Ayrton Senna memorabilia smashes auction records
Three-time Formula One Champion Ayrton Senna continued to smash records 25 years after his death at Retromobile last weekend, setting new auction price records for a Formula One helmet (US$184,340 | €162,000) and race suit ($110,372 | €97,500).
The Senna-worn Rheos Helmet used during 1990 (which was a championship year for both Senna's McLaren team and himself as driver), went to sale with the team radio still installed at an official estimate of €80,000 to €120,000. When the hammer fell, it became the most expensive Formula One helmet ever sold at auction.
The most valuable battle-worn motorsport helmets ever sold prior to this were that of four-time world champ Sebastian Vettel (£72,100 | $118,238) and another Senna helmet (£74,750 | $116,980). An AGV helmet signed by 12 world motorcycle champs sold for €255,000 ($313,813) in 2014, though it was never used on track.
The most valuable modern helmet ever sold was not a motorsport helmet as might be expected, but a Snowtrooper helmet used in the feature movie Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, which sold for $276,750 at a Profiles in History auction in 2012.
Last year alone, several Star Wars helmets sold for much more than this, with Profiles in History selling a Tie Fighter Helmet from the original Star Wars movie for $240,000, Propstore selling a Tie Fighter Helmet from Star Wars: A New Hope for £180,000 ($238,258) and a Stormtrooper helmet from Star Wars: The Last Jedi sold for $179,090 (£135,300).
After setting a new high for a Formula One helmet on Wednesday, a 1984 Toleman F1 Ayrton Senna F1 Race Suit from his first year at the highest level also set a new auction record when it sold for €97,500 ($110,372) on Sunday.
Ayrton Senna memorabilia has long been the most expensive of any F1 driver at auction, and this was perfectly illustrated in Paris when this suit eclipsed his own record set in 2014 when a 1991 Ayrton Senna F1 Race Suit sold for $76,480 (€55,575) in Monaco.
The world record for a race suit isn't expected to be broken any time soon, as it is held by a suit worn by Steve McQueen during the filming of Le Mans in 1971, fetching $984,000 at a Profiles in History auction in 2011.
Despite the global popularity of Formula One, screen-worn movie memorabilia attracts a premium at auction that simply cannot be matched by real life events.
Retromobile this year saw a large collection of Formula One memorabilia sold, with more than 50 helmets and 20 race suits on offer and beyond the spectacular price paid for Senna memorabilia, the highest priced object was a 2005 Michael Schumacher Ferrari Formula 1 helmet which fetched €63,000 ($71,688).
This was the most expensive of 13 different helmets worn by Michael Schumacher that went to auction during the Retromobile round of auctions. Schumacher is the winningest driver in Formula One history and his memorabilia regularly achieves high prices, though the unpredictability of prices for his memorabilia is at least partially due to the large number of helmets, race suits and steering wheels that are generated during a modern Formula One Season.
Apart from this helmet, several other Michael Schumacher helmets sold for high prices during the weekend, with the next highest priced being a Ferrari helmet from the 2000 season at €52,000, a Ferrari helmet from the 2004 season at €41,600, a Ferrari helmet from the 2000 season at €28,600, a Ferrari helmet from the 2005 season at €28,600, a Schuberth Mercedes GP Petronas F1 helmet from the 2011 season at €28,600, a Ferrari helmet from the 2004 season at €27,300, a Ferrari helmet from the 2005 season at €27,300, and a Bell Benetton helmet from the 1995 season at €26,000.
The highest prices fetched by other Formula One helmets during the auctions were the 1990 Ferrari helmet of Alain Prost at €54,600 and the 2012 Vodafone McLaren Mercedes helmet of Lewis Hamilton at €54,600.