. Over the years, Leberer became Senna's closest confidant in the paddock, perhaps in life. And one mournful day, mindful of his special place in Senna's affections, the Brazilian's family would specifically request Leberer to share Ayrton's final flight. 

'It was the longest flight of my life, and the most intense experience of my life,' said Leberer.
Leberer is still close to the Senna family nowadays.

Josef Leberer ex-physiotherapist of Ayrton Senna, chatting to Bruno Senna in presence of Bianca Senna, sister of Bruno
Blog in English about Ayrton Senna da Silva's history, biography, facts, pictures, videos, Formula 1, McLaren, Williams, Lotus, Toleman, Renault, Honda, Japan, Suzuka, Imola, San Marino, Xuxa, Adriane Galisteu, Carol Alt, Viviane Senna, Cristine Ferraciu, Liliane de Vasconcellos, Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet, Gerhard Berger, Bernie Ecclestone, F1, race, circuit, pole position, fastest lap, Michael Schumacher, Benetton, Ferrari, Mika Hakkinen, pilot, Brazil, Sao Paulo, death, accident, funeral, Morumbi, Italy, Adrian Newey, Frank Williams, Ron Dennis, Alfredo Popescu, Bruno Senna, Bianca Senna, Angra dos Reis, Quinta do Lago, Portugal, Senna Vive, Senna Lives On, Forever Ayrton, Damon Hill

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