Crash and Burn (2016) - full transcript

The story of Irishman Tommy Byrne, the greatest racing driver you never saw.

- My old treasure chest.

I've a couple of bits and pieces here.

This is a,

this actually is,

it hasn't been cleaned for a while,

'cause I really don't go
in here that often, but,

it's the Sports Star of
the Year, 1981, Ireland.

Look at that.

And that's 1st place, Laguna Seca.

That's disgusting.


If you didn't make it,
nobody gives a shit.

That's how I feel now.

About 20 years ago, yeah,
I would've felt, you know,

like, "Oh shit, you know,

"those guys screwed me over,
and they did this, did that"

This album here, I think my sister

might have put this one together for me.

When I was racing I didn't think

I was the best driver in the world

I knew I was the best driver in the world.

That's one of mine.

I remember that suit.

That's one of my first ones.

I just got,

I got beat.

I got beat by the system.

- There are lots of hard luck stories

in Formula 1.

Tommy is the defining case study,

because there's never been
anybody quite that good,

who's never made it.

- True talent really stands out.

We had Senna, Alain Prost,

Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher.

And Tommy had the talent
of these guys for sure.

You know, he just had that
natural feel for a car.

- Tommy Byrne was wild.

Some of the things that
he did were so unorthodox,

that only Tommy Byrne
ever could've done it.

Or will have ever done it.

The problem is

he may have gone just too far.

- What you saw was what you got with him.

Some people might think
it, Tommy would say it.

And I think it hurt in the top end

where there's sponsors,

where there's major
manufacturers involved.

And they don't want people

that are a bit wild like that.

- He got from nothing

to Formula 1

in little more than 4 years.

We may never see a similar story ever again.

- All out, all out.

We're gonna get it tight.

- It's two of us
who used to work up in--

- Here you go, Bert.

- Where did you get these extra batteries?

- Yeah, he gives
them to me, you take them.

Hey Sonny!

- We will get going.

My name is Brian Till,

I'll be your lead instructor for the day.

That just means that I talk
more than the other guys do.

But you got a great group of guys

back there in the back.

Tommy Byrne down at the end.

Very accomplished open wheel driver.

Six, seven?

- Seven.

- Formula Car championships over in Europe

before he came to the United States.

A little time in Formula 1.

Tommy's been here at the school

I think since '93?

'94, '95, something like that.

- '94, 21 years now!

You've been here what, 22?

- Yeah.

- Scary!

- Long time, long time.

So Tommy and I used to
race together a little bit.

I crashed Tommy in Detroit one year.

- No, you ran into me.

- Did I?

Of course my car was broken.

- Yeah.

- I had to walk back.

- Through the streets of,

the downtown streets of Detroit.

- Through the streets of Detroit.

- Yeah.

Here's a guy

who had come within a fingertip reach

of the pinnacle of the sport.

And it just slid down the
other side of the mountain

when it just slipped from his grasp.

Your job today in this
high-performance school

is to use 100 % of the car

100 % of the time.

Drive it like you stole it.

Some of us ended our
careers on our own terms.

Tommy didn't.

But for the longest time,
Tommy went to sleep.

Woke up

and thought, "This isn't fair."

I should've.

I would've.

I could've.

- Good job, P2.

- Mike and Carl on deck!

To carry that with you

when the door closes

and you're the only person in the room

how loud are those voices?

- Obviously I wasn't the
nicest guy in the world.

And it's just when you don't make it,

people, well, they try to say,

"Well, he did this, he did that."

But you know what?

I just couldn't have
anybody tell me what to do.

- There are various theories

on Tommy Byrne the racing driver.

One is that he royally messed
up a potentially great career.

The other one was that he
wasn't given a fair shot.

And I think Tommy's truth

is always somewhere in that shade of grey

between those two extreme viewpoints.

There were things in Tommy's character

and from his background

that made him not an
easy fit in Formula 1.

- Alex Hurricane' Higgins, Georgie Best,

I'd put him in that kind of mould.

Just a a little irreverent,

and super talented, and
liked to have a beer.

- The start of the 80's, the two hot shots

were Tommy Byrne and Ayrton Senna.

Had it not been for Senna

arriving at around the same time,

Tommy's talent would've been enough

to carry him through.

It would've been irresistible.

- And there
was a real anger there,

in terms of the fact that motor racing

takes a lot of money and a lot of support.

So if you don't have that,

it's easy to fall by the wayside,

or suddenly your careers changes direction

as Tommy's did.

- Obviously when you're
trying to go racing

and you're completely broke all the time,

and you're racing against people

like Senna and the Brazilians
with all the money,

and you haven't got a pot to piss in,

it does make a difference.

I mean, you don't get the same respect.

People treat you different.

And I hear this all the time,
I've seen little quotes about

"Tommy's got a chip on his shoulder."

I think anybody would have
a chip on their shoulder

if they were treated like
shit after they win races.

So many races.

I'd win the exact same
race that Senna won.

I'd win it first, he'd
win it the year after,

and suddenly, it's like, you know,

"Who's Tommy Byrne?"

And when Senna won,

it was like the second coming of Christ.

And that's just the way life is, you know.

People treat you different

when you're broke and when you're rich.

What could I change?

Be born a millionaire

with a silver fucking spoon up my ass.

- Tommy still carries
the cross of the rejection

from Formula 1, every day.

He's not the Tommy he would have been

had it all panned out the
way he was expecting it to.

He knows what it could have been

and what it should have been.

- It's a little overgrown
since the last time I was here,

that's for sure.


Ah man, look at this.

There's the trees my mom planted.

Shit, they were like,

they were a couple of feet tall.

So, I used to ride my motorcycle

all the way through here at night

when I'd come home at 15 years of age.

Drive through there, drive
all the way through here,

drive up, and drive in the door.

I just couldn't control myself with speed.

I had to be flat-out everywhere.

And I worked at the gas
station across the road,

everybody was talking about
the day they would go there,

and I wouldn't be there
anymore because I'd be dead.

Because everywhere that
I went, I was flying.

Flying down the roads.


Couldn't slow down.

That's what happens when you're
born in the back of the car

on the way to the hospital.

♪ Far across the foam ♪

♪ All though I've often left it ♪

♪ In foreign lands to roam ♪

- Tommy Byrne away to a flying start.

- Born special.

Born a special way.

- Three firsts for Irish.

Sports star of the week.

- Oh, man, I was.

I was out of control.

I feel bad now, obviously,
you know, you feel bad,

because I have my own kids.

Whatever chance they had of
controlling me when I was

nine or ten or 11,

they had no chance at all when
I was 15, 16 years of age.

I just didn't,

I just didn't listen.

This house now,

I just,

I just don't want to be here, actually.

To be honest, you know,

it's just it's in the past.

I had a time here, I
grew up in this house.

Mom and dad, sisters, everybody was here.

But now it's, you know, it's just

time to move on.

- When he was a child,

he was a nuisance to everybody around him.

- How's it's going, Maurice?

- I'm humbled, I'm humbled.

- How's it going?

- Very good.

Now I thought he was a little

bastard at that stage.

He was just a little brat.

You didn't happen to bring back
that part of fancy of boots

I gave you that time,
because I'm still waiting on.

You use them often?

- I haven't used them for a while,

but I do like the boots, yeah.

I do have to wear a couple
of pairs of socks with them.

- Do you wear it with the jacket?

- I forgot about the jacket.

- Tommy would have had a rough childhood

brought on mainly by himself,

by his attitude and by the way

he carried on, and

no law was written for Tommy Byrne.

He never changed what he was like

when he was 11 or 12 years of age.

He just had that cockiness in him

that he would have to do it his own way.

You see, that's really as
little as I thought of you

over the last number of years, Tommy.

They're up there.

- Thanks, Maurice.

- Among all the--

- Here, show me,

show me what you've got there.

Oh, look at that one.

That's the, ah, that would
be quite an important one.

Is that the British Grand Prix one?

- That's the
British Grand Prix one.

- Holy smokes.

Look at that, huh?

What else have you got?

Yeah, that one there

I think that's one of those European ones.

- Is it?

- I think so.

This is the P&O Ferries Formula Ford 1600.

This is the championship one, Maurice.

Cor, You think it would be maybe

a little bit looked
after better than that.

Well, look at this.

- You didn't even
know where they were Tommy.

- No, I didn't, you're right.

- I think
that's an old shell from

World War II or something.

But they've been lying up there for

many years.

- Maurice

- Yes?

- These could probably clean
up pretty good, I'll bet.

It's the same in my own
house back in Florida,

the same thing.

- You tell me.

- Trophies in boxes.

Look at that.

- See if you can,

See if you can clean that one.

When your fan club was--

- Yep!

- Was flying.

- Remember that?

We had the annual Tommy Byrne Dinner Dance

to make me money, and I think I earned

I think I earned, like 300 pounds.

That was as much money that was collected

for that one particular dance.

Enough money to get me some clothes.

We needed $300,000.

- Yes!

- It was a lot of work for me

because I couldn't even enjoy myself,

because I had to talk to everybody.

- Yeah.

- And by the time it was
all over and I was ready to

you know, get shit faced,

It was too late.

- And you had to put the
Dundalk accent back on again.

Or they would have all
called you an asshole.

- I had to put, yeah--

- The accent.

- Yeah.

All right, yeah.

These little tracks here,
this is where it all started.

Yeah, I worked for free,
fixing a Mini Stock car.

It's been 40 years ago,

because I loved being involved.

And I would look forward as a mechanic

to take it out for the race.

Then you drive it back and park it there,

and this is what I used to look forward

to for the whole week.

There's something about the speed,

it's addictive.

The smell, the noise,

it gets in your,

it kind of does get in your blood.

It's just one of those things.

Just stick the needle
in, you know, and it just

you know, keep on pushing.


I'm more comfortable here,

watching these little racers,

than I would be watching a Formula 1 race,

or even at a Formula 1 race.

It's pretentious, it's full of a bunch of

fake people,

and I never really liked
it in the first place.

And of course, I'm much
more comfortable here.

It's just, maybe,

it doesn't get much better than that!

I would say 99 % of the people here

driving at this track tonight

are probably here having fun.

And that maybe there's 1 % out there

might be trying to make
it big time in racing.

Because remember, there's
very few people in the world

who actually make money racing.

I left school at 15 years of age.

The first real job I got
was in the factory in town.

And I was going to be a mechanic.

My partner

that I was apprenticing for
nicknamed me foot-and-a-half,

because I was really,
really small at the time.

So he nicknamed me foot-and-a-half, and

all you could hear in
that whole big shop was,

"foot-and-a-half, foot-and-a-half!"

Because I was always gone
somewhere, doing something.

Probably pilfering something.

We didn't call it stealing,
we called it pilfering.

But I just loved pilfering
more than anybody else,

I just loved to take shit.

I would wrap stuff around me,

underneath my overalls, and

take something home everyday.

I just loved it.

I just loved taking shit, you know?


sometimes you took it because you need it,

and sometimes you took it just because,

just for the hell of it.

But I eventually did get caught,

so I went to court and got fined.

Put on probation or whatever
the case would've been.

So I could have for sure
went down the wrong path

if I didn't start racing.

I knew that's what I wanted to do,

I wanted to be a race car driver.

My first Formula Ford car, my
mom had told the bank manager

that my sister Margaret was pregnant and

and we had to put an
extension on the house.

And I stood behind my mother
telling her what to say.

And I think it was 1250 pounds.

It was a lot of money!

It was a loan!

We just didn't put the
extension on the house.

So, it was only small lies.

But I got my car!

- When he came on the scene at Mondello,

I was quite surprised.

Here was this small guy.

Very cocky.

No one could quite understand him,

he spoke so quickly,

and he had a very
pronounced Dundalk accent.

I wouldn't say he was like
a fish out of water, but

he came from a background

that normally motor-racing
people wouldn't be part of.

So he was a big surprise

to that element.

- Tommy's face, his
personality, his background

was always going to be a difficult fit.

It's a very elitist sport,

whereas Tommy was

from a very, very poor
working-class background.

And so the odds of him succeeding

were very slim.

- In '77 was when I went to Mondello,

and I had no idea what I was doing.

And I wouldn't listen to anybody.

I thought if smoke wasn't coming off

all four tyres, I wasn't doing it right.

- There was this kid that
looked like a 13 year old

that fell out of the back of a bus.

And he was just flinging the car around

with complete abandon.

And I thought,

"This kid is good, this
kid is exceptional."

- I had a bunch of friends
all coming together,

all, you know,

"Here we go, this is going
to be a new adventure."

And it was.

Just rednecks, out of
sync with everything.

But I figured I was passing cars,

so I must be doing something right.

It turns out they were just scared

because a crazy bastard's
coming up behind them,

and he's either going
to run into them or not,

so they would just let me by.

But I learned my craft by crashing.

I crashed all year in that car.

That car was always coming
home in more than one piece.

It left in one piece

and came home in two,
three, sometimes 50 pieces.

And my mom, she'd come
out and take a look at it

and she'd go,

"When are you going to quit this nonsense

"and get a real job?"

And then I'd just be completely depressed,

go to bed,

wake up next morning

with a completely different attitude,

and start again.

At that time Bernard Devaney, Derek Daly,

David Kennedy and Eddie
Jordan were all in England.

So I read about those guys

and I'd seen pictures of them,
so obviously I was thinking,

"Well if they can do
it, then I can do it."

So I left Ireland at the end of '78,

and that was it.

Never to look back.

- The kid that came over from
Ireland to England in '78,

was raw, ragamuffin chancer.

Full of hope, massive talent,

total self-belief, but
that was all he had.

- My first year away from home,

and I had a pretty rough
first half of the year,

that's when I was very nervous a lot

because I didn't win a race.

And we qualify at nine in the morning

and wouldn't race until
five o'clock that night.

So all that time no eating,
no nothing, just nerves.

Sick to my stomach.

That went on for 20 races.

And eventually I won
the race in Nurburgring,

so that's when I knew I was
as good as I thought I was.

And ever since that day,

I never, ever felt sick
to my stomach again,

It was just fun.

- For over
10 years, Formula Ford

has been the essential first
rung of the ladder to fame

in single seater racing.

Formula 1 drivers

like James Hunt and Emerson Fittipaldi

started racing at the
wheel of a Formula Ford,

which has turned Formula
Ford into a proving ground

for future world champions.

- So, the way the junior categories work

is that you have professional teams

building the cars, creating the cars,

fielding the cars.

That all costs money.

By and large, the teams

don't go and get drivers.

What happens is the
drivers bring the money

to the teams to run them.

Whether that's commercial sponsorship,

or family money, or whatever,

it's that that sustains
the junior categories

in motor racing.

It's very, very rare that anyone

gets a drive for free,

but Tommy managed to get a drive for free.

- Ralph Firman
started his own firm,

Van Diemen, in the early '70s.

Van Diemen has won

every major Formula Ford championship

in England since 1977,

and for that you need drivers
with talent and nerve.

- If we feel that we
haven't got such a driver,

then we will sponsor one ourselves.

- Van Diemen have been very successful

over the years because

A, Ralph picks winners.

And B, he didn't want that winner

in someone else's car,

so he certainly recognised
Tommy's talents early.

- He knew Tommy didn't have any money,

so you could hardly ask him for money.

If he wanted him in the car,

he was going to have to
give him the drive for free.

- Michelle is cooking for the team,

she's the best cook on the circuit.

- This is the grassroots, really,

of where it all starts in
motor racing, isn't it,

for youngsters?

Formula Ford 1600, club racing.

And it's all very much, I suppose,

it's you know, it's a nice family,

I suppose, thing, too.

- We didn't have these motor homes.

- No.

- And you can see some of the pictures,

you know, we were in the dirt.

I love Cliff Dempsey Racing,
because he's old school.

Reminds me more like Ralph Firman,

all those years ago.

He just doesn't put up with any shit.

And he knows how to take fast drivers,

he's the guy you want to be with.

- You put up with a
lot with a quick driver

on his faults because he's quick.

He may not have all the things you want,

but if he's quick, you put up with it.

- You mean he may not have
all the things you want

out of the cockpit?

- Exactly.

- But in the cockpit, he's fast.

- When he's
everything, you put up with it.

- Really good for the first section.

Then we go into the first chicane,

bend really good through there,
you bleed in the speeder.

- Back in your day

you had to actually use your brain

to drive a race car,

now the guys don't have to do that.

That's the problem.

- I had all that stuff in my head.

- They don't have to think as much anymore

- Because of--
- Because of data.

And coming and running
with professional teams,

It's not really Daddy's paying the money,

it doesn't really matter
if they don't get a result.

- Exactly.

- You know, they'll come back the next day

and they'll be racing anyway.

Whereas when you raced,

if you didn't get a result,

you weren't out the next weekend.

- And what's the chances, Cliff,

of a young kid today getting into F1?

- Very slim, I think.

To be honest, I think, you know,

We can kid ourselves and say

"Yeah, you have a chance,"

but I think it's very slim,

but there are exceptions to every rule.

- And there
is the man to watch.

It is 21-year-old Tommy Byrne
from Dundalk in Ireland,

who has already won three
Formula Ford races this year.

- When he came from Ireland,

initially he was quick
in the Formula Ford car,

like lightning-quick.

- Tommy Byrne
is in a class of his own

in Formula Ford racing this year.

A string of wins,

he just has to get into the car

and he seems to be on his own.

And in Formula Ford that is--

- That was quite impressive

for a guy straight over
from a regional championship

to be at that level immediately.

He was winning national
Formula Ford races.

- Formula Ford
championship race here.

- I could learn tracks very fast.

I was pretty good at reading

how good the other guys
were, and how good I was.

I just knew I had something different.

- He instinctively knew what to do.

He would get the best out of the car

no matter what it was doing.

Tommy was the only person that I knew

that was working on his own car.

He had no other support.

Everybody else was coming
over, paying for a ride,

expecting to get a full-time
mechanic on the car.

Tommy was his own mechanic

and then getting in the car and racing.

- He did things with the car that you just

they weren't possible, you know,

I know about racing cars,
I watch racing cars,

and you watched this car
going round the track

with this bloke in it, and he just,

that shouldn't be possible.

- Byrne has won
race after race this year.

He has really stamped his
mark on Formula Ford racing.

- It was quite clear he had speed,

and he didn't succumb to any
pressure, that's for sure.

So that confidence went into the car.

It wasn't a fake, showy thing,
he just had that self-belief.

Jumped in the car, delivered
and won the Championship.

- There, appropriately enough,

is brilliant Tommy Byrne,

the 1980 P&O Ferries and RAC
Formula Ford Championships

champion of 1980.

- Tommy arrived in the UK

as a fully formed rebel,

You know, you said,
rough around the edges,

he was all edge.

And you knew he was gonna go places

because of his prodigious talent.

You just didn't know how high
that elevator was gonna go

because of his personality, would be,

you could see that it
would be a limiting factor.

- Half and half,
it didn't happen anyway.

- No.

- He lived off everybody
and he could smile doing it.

He'd order a meal in a restaurant

long before he'd tell you,

"I've no money, will you pay for that?"

- He had no place to stay.

He had no car.

He had no money for petrol.

He had no money for food.

How could you make a living

unless you're supported
by family and friends?

The family wasn't in a
position to support him.

So he was dependent on
the goodwill of others.

- We'd go maybe out and have a few beers,

and he'd get up the next morning

and you'd see him walking
around with a pair of trousers

that you knew were yours.

- You need to get your jacket.

That's going to be the
first thing you need.

Jacket's down in the truck.

- Tommy loved a drink.

He'd get himself into
trouble now and again,

but that was Tommy.

People wanted to be part of Tommy's world.

You'd be out in a bar somewhere

and a girl would be drunk and say,

"Tommy, you're so handsome," and he'd say,

"There's no way I'm handsome.

"I might be cute, but I'm
certainly not handsome."

- There was something that Tommy had

which enabled him to, on the one hand,

be blindingly quick,

but he also had, on the other hand,

another God-given gift,

for which if there was a
gold medal for shagging,

he'd have won it time and time again.

- As well as the driving
on a Sunday morning,

you had to do the partying
on a Saturday night.

Girls and parties,

that was all part of the rollercoaster.

He spent more time with girls

when other men were
sitting at home studying

every corner and ever gear change

that they had done on
their day's practise,

Tommy was out that night to see

could he get a girl?

Maybe two.

- You didn't get stability
with Tommy Byrne,

you got chaos, confusion.


the best fun you could imagine, but chaos.

- I acted a little bit different than

the other guys getting in the car.

I would just get excited,
like I was high or something.

I'd just go, da, da, da, da, da, da.

And people just talk,
"What the heck is he doing?

"He's like all over the place."

I could jump in the car last minute

and still win the race.

- Some people were frightened of him,

of what he could do.

It was the way he walked
through the paddock,

it was the way,

he had a very quick step,

and everything about him
was bang, bang, bang.

- As a young driver you
don't show any weakness,

if you show weakness, you're fucked.

Put the fear of God in
them, so they know that

if they come up behind Tommy Byrne,

it's gonna be a problem getting by.

And if Tommy Byrne comes up behind them,

they're in trouble, they better pull over.

That's just the way it is.

- The persona he projected
to the outside world

was of "I'm the best.

"I'm the bollocks."

That obviously rubbed some
people up the wrong way,

but that was just his
persona, that was how he was.

He absolutely believed

that he was the best driver in the world.

- Ralph Firman's
eagle-eyed talent-spotting

produced Brazilian Ayrton da Silva.

Now the motor-racing world is tipping him

as a future world champion.

- With the case
of Ayrton and Tommy,

they couldn't have been from
more different backgrounds.

One was a millionaire's son,

with all the social graces

that come from a privileged background,

very at ease in that world.

Whereas Tommy came over
from Ireland with nothing.

- For '81, I was

Senna's mechanic in the Formula Ford,

working at Van Diemen still.

And then I go home and
I was living with Tommy.

So they both had very, very good seasons.

But Senna always had his eye on him.

I'm not gonna say he was afraid of Tommy,

he was afraid that he
wasn't going to do as well

as Tommy had done the year before.

- In 1981, he had these
two junior categories.

The entry level, which is Ford 1600,

which was what Senna was doing.

And he was blitzing the opposition there.

Also operating from
the Van Diemen factory,

Tommy was doing the same
in the next category up,

which was Ford 2000.

He won the two major championships.

There's a British Championship

and there's a European Championship,

and he blitzed them both.

Ayrton would come along
and do the exact same thing

one year later.

It's unusual that you get

two talents of that calibre
come along at the same time.

They don't normally come along like that.

And that was a
problem for both of them.

- Senna's nickname was Fast Man

because Ralph would talk about,

"There's a fast guy coming from Brazil."

That's what pissed me off,

because they should
have been talking about

I was a fast man, too.

You know?

I don't think I got the same respect that

the guys with the money got,

because, you know,

people can smell when you're broke.

They just they just know it, you know.

They just smell it, and they know.

And they just want to fuck with you,

and want to treat you
a little bit different.

But nobody messes with people with money.

You're just you're coming over,

you're paying, you better
do like you're asked.

- How much money do you need

to find every year?

- Well, in '81, I would say

around 20,000, 30,000 pounds,

which is always very difficult to get,

even with good results,

wins and, you know, records,

it's very difficult to get sponsorship.

- It caused particular
resentment from Ayrton Senna,

who was bringing significant
backing to Van Diemen,

that Tommy was just hopping
from one free drive to the next,

and just sort of skipping up the ladder,

seemingly for free.

- Senna didn't like the
way I conducted myself.

'Cause we were driving for the same team.

He was doing everything right.

I was cocky, he was arrogant.

That was his personality.

He must have had long weeks.

At least I was out having fun

during my week waiting to race.

Oh we didn't hit each other, until

the festival, when I drove his car.

After that, that's when it went wrong.

We move to Brands Hatch

for the most important Formula Ford event

anywhere in the world.

The Marlboro Formula Ford Festival

and Formula Ford World Cup.

- Before the festival,

Senna announced he was
retiring from motor racing

and he was going to go
back home to Brazil.

And that was it.

He said he was disenchanted with a sport,

that required drivers to pay,

and I'm sure

Tommy getting his drives for free

initiated that niggle in him.

Ralph at Van Diemen was
left in a bit of a spot.

He needed,

for the good of the company,
to win that festival.

So he called Tommy up and said,

"Can you come and win
the festival for me?"

And Tommy being Tommy,
said, "Yeah, 'course I can."

And did in Ayrton's own car.

- I won 100 bottles of champagne,

and I got 50 of them from
Ralph after arguing with him,

I tried to tell him I needed
100 because I won them.

He says, "It's my car."

I said, "It's my win."

So we ended up with 50 each,

and I did exactly what I wanted to do.

I wanted to spray the shit everywhere

and just waste it and that's we did.

And drank as much as
we needed to get drunk.

- That created an opportunity

for Tommy to progress to Formula 3,

that he probably wouldn't
have got otherwise.

An opportunity that Senna
was originally going to have.

So Ayrton had inadvertently

created an opportunity for Tommy

that actually hurt Ayrton,

because it spoiled his plans for doing F3

the following season.

- After the festival,

I was still living up
in Norfolk at the time,

and Senna's car

was sitting there from the year before,

after he left it there.

And my car would get
punctured every now and then.

So instead of fixing the puncture,

I'd just take my wheel off my car

and swap it with Senna's
car that was sitting there.

I guess he came back in 1982.

He wasn't supposed to come
back, he was supposed to retire.

But he came back and
he just burst in there,

and started screaming at
me for stealing his wheels.

"You fucking Irish thief,"
and screaming and shouting,

and I'm screaming and
shouting back at him.

We didn't come to blows

because somebody came in and stopped it,

but he was very, very angry.

If Senna didn't go home, my
career would have been done.

Two championships, I probably
wouldn't have got Formula 3.

So I just got lucky, I guess.

- That's the racing car show,

back in the day when
everyone smoked everywhere.

- Looked a little young there.

That's when you had teeth, too.

Except they're not chipped!

- Quite a lot of new teeth over the years.

- "Tommy's gone to lunch, back at two."

Wow, I was actually signing some stuff.

- Yeah, the run-ons.

- Actually
looks like I was famous.

- That's me there.

- There you are.

Where's that, Tip Top?

- Yeah, well yeah,
but we were buying our beer

from the Crystal bar next door,

'cause it was about a third of the price.

- Ah really?

Do you remember that?

- No.

- Shit.

- That's one I
thought you would have

wanted to keep.

- Wow, Formula Ford
Festival, Brands Hatch,

1981, first place.

When did I give you that?

- Well you didn't give it to me,

you asked me to look
after it indefinitely.

- Somebody's been keeping
it nice and polished.

Not like some of my other
friends I give them to.

Did you not go in all the way

in the English game and Irish racing game

when somebody wins, it's like,

"Fuck, yeah he might be
fast, but he's a bollocks."

Were you thinking that?

- I hadn't formed an opinion,
that would have been stupid

because I had never met you, but

the preconceived opinion
that a lot of people had

because of people talking,
racing, obviously,

was that you were a really
cocky, up-yourself twat.

- Yep, exactly.

- But we got on straight away.

- Exactly, because you're exactly the same!

- Why thank you.

- Years later, I did think to myself,

"Maybe I should have kept some
of those important trophies.

"And maybe I should have
kept some of the helmets,

"just for my kids, if
nothing else, you know."

But thanks Stuart, that's great,

at least it's good to see
it, it brings back memories.

Oh, shit Stuart, look there.

That's my old car.

Holy smoke.

Hey, guys, what's up?

- Haven't seen that for a while.

- Hey, Tom, how's it going, buddy?

- Hiya.

- Good.

How long have you had that?

- I think we've had it four years now.

- You got my name on it.

Look at that.

I think I had a nicest seat.

It's, ah, yeah, it's, ah I'm probably a

couple of pounds heavier than
you were back in the day.

- Back in the day,

I was like Mick Jagger, I was like tiny!

- Do you look thin?

- What a load of bollocks.

- Formula 3 would be the last step,

at the time, before Formula 1.

It was where the F1 team
owners and team sponsors

were all looking for the next talent.

- Oh, that's truth,
I'm looking forward to this.

My thought in 1982 was,

because I was struggling for money,

I need to just blitz these guys.

I need to beat them so bad that

it's not just good
enough winning the race,

I need to win by a mile,

so it'll be easy to get the
money to get into Formula 1.

Winning just wasn't good enough.

I had to show them how great I was.

- Tommy Byrne
knows this race is his now.

Tommy Byrne wins the
Marlboro Formula Ford.

- So that's what he did,

he dominated the early races.

- This man
heading for a 33-point lead

in the championship.

- Tommy stepped up with Murray Taylor,

who was running a Formula
3 Team at the time,

and this was a category in which

the budgets were much higher.

For someone in Tommy's circumstances,

the prize money for winning each race

would fund the following race.

So he absolutely had to
win those early races.

Literally, the prize money was

keeping the team's head above the water.

That's an unusually
intense degree of pressure.

- The fact that Tommy kept winning

and leading the championship

really gave Murray Taylor no option

but to keep supporting him,

finding the money from somewhere

to get the car back to the race track

for the next weekend.

- Everybody was running
round looking for money,

but we never got any money.

Yeah, a couple of grand here and there.

But Murray got some money from Shell,

and then he got some
from General Electric.

Murray, so many different times, says,

"Tom, we can't move,

"we can't go on from here,
we need to get money."

- Now, when I was going round Dundalk,

getting 200 pounds off somebody,

and 300 pounds off somebody
for Tommy to go racing,

those figures were going
from a few hundred quid

to the level, eventually,

where he was being asked
for 100,000, 200,000.

Then reality started to kick in.

- Formula Grand Prix.

- When Murray Taylor
was trying to keep that

championship challenge going,

he had the idea he could get

Ron Dennis at McLaren

to underwrite the cost
of the Formula 3 season

in exchange for first call
on Tommy's future services.

You would speculate

McLaren would probably have found

Tommy's raw speed and potential,

vast potential, irresistible.

- Ron wanted to know about
my father, where he worked,

where my mom worked, which I
thought was kind of strange,

because I didn't really see what

that had to do with anything.

I told him my dad who worked
in a factory for 40 years,

and he got a watch at the end of it.

Hopefully I won't have a watch

at the end of what I'm
going to do in my life.

I just remember at the end I asked him,

"Does McLaren have any money
to help me out at all?"

And Ron goes, "Well Tommy,

all our money is tied up
in R&D at the moment."

I said, "What's R&D?"

And he just looked at
me like I was an idiot.

And so that kind of, you know,

was pretty embarrassing for me.

I mean, I wasn't a dick to him.

I just came across as pretty uneducated.

And cocky, probably a little bit, too.

- Although Tommy had all the prerequisite

qualities you need in the car,

his rough edges were the opposite

of what Ron Dennis was looking for.

That wouldn't have been
an overwhelming problem,

had it not been for the
fact that Ayrton Senna was

also on the radar as well.

Tommy couldn't control his destiny

in the way Ayrton could.

He didn't have the background
to dictate his own path.

- Unlike other drivers, his friends

put together the pennies,

not the pounds, to facilitate

his onward step.

But, and as that entourage grew,

some of it attracted
probably unsavoury elements.

- Businessmen, people from
all sorts of hazy backgrounds

were intoxicated by the
world that Tommy was in.

They latched onto Tommy

and Tommy enjoyed their
company and so the,

the racing world can get a bit sniffy

about that sort of thing as well.

He was hustling, he was doing
it in the car on his talent,

and out of the car he was just taking

help from wherever he could find it.

- He was attracted to London

and, I suppose, the nightlife, parties,

pubs, drinking.

You know, it's the age old story.

It's very easy to get
sucked into that direction

and still believe

that you're doing the
right thing for your career

in racing, because why
should they be connected?

But they are.

- Yeah, I had a bunch of friends,

just plenty action all the time.

You know, I could stay
nearly anywhere I wanted to,

with anybody, I was single.

Because I was the life of the party.

It was either that or don't race.

- He was out partying

with the people who were helping him pay

for some of his expenses.

So he felt he didn't have a choice

but to play with these
people as they were playing.

They were enabling the drugs

and the alcohol, and he
knew it wasn't helping,

but it was the only thing he could do

to get to the next race, pay the rent,

buy his next cup of coffee, perhaps.

- How are you?

- He was winning well in the
first part of the '82 season

and then it all started going wrong

when the team took on a paying driver

to help pay the bills

and they'd given Tommy's
old car to the paid driver.

- Murray gave me a different car.

I never even came close to
winning a race after that.

Six races in a row that
I just was nowhere.

So, of course, their answer
to the whole thing was,

"Tommy's lost it."

And they'd just think, "Oh, Tommy, yeah,

"you must had a beer last night,

"mustn't be feeling too good today."

That's not the way it was.

Then the team were not
listening to me, that was,

then the pressure was
getting pretty big for me

then, you know.

That was,

everything was stepping away there.

- He realized that "I'm gonna be back home

"unless I succeed in this sport"

and I think when a driver has that

in the background, realizing,

listen if you don't cut it this weekend,

this could be your last.

That's a very strong motivating force.

- I was still leading the championship

but why should Murray Taylor

even continue to run me anymore

if I'm not going to win the Championship?

'Cause the only thing
he's getting out of it

is winning the champ,

he had to win the championship,

to be able to continue and
show that he's a great team.

So it went on and on and
then it came to a head.

I said, "Listen, I'm leaving
unless I get a different car."

And I quit the team with
nothing to fall back on.

And Murray did call me back and,

eventually, I got a new chassis.

I fought back.

Some drivers are fucked,
they can't fight back,

'cause they actually

start believing what these guys
are telling them, you know?

You start thinking, well,
maybe they're right.

That was never a problem for me.

I never had to think that.

They must have hated me.

But I went to Brands Hatch

and absolutely back to normal again.

Pole position and just took off

and nobody even came close to me.

- And there's ommy Byrne,

leading into Paddock for the first time.

I think Brundle was in second place.

- All the heavy hitters, the
Formula 1 guys were there,

so this was the one,
every Formula 3 driver

wants to win the British Grand Prix.

You've got this feeling that
everyone is watching you.

So this is the one
opportunity you have each year

to go out there and get
the job done and again,

Tommy under enormous pressure
not only won the race,

I mean, just took off and
left everyone in his dust.

- And I didn't just win the race.

I won it by a lot.

I needed that win.

I needed it to happen at
that time, which it did.

It was one of my best
performances ever I would say.

- The bottom line is if a driver can

win races for you,

you want to have that driver in your team.

And in spite of his own,

what I would call ill discipline,

Tommy was winning races.

By winning that race,
and to win it that well,

by over 20 seconds,

created a lot of interest in Formula 1.

- That's not quite as,

that was fun.

That was a laugh.


- There was one team in particular

that took an interest,

and that was Theodore.

- They wanted me
to drive in Formula 1.

For the last six races of the year.

- There are usually 10 to 12 teams

on the grid in the world.

If you get an opportunity

to show your talent, you take it.

- So I signed it,

I remember asking for
40 grand the first year,

200,000 the second year and
half a million the third year

and Theodore, just laughed at me

and basically gave me
nothing, just expenses.

- Just over four years

since coming over from
Ireland with nothing,

and now in a Grand Prix.

Which is an amazing feat.

That's how far he had come,

and that was all down to Tommy
and his talent, nothing else.

- That he could do that

without any funding, virtually,

except the pocket money
from fans and friends,

that could nearly tell you
everything you needed to know

about Tommy's talent.

- I was excited.

Very excited.

But it all went to shit fairly quick.

The car was a piece of shit.

I wasn't the only driver that said that.

The other two drivers before
me couldn't qualify it.

Nobody qualified the car.

I qualified it,

I think twice out of five times.

I tried to qualify for Dijon,
did not, Hockenheim, did not,

was just a couple of tenths
off, Monza, same thing.

Well, when I qualified
for a race in Austria,

I was the last person to get in the car

because I was starting last.

And I really,

I just wasn't impressed at starting last.

I mean, I know I should have said

I've been looking forward
to this for so long.

I was kind of looking forward to it, but

maybe somewhere up the
grid, in a better car.

So, I just wasn't,

I wasn't as excited as some
people might have been.

It was nothing fun.

I didn't like the whole situation.

Nobody spoke to me in Formula 1.

Niki Lauda said hello

and Nelson Piquet said hi, that was it.

Keke Rosberg used to come up

and hit me on the head every now and then

'cause I got in his way or
something, just a complete dick.

For three years I won everything.


And I had everybody
behind me to help me win.

Now I get in a Formula 1 car and I'm last.

Not only am I last, when I
speak to the team manager

he tells me that if Keke Rosberg

was in my car he'd be first.

Any suggestion I give the team,

they didn't listen to me at all.

- Motor racing is a hard tough environment

and you need a pretty tough skin.

Sometimes Tommy's skin
was a little bit thin

when he sensed there was any

disrespect of his ability or his level.

- For the first time, my
ability was being questioned

by these guys.

I was 14th quickest on
the Friday practise.

I thought I might have heard something pop

or something at the end.

I wasn't too sure but I did
mention to one of the guys,

that I, you know, "Maybe could
you just check on something?"

Then I did qualifying
and I qualified last.

The Theodore guys, their answer was,

they brought Jackie Stewart up

and sent him over to me

to tell me how to drive around the track.

Instead of listening to
what I said early on that

I think I might have heard
something pop or something,

obviously something happened.

I was pissed.

Can you imagine somebody

coming up to Senna and
telling him how to drive,

how to take a line round the track?

But I was as nice as could be.

I did go back to Jo Ramirez and said,

"Don't you ever ever fucking
send somebody over to me

"to tell me how to drive again."

- What happened to Tommy
in his younger years

informed him to behave in a certain way.

When he ran in Formula Ford 2000,

he had a bad car

and he had to really work with the team

and he had to put it to the team,

"I'm not driving for you,
are you changing the car?"

And they changed the car

and he became British champion
and European champion.

He then went into Formula 3

and a similar situation happened.

The car was not performing well.

And he put it to them,
"It's not me, it's the car,

"you gotta change the car."

But what he didn't realize is that

you can't use those same techniques,

you can't bludgeon an F1 team
into submitting your way.

Tommy clearly didn't see that.

- The team manager,

he pissed me off so bad.

First off,

actually I did talk to somebody
about getting him bumped off

early on after the first couple of races.

Maybe I wasn't serious about it

but I actually did talk
to one of my friends

in London who kind of, possibly,
could have done something.

It was just driving home one
day having a couple of beers,

going, "I wish the fucking guy was gone."

That's how I was thinking at the time.

So at the end of the year,

in Vegas I had a few
drinks after the race and

probably not a good idea either,

but we were up at Caesar's
Palace in the room

and I was fucking pissed at him,

he was still yapping on, about, you know,

just always, he was just this,

it was just a bad time for me.

So I told him to go stick it up his ass

and threw a chair at
him and just, you know

stormed out of there, and that was it.

So I was done.

Even though

I was probably done anyway.

But I didn't get fired.

I just left.

I did have a three-year contract.

I'd rather not be doing Formula 1

than doing it like that.

Especially if you haven't
got a car that moves forward.

Basically, you're just hanging on there

to see how many cars drops out.

But I knew I had something.

I knew I had a talent

and I could have taken that talent to another team.

- But he came back from Las Vegas,

from the Grand Prix there,

to try to win his Formula 3 Championship,

and the prize for winning
that F3 Championship

was a Formula 1 test with McLaren.

He felt that it could be the
make-or-break opportunity

of getting into Formula 1 and a top team.

- You know, that was my chance

to drive one of the
winning cars in Formula 1.

But first I just needed
to win the championship.

- Just how
important is it winning

the Marlboro Formula 3 Championship

series to you in 1982?

- Well, I don't think anyone
is going to give up very easy,

especially not me,

not after coming all this way.

And you must remember, I think
everyone seems to have forgot

that I did miss four races out of it.

- That's how close it is.

First, second, and third.

One, two, three.

Mansilla, Scott, Byrne.

Into and out of the chicane together.

- I had to finish
in front of Quique Mansilla

to win the Championship.

Dave's car, every time
I got alongside him,

he just run into me and
put me on the grass.

And he did that sometimes
three times per lap.

In different areas.

And nobody did anything about it.

If I did that, black flag
and brought into the pits,

end of story.

But for some reason they let it go.

- Probably
to get out of the car

and walk sharply away.

- And then the number one guy

wasn't even getting away

so I still knew there was a chance,

I just had to get by him

and I still could win the race.

- Scott has
got the inside line,

they're banging wheels, as
they go into the straight,

Tommy Byrne he's waving him aside.

"Move over," he's
saying, "Let me through."

"Not likely," says Dave Scott,

"I'm second and I'm staying there."

And, ooh,

Dave Scott locked up his rear wheel.

Where is Tommy Byrne?

I thought that would happen.

He's gone through.

This is it.

This is the last lap.

These are the two championship leaders,

Quique Mansilla leads the
race and the Championship.

But now Byrne goes through, magnificent!

- And within half a lap
after I passed the other guy,

I was two seconds a lap
quicker on the last lap.

So they were holding me up that much.

We won the Championship
with a very small budget.

So it was huge deal.

Big, big deal.

Now I'm going to get to drive for McLaren.

We've got VHS's.

This one?

That was probably the most important day

of my racing career.

That's the day I tested the McLaren.

It was a race-winning Formula 1 car.

It would be like driving a Mercedes today

for a young rookie.

So it was huge.

It was just a big, big day.

Right there I was shitting myself.

That particular time, right there,

I definitely was getting worried

about the whole thing and all.

Could I do it?

- It's expensive to run a Formula 1 car.

It always has been, always will be,

so when a team puts a
car on track for the day,

they are serious about it.

It's costing them a huge amount of money.

They're risking their
car with a young driver

that he is not going to
stick it in the wall.

The spotlight's on you.

There are no excuses.

It is a fast, competitive, well
proven car from a top team.

You've got to show your mettle.

- The car was just unbelievable.

It was so easy to drive and just so fast.

And I was only just getting started.

- The footage of that test shows a car

being driven beautifully

on the limit, using every inch of track.

He's turning in sharply and aggressively,

but absolutely right on the
edge of the car's limits.

That's what the stopwatch confirmed.

Tommy's times

were quicker than the drivers at the time,

who were John Watson, a
multiple Formula 1 winner,

and three-times world champion Niki Lauda.

Now, it just doesn't get
any better than that.

You know, he could have
gone faster than God!

He had just done that!

He'd gone faster than Niki Lauda.

- But what was impressive
was he jumped into a car

which he had never seen
before he did the test,

did a phenomenal lap time.

- I did a time
that would have put me

on the front row of the British Grand Prix

and with my other car I was last.

The fact I did a 110.1
three times in a row,

which is pretty impossible
to do, I'd say that's

really consistent,

certainly people would've
been talking about it.


- He did a 110.1.

I couldn't believe it.

I was there.

Now, his next job was not
to post a better time,

his next job was to make sure

that everything around
that 10.1 was amazing.

But that wasn't Tommy.

- I wasn't there in
the immediate aftermath

of when he got out of the cockpit

and who was listening to him,
what he said to the team.

But I think a story went around that

he said "if they can go faster than that,

"they can take their cucumber sandwiches

"and stick them up their
arse" or something,

so that sounds about right.

Tommy insists he never said it.

- But, of course, I
didn't say any of that.

But at this stage the
rumour mill was going with

"Tommy, you can," you know,

I only had to open my mouth

and somebody would just add
what they wanted onto it.

- He did all he had to do
from within the cockpit.

That is all he was required to do.

He passed with A-star.

But it is the out of the car performance

that, you know, sealed Tommy's fate.

- The management of McLaren

wiped their hands off him.

His cocky nature didn't
quite sit well with a very

English-minded set-up of
Ron Dennis and McLaren,

which was ultra-corporate,

He was far too big a risk.

- Autosport comes out Thursday morning

and the Motoring News
comes out Wednesday night

and I looked at it and
it was like, basically

a couple of words in one of the magazines

and the other one said
"Byrne, fast but too cocky."

I went, "Shit."

For once I didn't say a word, you know?

So that was a bit of a let-down, you know?

I wasn't expecting it, actually.

- Ron Dennis' quotes played down

the level of Tommy's performance

and he felt that just confirmed

that he was never going to get

an opportunity from Ron Dennis.

He felt that he had blown his chance.

And everything was hanging
on that in his mind,

and when it didn't happen,

he just threw himself to the wind.

That was it.

- I think at that level,

Tommy really wasn't one of them.

He did not fit!

He did not fit.

And I would say an awful lot of it down to

where he and we started off.

Going from Dundalk over there,

and working his way through.

He wasn't of the cut

of some of the more sophisticated people.

And the Formula 1 men, you know

it's a small, small group of people

and I think they closed the book on him.

The word was put around,

"Keep him out of here, we don't need him."

- I tried hard

for four or five years to
get to Formula 1 and I did.

But after that was all over

and then obviously the drinking,

then, you know

the drugs got a little bit more

and I did some serious partying.

And I ended up taking enough
to kill a buffalo, you know?

I went out with a
photographer friend of mine

the night before the test

and he gave me a bunch of
this white powder stuff,

cocaine that he had.

I'm going to an awards show,
now would be a good time to

do it again.

So I snorted up two lines,

and an hour later, another two lines,

just two big huge lines.

And another two lines later on.

Still only twelve o'clock in the day.

As I got closer to the awards,

I had to take a few more lines

just to get the same kind of
hit that I had earlier on.

And it's like I'm wired.

I'm just all over the place.

I'm just, da, da, da, da, da.

And then I just had to
keep taking more and more.

And then when I got to the table

sitting around I'm just
talking to everybody.

So after, I think I picked
up a bunch of prizes,

I can't snort any more
of that cocaine because

my nose is hurting so bad.

So I went to my friend Stuart,

"Hey, I got a bunch of this cocaine stuff,

"I can't take it anymore, do you want it?"

Stuart comes back and he says,

"That's not cocaine, that's speed."

I went, "Well, you know, speed, cocaine,

"It's the same difference, isn't it?"

He goes, "No, not really"

At this stage, it's too late,
I got so much in my system.

It's three or four o'clock in the morning,

I drove back to the house

where I got the stuff in the first place.

He said,

"I hope you didn't take much
of that stuff, did you?"

I went,

"Yes, yes, a lot actually.

"Like half of it."

"Oh, Jesus Christ,

"I just took a tiny bit of it
and I was up for two days."

So, he put me in his room.

There was nothing happening,
there's no sleep coming,

my heart was just racing.

I just lay there.

I lay there, I lay there,
for three fucking days.

And depressed.

Very, very depressed

It's like it's, my life was over.

I'm lucky to be alive, I guess.

I mean, I was just going through life like

there was no tomorrow.

Yeah, don't worry about it.

We'll have you come in,
we'll talk about it,

We'll take a look and figure it out.

You're doing fine.

Tenth and twelfth, those guys are.

I got a few ideas.

The good news is

you got a bunch of time right there.

- Yeah, step on it, yeah.

- The bad news is

you made a couple of big mistakes.

- Uh-huh.

- Just If you can just hit
a couple of these marks,

there's a lot of time.

- Yeah.

I think the next time might
have been a bit cleaner.

- Okay, well, actually you hit it there,

and that's a miss,

and that's middle of the road.

So right there, there's
nearly half a second.

- Yeah.

- You know?

I'm a professional driver coach,

I can tell them how to act, obviously,

and I can tell them
where to be on the track.

I can't do it for them.

It's up to them then to take
that information and go out

and change it on the track and use it.

So, good news and bad news.

If you can fix all that--

- That's all good news to me.

- God knows, yeah, I mean,

but can you remember it?

- Yeah.
- You'll be able to remember?

- Okay, you're not gonna get
pissed off when I tell you?

- No, I'm not a sensitive guy.

- Drinking?

Is that why you're losing?

- European racing is today or nothing.

Americans seem to be

I hate to say this about Americans,

but generally Americans are
all about the second chance.

- So here I am in America in 1985,

starting a whole new
career again at the bottom.

- He's still got no money
when he went to America.

He is still scratching about,

but he is a gun for hire,
so he gets opportunities.

He still thought he would
probably end up making

his millions in motor racing somehow.

- This time I
wasn't quite as serious,

so, maybe a little bit more partying.

Actually, I started to
enjoy racing a little bit.

- The feeder series to IndyCar,

Indy Lights, or ARS, as
it was initially called,

Tommy did very well and he
wasn't in the best cars,

wasn't in the best teams.

He takes pretty much any
opportunity that anybody offers him

and he makes good use of
them and he does well.

- In turn number 11,

his final pass through here,

this is the man who is
going to win the race,

Tommy Byrne charges the line
and takes the chequered flag.

- It's going to be fun.

I'm used to that.

- Tommy enjoyed
the American adventure and

the parties and the lifestyle.

- I won a bunch of
races hung over in America.

It was just a matter of, you know,

just having a bit of fun

and winning some races at the same time.

- He just hung it out there,

and wasn't afraid to
tell you what he thought.

And, guess what?

That is what I liked

about Tommy from the very first day.

- Tommy Byrne's been around.

- There's wasn't a lot of
guys who were earning money,

maybe two or three others in
ARS/Indy Lights Championship,

so Tommy was, you know,

knocking down a nice
bit of coin each year.

- I didn't get it.

I thought it was a big mistake.

I think he should have stayed in Europe.

For me, there is no way
you can come from there

and go back to Formula 1.

You know, if you are good enough,

and if you are fast enough,
and certainly Tommy was,

a little window of
opportunity will always open.

It always does.

- By the time Ayrton Senna left Lotus,

he actually put a word in

to the Lotus boss, Peter Warr,

that he should look at Tommy,

but Tommy's exploits in
America didn't even register.

- Eddie Jordan kind of half convinced me

that there was a chance of me

still getting into a Formula 1 car.

I think we talked to one team, Tyrrell,

and I think they wanted a
couple of million pounds,

so, I mean, it just
wasn't going to happen.

- I went over and back to
Tommy a lot in America.

He would enjoy himself.

He would

talk about the dreams
that he still would have,

and his dreams now, for,

after Tommy didn't make it in Formula 1,

his dreams went into other things.

Different things that he would say,

"I'm going to do in life."

- This is my old house.

Got married and I bought this '87.

When I came back from
racing, this was my haven.

I loved it.


this place hasn't changed much!

15 years, huh?

Last time I was here.

Spent a lot of good years
here, 10 good years.

You know?

Kind of sad.

Sad and happy.

Or happy and sad.

Yeah, look at that tiki hut.

- They're under there.

- Definitely, there's nothing--

- This is my home.

My kids grew up here, on the lake.

They learned how to swim here.

These guys would run around naked.

It was just, it was perfect.

It represents what I
always wanted in America.

When I was doing really well,

we had parties here,
down here on the beach,

and this was the life.

I just went racing and came back to this.

It was,

it can't get much better.

It was brilliant.

In America, I only made half the effort.

Half my effort was okay.

You always think you're going
to get a million dollars,

there's still always a chance, you know.

I was only one deal
away from the big time.

- Are we ever
going to see Tommy Byrne

in an IndyCar in the near future?

- I hope so.

I'd like to get into an
IndyCar and maybe do well,

rather than just get into a car

just to say, "Hi, I drive IndyCars."

I'd like to do well,

it would be nice to get
into a good IndyCar team.

- If you think about any category

of major motor sports in the world today,

you have IndyCar, 24 seats,

you have Formula 1, 22 seats right now.

Sports car racing, eight to 10 seats.

The total amount of that is less than

50 drives available globally

at any point in time, no
matter what generation it is.

That's not very many.

- These people have been lining
up for the last two hours

to get an autograph from these drivers.

These guys have to do what they're told

to a certain extent for the sponsors.

You're gonna piss off somebody

if you try to be your own personality,

so, basically it's all fake.

- There's only a small number of teams

in IndyCar that have the finance

to take on a driver,

and Tommy would have come with a name.

Other young kids in America
that were coming through

were dedicating their life to it,

but for Tommy, it was something
he did at the weekend.

Not from Monday morning at
eight o'clock when you got up,

"How do I be a better racing driver?"

That was a question he probably
didn't ask himself, ever.

- Down here
in Kelly Moss Motorsports.

I can't do this alone, this is not--

- Tommy was always running
at the front, he'd always win

two, three, four races a year.

Tommy was always a factor every weekend,

but winning the
Championship would have been

the leap that he needed
to get into IndyCar.

- I've been gloved within an hour,

we'll know who the new ARS champion is.

- In the three years I
did full-time ARS was '87,

'88 and '89, and I was going
into the last race every time

with a chance of winning the Championship.

- Tommy
Byrne is really Mr. ARS.

He's run every year of ARS

and he has done just about
everything that you can do.

- He knows he has a chance

to really go and win the Championship,

he's been trying for it for four years.

- I was leading the race,

the last race of the year in California,

and I was driving the shit out of it.

- But this is
the battle that's been joined

since the drop of the green flag.

- Gary, something has happened

directly behind you.

It looks as if one car
has gone off the course

out of turn number 11.

John, does it involve Byrne, maybe?

- I think
something's wrong with Byrne.

It looks like, I don't
know how Arthur Abrahams

got over on that part of the,

oh, Tommy Byrne has nowhere to go.

Arthur Abrahams--

- And your
thoughts at that point

when you realized you were
about to lose the Championship?

- I don't think I can say it on TV.

Oh, bleep!

So that day I lost the Championship

and $80,000 and the Triple
Crown, and I lost a lot,

and the chance to get into IndyCars.

You know, so I lost it all in one day.

It just wasn't to be.

- I don't think we ever had a conversation

that just said, hey,
where are we going here?

Is this our life?

Are we going to be able to maintain

our position in motor racing?

I think,

I think I realized it a
little bit sooner than Tommy,

I mean, he was able, through his results,

to keep the ball rolling
a little bit longer.

I kind of peeled off the track

a little bit before Tommy did.

- Right on level.

I should have stopped, you
know, in '89 and got a job.

It just wasn't to be.

And at that stage now, '90, '91,

I do a couple of half-assed races

and when I was lapped by my team-mate,

Vince Neil from Motley Crue,

I knew it was kind of
all over at that point.

And then, that was it.

Probably started drinking
a little bit too much

at that stage and smoking the pot.

I would say at the end, I was
just worn down at that stage.

Things weren't going too good at home,

you know, with my wife.

It's like...

- In his room.


- There was some issues, you know.

I was coming to the end.

And it was just always hanging
over your head, you know.

And no money whatsoever.

Hadn't got a pot to piss in.

So I had to do something.

- You had different
categories across the globe,

you would have Formula 1 at the epicentre

of world motorsport.

You'd have IndyCar in America

and then as you come down the ladder

to the different categories
that you would parachute out to,

and you'd then drop down to another level

and then another level,

and then somewhere below all those levels

was racing in Mexico.

- I got a phone
call from Alberto Lozano,

my team owner.

He kind of invited me down

and he ended up giving me $2,000 a race

and the full mini bar and all expenses.

So, I mean, I was making decent money.

- Took a very dark turn in Mexico

because the sort of characters

that were able to fund
Tommy's racing were unusual.

- I was only in Mexico.

The first visit, I met this guy, Orchio.

But I would just mention to Orchio that

if we had an Italian engine,

I think we could win that next race.

So then, he would go to my team owner

and buy the $30,000 engine.

So he put a lot of money
into the team that way.

- Don't ask where the money came from and

don't ask about the lifestyle around it,

but Tommy had to fit in
with that in order to

continue getting drives,
which he happily did

until it got too crazy even for Tommy.

- Pretty good.

- Mexico was just a total mess.

It was just partying and whores.

That's all Mexico was.

But he wasn't paying for
whores, I can assure you.

Somebody else was.

- It was very,
very crazy.

It was a lot of drinking down there,

a lot of partying down there.

Just lots of it.

And they're very wealthy.

I just went along with it.

What I was supposed to do?

- There was a room

that you nearly could not get into

because of boxes of beer in the house,

all got to do with his sponsorship.

The guy was living an
oblivious life at that point.

- Where he thought he should be

was world champion, and here he was,

he was stuck in a rut with
a drug baron in Mexico,

not really a nice place to be.

His contemporaries, who
he'd completely blown away,

were now F1 drivers,
earning vast fortunes.

So that would have hurt and
that kept the wounds alive.

- I can't think of a
driver that was at Tommy's level

that's ever ended up

on the margins of racing like that.

He fell probably further
than anybody's fallen.

- Probably could have
stayed in Mexico longer,

except Orchio had his,

we had a bunch of girls in the house

and next thing is we
hear gunshots upstairs.

And then Orchio comes to
the top of the stairway,

completely naked,

and he's got a gun in his hand.

And I'm going, "Jesus, Orchio,"

"You crazy."

He goes,

and he shoots at me and missed.

And the girls are running
down the stairway, naked,

tits are flying everywhere.

And they're running past me,
"Tommy, help me, help me!

"He's loco, very loco!"

And that was, "To hell with this."

I turned round back in the
room and locked the door.

That's when I left and I didn't go back.

And then Alberto called me two weeks later

and he said that Orchio was dead.

Yeah, he drowned in his swimming pool.

When I came back from Mexico,

it was over, I didn't race again.

Most of your life's behind you

and it didn't work out
the way it should have.

There's no more racing,
there's no more winning

and then our relationship
was gone to shit.

We were done.

And then, it all fell apart here.

People get fed up, you
know, you're complaining,

you're calling people, "Boo-hoo."

You know, "Lost my wife, she left me,"

and people really don't care, you know,

I was one of those boo-hoo type guys.

Well, I did all the begging.

I did use all that stuff,
"Please come back,"

you know, da, da, da, da, da.

That didn't work.

I didn't have the kids for a while

because they were with
their mum, and it was hard.

Just lying there on the couch with my beer

and you'd look over and
they weren't there anyone.

That was probably the worst part for me.

- I went out to visit him

and he was living in a
caravan beside a lake,

and he didn't want me to come with him

'cause he didn't want me
to see what he was doing

and he was gathering ferns,
he was working as a labourer.

- I just couldn't get going,

I just couldn't get going.

It was easier to drink and smoke pot

and do my work out in the woods

than it was to, you know,

to go back looking for racing
jobs, go back on the road.

- He says to me,

"You probably think I'm a failure.

"You probably think I'm
a terrible failure."

And I said, "Tommy, we've all got things

"that haven't worked
out for us in our lives,

"the dice might not have rolled well.

"But everybody respects
the talent you have,

"everybody respects what you've done,

"and more than that,
it's you that you like,

"not the fact that you drove a bloody Formula 1 car."

- He was very low.

I don't know how he really
got himself back together.

I just really don't know.

- I was losing my kids, you know.

Even though in the end I ended up

getting custody of the kids,

but it was rough.

It was nothing,

that's when I needed
some stability, job-wise.

- When I started working with him,

here at the Mid Ohio Sports
Car course at the school,

he was still a pretty bitter guy.

You know, it was hard for
him to still kind of admit

that his racing career is over.

And maybe Tommy coming
into that group of guys

that were so comfortable with saying,

"Yeah, we used to do that,"

it kind of let him realize
that the past was the past.

And I think that in and of itself

added stability to Tommy's life, and it,

it's probably not too far out to say it,

it could have saved his life.

- Good stop.

- In '94, when I started
working with Ohio,

sometimes I would do,

I think I did 120 days one year

and then I was starting to do some

little bit coaching on the side.

The thing was that, in '94,
'95, things were getting better

and the house was gone, renting and stuff,

so things were, for sure, picking up.

And then, of course, I met Michelle.

And that was my old
girlfriend of mine from '84.

I met her again and then
things obviously got

a lot better with her.

The boys were there, growing
up, it was kind of cool.

- In 1998, we met again, and

he was more serious,
Tommy, still joked around.

But there was an underlying seriousness,

maybe a sadness.

But I don't think that that sadness

is following him around now.

- I'll wear it tonight.

- As time went on, I
think he started realizing

maybe how he should
have handled his career,

what he should have done.

But I think he's able to let that go.

But you know what?

I personally don't think he's ever

gonna get away from it.

But the racing is part of him.

It will always be part of him.

I don't think he can ever,

he cannot box it up and put
it away like memorabilia.

It's part of him.

- A lot of people think I'm a millionaire.

- Aren't you a millionaire?

- No.

Not really.

I'm just giving an example of

what it's like sometimes
being sort of a superstar.

But I don't think I am at all.


- It's very easy to be critical

of the things around Tommy

that didn't give Tommy what he needed,

You have to ask you a question.

Did he not wanted that badly?

Did he give up everything for it?

Sometimes you just have to play the game.

I often ask, "Did Tommy ever
play the game well enough?"

- I did chase.

I just didn't chase their way.

I had my way of doing it.

Every day I thought about
getting to the next level,

every fucking day.

I just did it a different way.

I do know one thing.

Nobody gives a shit.

I was pissed off too long.

I'm worn out, it's time to move on,

because I'm not pissed off anymore.

I met a lot of people on my way
and I made a lot of friends.

It hasn't been a terrible life.

I just lost out on about
100 million dollars.

That's all.