His rise was meteoric and his fall spectacular - hold on tight because the story of Irish racing driver Tommy Byrne is quite a ride. And it’s all true, from fending for himself as the runt of a big Catholic litter in the 1960s, to running the gauntlet of sectarian violence during the ‘70s, briefly making it to Formula One in the ‘80s, resorting to drugs when the dream turned sour and, in the 1990s, driving for a deluded billionaire madman and then gun-toting Mexicans.
It’s the surreal tale of a poverty-stricken Dundalk kid’s unlikely rise to Formula One, and how it all went wrong from there. In a little over four years, Byrne went from driving a Mini in stockcar events to the rarefied air of Grand Prix racing, winning the British Formula Ford and Formula Three Championships along the way.
He took part in an infamous Silverstone test for McLaren, and was marked out as a future superstar. Former team boss Eddie Jordan has said: “Forget Schuey and Senna. Tommy Byrne was the best of them all.”
Based on talent alone, he should have become a household name. As it is, he remains, as the book put it, ‘The greatest racing driver you never saw’.
Originally published in 2008, Crashed & Byrned won the William Hill Irish Award for best sports book of the year, and quickly sold out. Firmly established as a cult classic, copies of the £20 ($25.97 USD) paperback from that first print run were changing hands with online retailers for between £100 and £250.
It’s now available as a completely revised edition in which Tommy brings the story up to date, describing his involvement – along with co-author Mark Hughes – in the recent highly acclaimed television documentary that was based upon his original book. He also details the effect that its publication had on his family, while an extensive range of photographs has been added.
This is the thrilling, warts-and-all autobiography of a flawed genius, a man who could have been to motor racing what George Best was to football. Peppered with dark humour and featuring a cast of amazing characters, it is the antithesis of a fairy tale. It’s raw, passionate and – with Byrne’s ability to tell it like it is – not for the fainthearted.