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.