• May 1 down the years

Senna crash stuns motor world

The remains of Ayrton Senna's car © Getty Images

The death of Ayrton Senna. The previous day, another Formula 1 driver, Austria's Roland Ratzenberger, had been killed during practice for the San Marino Grand Prix. Today, in the race itself, Michael Schumacher, trailing pole-sitter Senna, noticed the Brazilian's consistently 'unstable and skittish' entry into the fast-paced Tamburello corner. At the same bend on the seventh lap, Senna crashed into a concrete wall at 165 mph. He'd been worried about something like this happening. That season, a number of driver aids had been banned, including traction control systems, anti-lock brakes and active suspension controlled by computers. Senna himself warned, 'It was a great error to remove the electronics in the cars. The cars are very fast and difficult to drive.' His crash was the fourth of the weekend. Rubens Barrichello went off during practice, and several spectators were hurt when two cars collided at the start of the race itself. Michael Schumacher won the race and would go on to seal his first Drivers' World Championship crown following a controversial coming together with Damon Hill in the season-ending Australian Grand Prix. The German claimed his record seventh title 12 years later. He was given a state funeral in his native Sao Paulo on May 5.

Mark Williams made one of his trademark comebacks to win the World Snooker title for the first time. In the semi-final, he had come from 15-11 down to beat John Higgins 17-15. In the final, he was 13-7 down to fellow Welshman Matthew Stevens halfway through the afternoon session. Williams had lost the previous years' final to Stephen Hendry on May 3, but Hendry lost in the first round here on April 15 and his reign was over. Williams was now world No. 1, and he won seven frames out of eight to level at 14-14. Stevens must have been deflated, but he did not buckle. The two players matched each other but in the 33rd frame Stevens missed a red to leave Williams the chance to make a frame-winning 56, and two smaller breaks in the next frame sealed the title for a clearly exhausted Williams. One lucky punter made £42,000 from a bet that Williams would win the title by 2000. Stevens reached the final again on May 2 2005 but has never won the title.

The biggest win in any World Championship Snooker final. Steve Davis had embarrassed former winner Cliff Thorburn on May 2 1983, but this was worse. Davis quite simply humiliated future champion John Parrott. When JP won a frame for the second time, he was 5-2 down and there was hope. When he won a third, he was 11-3 down and didn't win any more. Davis took the last seven to retain the title 18-3. He never won it again. The arrival of Stephen Hendry on the professional circuit combined with improvement by a number of leading players - including Parrott - meant the 'Nugget' faded as a force. Parrott, clearly intent on re-claiming some pride, made it to the final on May 6 two years later, beating Jimmy White 18-11.

In winning the Challenge Cup for the first time in 21 years, Leeds achieved the highest score and widest winning margin in any final. It didn't look likely when London Broncos scored ten points in the first ten minutes, or when they regained the lead early in the second half. Martin Offiah scored his fifth final try by dummying Leroy Rivett and sidestepping Iestyn Harris - but those two were to set records by the end. Leeds had won their semi-final from 10-0 down and now they came back to lead 12-10 at half-time, Rivett scoring their first try. Immediately afterwards, Greg Fleming put the Broncos back in front, but the lead didn't last long. Harris converted a try by one-eyed prop Barrie McDermott, and the rest was a procession. Rivett scored three more tries, with Leeds scoring nine in total as they ran out 52-16 winners. Harris, the team captain, equalled the finals records set on May 12 1973 and May 14 1960 with his eight goals and 20 points respectively. Rivett became the only player to score four tries in a final. The Broncos' Shaun Edwards, like Offiah, a serial Cup winner with Wigan, played in a record eleventh final 15 years after his first - despite painkilling injections for a broken thumb.

Before 1999, this was the biggest winning margin in a Challenge Cup final - and would still be today if tries had been worth four points at the time. In beating St Helens 37-3 (worth 46-4 today), Huddersfield scored nine tries, a total equalled by Leeds in 1999 but never broken. Seven different players scored tries for Huddersfield, including their famous captain Harold Wagstaff and former Wales rugby union international forward Ben Gronow, who also kicked five goals.

Sugar Ray Robinson regained the world middleweight title for the fourth time. Having allowed himself to be roughed up by Gene Fullmer on January 2, he kept the fight at long range this time. Two days short of his 36th birthday, he was still quick enough and his punch as fierce as ever. Fullmer kept coming forward, only to walk into a ferocious left hook in the fifth round. His legs frogged about on the canvas and he couldn't beat the count. Robinson regained the title again on May 25 1958.

Floyd Patterson beat a number of inadequate challengers for his world heavyweight title, including Britain's Brian London in Indianapolis tonight. London had just lost his British and Commonwealth titles to Henry Cooper, but he took the fight when Henry turned it down. London kept his guard artificially high to counter Patterson's leaping left hand, but this just exposed his ribs to the champions' body punches. He made Patterson miss a number of times, and his courage wasn't in doubt, but he was never a threat. In fact he looked happy to get through each round, saluting Patterson as he went to his corner. Floyd smiled from time to time. In the tenth, the good humour stopped. London went down for the first time in his career, then stayed down in the next round when a left hook caught him high on the head. He later became only the second British boxer to fight for the title against two world champions, but Muhammad Ali had even less trouble with him in 1966.

A year after winning the Tour de France at the age of 34, Henri Pélissier was killed with the same gun his wife had used to commit suicide. His lover ran upstairs to find it after he slashed her face with a knife. Only the winner of the previous year's event was older (May 14 1886). In 1924, Pélissier and his brothers Charles and Francis dropped out of the Tour, then gave an interview in which they claimed they'd used aspirin, chloroform, cocaine, strychnine, and other drugs. 'We run on dynamite.' So it didn't start in the Sixties. Henri's lover pleaded self-defence and was given a one-year suspended sentence.

When Argentina play Paraguay at rugby, records are often broken. On this day the ever-improving Pumas beat the eternal whipping boys 152-0. They scored 24 tries, 13 in the second half, and José Cilley converted 16 of them. Five players scored at least three tries each, equalling the world record. Pedro Sporleder scored four, equalling the world record for a forward, and Hernán Senillosa crossed three times after coming on as a substitute to seal a record of his own. Senillosa also scored another three against Chile three days later. Argentina beat Paraguay by a mere 144-0 on April 27 the following year.

At the Intercalated Olympic Games, Ireland's Con Leahy won the high jump. His 1.775 metres, a relatively poor 5 ft 10, was the lowest winning height in the history of the Games. 5 ft 8 was enough for third place. Lajos Gönczy of Hungary was second. Back in 1900, he'd finished third, one place behind Leahy's brother Pat.

On the same day at these Athens Olympics, Bob Leavitt of the USA won the 110 metres hurdles in a virtual dead heat with Britain's Harold Healey; Canada's Billy Sherring won the Marathon despite walking some of the way; another American, the surprise of the Games, Paul Pilgrim, won the 800 metres after winning the 400; and Verner Järvinen of Finland won the Greek style discus. In 1932, one of Järvinen's sons won his second successive Olympic silver in the decathlon on August 6, while another won the javelin on August 4.

The only time rackets was included in the Olympics. The Games were held in London and the only competitors were British. Evan Noel won the singles event when Henry Leaf withdrew injured. Curiously, John Astor finished third despite losing his only match. He helped Vane Pennell win the doubles. Astor, who was born in New York, later lost his leg in the First World War.

Before today, most swimming world records were set in pools shorter than 50 metres. A new law put a stop to that. On the first day it came into operation, two world bests were set in the same event in different countries. In China, Chi Liehyung broke the 100 metres breaststroke record set earlier in the day by Vítězslav Svozil in Czechoslovakia.

Stirling Moss and co-driver Dennis Jenkinson became the first British winners of the Mille Miglia, Italy's famous long-distance race (the name means Thousand Miles). Driving a Mercedes, they set a new record of 10 hours 7 minutes 48 seconds, at an average speed of 97.95 mph. The great five-time Formula 1 World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio finished second in another Mercedes.