The day Sega stole the show at a Formula 1 Grand Prix and Senna lifted a historic trophy!
SEGA, in the great days, did not do things by halves. If the Megadrive "Sega is stronger than you" ads ( read here ) had cost a fortune, it is nothing compared to the marketing campaign for the 1993 Formula 1 European Grand Prix. " They spent lavishly "as John Hammond said the same year in the film Jurassic Park.
Held at the UK Donington Park Circuit on April 11, 1993, the race can be seen as the culmination of Sega's intense marketing campaign. The Japanese firm had already paid a large sum of money to become the main sponsor of the Williams team, which won the constructor championship that same year.
Donington Park is a motorsport circuit located in England. It is also home to the Download Festival, one of the biggest metal music festivals in Europe.
Sega logos could be seen on the entire body of the Williams-Renault FW15C. On the side of the cockpit, there was even a fake "cutaway" section that showed Sonic's feet where the driver's were. Williams pilots Damon Hill and Alain Prost were contractually obligated to appear in promotional photos with Sonic while playing on Game Gear consoles. It was the ultimate proof that video games had invaded popular culture.
Sega had produced Super Monaco GP (you will see unseen photos of a competition at the end of the article) then Super Monaco GP 2, the latter with the approval of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna. He will win the XXXVIII Sega Grand Prix of Europe that weekend.
The race itself was a remarkable event, with Senna at the wheel for one of the greatest laps ever in F1 (his fastest lap 1:18:02 on lap 57 for an average speed of 185.608 km / h). Senna's McLaren Ford was significantly lower than the Williams-Renault FW15C in top speed, but he finished the race more than a minute ahead of Damon Hill. It was one of the most accomplished performances of Senna's brilliant career. The race remained famous for its uncertain weather conditions, which forced the drivers to change their tires multiple times.
During the race, the Sega logo was visible everywhere, from billboards to the backdrop of the podium, where Senna was pictured lifting a Sonic the Hedgehog trophy at the end of the race. However, the truth is a little more mundane, the Sonic Trophy was used simply for promotional purposes, and Senna received the actual racing trophy shortly thereafter.
This image of the famous Brazilian pilot holding a golden Sonic in the air has remained etched in the minds of racing fans (and gamers) around the world. After the Grand Prix, it was assumed that this trophy had been lost but, in 2018, McLaren's Twitter account dropped a bomb.
The trophy, supposedly lost forever in the twists and turns of time, was found in a dusty McLaren warehouse.
Connecting to video games would give it incredible value, but being associated with the late Ayrton Senna gives it the status of a near-sacred relic.
The Donington Park race was a showcase for Sega in terms of marketing. Speaking to EDGE magazine less than three years after the race, Jeremy Crisp, Saturn brand manager at Sega Europe, seemed impressed with the amount of money poured into the event:
"It would have cost millions of pounds"
For the anecdote, on the sides of the rear wing of the car, with each victory of the season, the Williams team put a skull (that of the MEGA CD ads) on a cross with the name of the circuit. Conversely, McLaren put on a crushed hedgehog.
We recognize the SEGA that we love and that made us dream.
Sega a few years later sponsored Premier League football club Arsenal (as well as several other teams around the world) by putting its logo and the Dreamcast console logo on the club's jersey. The European Grand Prix is surely the defining moment of the company's promotional adventures.
A complete kit for AS Saint-Étienne supporters and a children football kit for Arsenal Football Club
The official Sonic mascot
For the British F1 Grand Prix, Sega had 2 costumes made by a company specializing in mascots, based in London. The mascots would have cost 10,000 pounds (unverified information). This company still exists, you can see what it offers by clicking on the link below.
Sonic and Tails were walking around the pits and around the start line. Williams drivers posed alongside them for press photos. A good-natured atmosphere reigned in the paddocks.
The costume being almost 30 years old, its condition leaves much to be desired. The head is heavy, its weight rests on the shoulders. Travel is limited, visibility is poor. You have to be accompanied to move.
The mascot costume still exists and didn't end up being crushed by a steamroller. A survivor of the past who tells us a forgotten story !!!
English advertisement with Damon Hill where we see the same skull of the F1 fins
The Williams team helmets
The iconic helmet of the man who competed in 199 Grands Prix for 51 victories including 33 pole positions, Alain Prost, will have marked the enthusiasts of the discipline. On the top, we could make out a Sonic surrounded by Sega logos.
The Japanese firm offered official reproductions to certain privileged people. Yuji Naka, one of the creators of the blue hedgehog, was one of them.
One more item to my collection related to the XXXVIII Sega Grand Prix d'Europe !!!
The Sonic hostess costume (Soniquette)
In 2020 I was able to acquire a Sonic or Soniquette hostess costume.
Charming hostesses (they were not yet in scanty clothes) dressed in the effigy of Sonic presented the drivers on the starting grid of the English F1 GP.
They also participated in February 1994 in an event for the launch of Sonic 3 on Megadrive in Paris.
They spiced up the streets of the capital under the astonished gaze of passers-by. They even invaded the studios of "Fun Radio" to go on the air live.
A policeman had taken them for Smurfettes !!!
Scan and photo of the "Sega European Grand Prix Donington 1993" program (to download in pdf here) Coming soon !!!