Crashed and Byrned (Tommy Byrne with Mark Hughes, 2008)

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Or, to give it it’s full title: "Crashed and Byrned: The greatest racing driver you never saw". The blurb on the back hails Tommy Byrne as "the only racing driver the great Ayrton Senna really feared."

Even if you know Byrne’s career you might not agree with the claim, but I’d be amazed if you didn’t enjoy this book.

After the first dozen pages you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d picked up a copy of "Trainspotting" by mistake. I can’t think of any other books about motor racing that had as many references to loss of bowel control by page 20.

The narrative feels like it’s coming straight from Byrne’s mouth, which of course is as it should be. Co-writer Mark Hughes (long-time F1 scribe, Autosport contributor, and author of several other F1 books) wisely steps back for the most part and brings Byrne’s story to the printed page with little interruption.

The book is rich with amusing and entertaining stories from Byrne’s rise through the junior categories of motor racing in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He had an utterly unlikely background for a racing driver, hailing from Dundalk in Ireland, with little money by anyone’s standards, never mind those of someone who wants to race cars for a living.

Without wishing to spoil too much of the story for those who aren’t familiar with Byrne’s career, it will come as no surprise to learn that he didn’t make it to the top, although he did make a few F1 starts for Theodore. But his experiences after F1 were just as incredible as those he had while starting out in Dundalk.

After a stint racing in America for a millionaire manic depressive who was convinced he was going to become president (no, I’m not making this up), Byrne moved on to Mexico. Having developed a drug habit, he wound up racing F3 cars for a gun-crazed alcoholic who celebrated Byrne’s victories by arranging orgies??

You get the idea. It’s a remarkable, colourful, at times scarcely believable tale which unravels at a breakneck pace.

Crashed and Byrned (click to enlarge)
My only complaint is that the racing side of his escapades are pushed to one side in places, and it’s hard to get a grip on exactly what made his such a remarkable driver. The book runs to a mere 200 pages and I’d happily have read a hundred more filling the details of some of his starts and finishes.

It’s also – and this is something I’ve never thought a book was lacking before – crying out for a section in the middle with a few photographs so you can put faces to names.

If you want to find out more about Tommy Byrne, have a look at this thread in the Autosport Nostalgia Forum. And of course, you must buy this book.

RaceFans rating

Tommy Byrne with Mark Hughes
Icon Books

You can buy "Crashed and Byrned: The Greatest Racing Driver you Never Saw" via the Amazon link above or here. F1 Fanatic earns a commission on items bought via this link, but you will not be charged any extra.

More F1 books by Mark Hughes

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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6 comments on “Crashed and Byrned (Tommy Byrne with Mark Hughes, 2008)”

  1. I have the book on order. I should have it any day now.

  2. Sounds like an interesting character. You wouldn’t see Nick Heidfeld doing stuff like that, even with that “ker-ay-zee” beard of his.

  3. Wow, Mike Lawrence sure fired up on that Autosport forum that you linked.

    “I was one for the few present when when Tommy Byrne had his McLaren test. He was so full of himself that Ron Dennis said, ‘I don’t care how quick he is, I never want to see that man near one of my cars again.’

    Tommy, it was widely believed, liked to stuff the Devil’s dandruff up his nose. This issue has to come out sometime, it might as well be now. Tommy liked nasal highballs, they both helped and wrecked him.

    Byrne drove a Theodore in the 1982 Austrian GP, he qualified last. An Austrian TV interviewer asked him what he thought of Niki Lauda. You are a rookie, you need sponsorship, you are in Austria and you are asked about Lauda. Is it really sensible to say, ‘Niki who?’

    There was the time when he missed an F3 qualifying session at Donington Park while trying to rebuld his career, because he took his girlfriend back to their hotel for a shag. Why they could not have done it in the back of the transporter, like everyone else, remains a mystery.

    The fact is that Tommy was brilliantly gifted, but he was also an utter prat. He has not been the only utter prat in motor racing and we do ourselves no service if we pretend otherwise.”

    Wow what do you really think Mike!

  4. Terry – in the book Byrne refutes both the Lauda story and the hotel sex story. He doesn’t deny the drugs though!

  5. I’m guessing that Mr Lawrence and Mr Byrne are not on each other’s Christmas Card list!
    Love the review Keith. Can’t wait to read it.

  6. @keithcollantine Is it possible to fix the formatting on these old webpages? Every accent is replaced by ?�������

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