Alain Prost

February 9, 2009 by  
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Alain Prost was born near Saint Chamond in the Loire region of central France on February 24, 1955. Although Alain was a physically small boy he had unlimited energy and would give his everything as he took part in many sporting activities including football where he broke his nose several times. At the age of 14 years he discovered kart racing on a family holiday and from then on he became obsessed with it, winning several karting championships. In 1974 he left school to take up racing full time and supported himself by becoming a kart distributor and tuning engines.

In 1975 he won the French senior karting championships and as a prize was given a season in Formula Renault where he won two driving titles and moved to Formula Three. During 1978 and 1979 he won both the European and French F3 championships, which made him wanted property by several Formula One teams. With much consideration he chose to sign up with McLaren for the 1980 season. His first Formula One season was inundated with accidents, breaking his wrist in one and suffering from concussion in another. One of the points of concern was that these accidents were caused mainly from mechanical failures and the other was Alain’s increasing loss of confidence in how the McLaren team was being run. With that he broke his two-year contract and moved over to Renault.

His first Formula One win came at the 1981 French Grand Prix at Dijon and from there on he kept up his winning streak with nine wins during his time with Renault. However, a change was inevitable, so Alain Prost and his wife Anne-Marie and their son Nicolas moved to Switzerland where Prost again joined the British-based team, McLaren in 1984. His six seasons with McLaren saw him win thirty races, three driving titles and runner-up twice. During 1985 and 1986 he became the first back-to-back French World Champion since Jack Brabham ten years ago. In 1987 he beat Jackie Stewart‘s 14-year-old record when he won his 28th Grand Prix.

In 1988 between Prost and Ayrton Senna they contributed a total of 15 victories to McLaren-Honda. From then on there was intense rivalry between the two, which drove the sport’s greatest drivers to heights of success and controversy unheard of before. McLaren continued to dominate throughout 1989 but with the Prost-Senna feud reaching the stage of out-right hatred, Prost decided to leave McLaren and join Ferrari. Prost won five races in his first year with Ferrari but lost the season end championship in Japan to fellow rival, Senna.

In 1991 Alain Prost failed to win a race and due to his public criticism of the team he was fired. The year 1992 saw him as a TV commentator but Prost returned to racing in 1993 and joined William-Renault where he won several races bringing his tally up to 51 wins. When faced with having Senna as his Williams team mate Prost decided to retire and instead become a TV commentator as well as working as an advisor and test driver for McLaren.

From 1997 to 2002, Alain Prost created and ran Prost Grand Prix. Since then he has regularly taken part in the Andros Ice Race series, as well as several bicycle races.

New Book Sheds Light on Tommy Byrne

September 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

When you mention the name ‘Tommy Byrne‘ to the average Formula One enthusiast, they won’t even know who you’re talking about. But the fact is that Tommy Byrne was arguably the best Formula One driver of all time. The only difference between him and other greats such as Jim Clark, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher is that he didn’t get his chance to shine.

Tommy Byrne is a short Irishman who once showed promise of absolutely crushing every racing driver there ever was. He may no longer be racing Formula One, but he’s still alive and well and living in the United States where he works as a driver coach. His recent autobiography is appropriately entitled “Crashed and Byrned – The Greatest Racing Driver You Never Saw”. The book was written by Byrne himself in conjunction with Mark Hughes and has that never-put-it-down quality that is rare in autobiographies. In his book, Byrne discusses his jaded past, his back luck and his poor judgment. As a youngster in Ireland, Byrne was raised in a troubled household at a time when sectarian violence regularly affected him. Before long he dropped out of school and ended up becoming a thief, drunk and womanizer. Perhaps it was this troubled past that later prevented him from reaching the glory that he was clearly capable of. The book goes on to tell how eventually Byrne managed to quit drinking and stealing and make his way to England to seek his fortune as a racing driver.

On the track, Byrne was the driver every other driver hated but respected. He was feared – the guy that other promising drivers like Senna avoided competing against as much as possible. He simply blew away the competition. Unfortunately his past continued to plague him since it meant he continued to have contempt for any form of authority. He also tended to look gift horses in the mouth and so missed out on many great opportunities. In the end his F1 career was limited to only a handful of races which he performed as part of the badly-funded Theodore team. He also did a test outing for McLaren that is now legendary. The book packs one heck of a riotous punch and is filled with women, billionaires, guns, fights and wild parties. It is a definite must-read for F1 fans.