The hard-trying Toleman team had finally come good at the end of 1983 – after having been fast but unreliable at the start of the season, the stars all aligned in time for long-standing driver Derek Warwick to finally score his and the team’s first points at Zandvoort, and come home three more times in the points before the end of the year, with the otherwise disappointing Bruno Giacomelli also adding a point. Warwick’s heroics had caught the eye, though, and he had clearly outgrown the little team. With Warwick on his way to Renault and Giacomelli released, the team had a new lineup for 1984: Johnny Cecotto, a well-heeled refugee from the demise of Theodore, and Ayrton Senna, 1983 British F3 champion. The team would continue with the odd-looking TG183B at the start of the season until the new TG184 was ready.
The young Brazilian had begun his driving career early, driving a jeep around his family’s farm at seven, and by 13 he was driving a go-kart built by his father in competitions at the nearby Interlagos circuit. He won the South American kart championships in 1977, moving to Britain in 1981 to drive in Formula Ford 1600. In 1981 he won two championships, but had decided to return to Brazil and go into the family business before being tempted into Formula Ford 2000 by means of a £10,000 cheque. He repaid the money by taking the championship in 1982 under his mother’s maiden name, Senna (as “da Silva” was such a common name in Brazil) and moved into Formula Three with West Surrey racing. He took the British F3 title in his debut season after a season-long battle with Martin Brundle of Eddie Jordan Racing and was already hot property by the end of the year, having had tests with teams including Williams, Brabham and Lotus – but only two teams were willing to give him a full time race seat: Lotus – where his appointment was blocked by sponsor JPS – and Toleman.
Although Cecotto had only managed one point during 1983, this was more to do with the problems surrounding the Theodore team than his talent. In fact, early in the year when Theodore were looking like a decent proposition, Cecotto rose to the challenge, taking a point on only his second start at Long Beach. While he and Roberto Guerrero were both pay-drivers (and Cecotto’s role at Toleman would largely be to pay Senna’s salary), both were decent drivers and Cecotto showed some flashes of talent when the car let him, which was seldom.