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This programme contains strong language
My old treasure chest.
A couple of bits and pieces here.
This actually is, it hasn't been cleaned for a while
because I really don't go in here that often
but it's the Sports Star of the Year 1981, Ireland.
Look at that.
That's first place.
That's disgusting. Naked.
If you don't make it, nobody gives a shit.
That's how I feel now.
But 20 years ago, yes, I would have felt, you know,
like, "Oh, shit, those guys screwed me over and they did this and they 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 that's never made it.
True talent really stands out,
Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Fernando Alonso,
Michael Schumacher, and Tommy had the talent of these guys, for sure.
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 have 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 him at the top end where there's
sponsors, where there's major manufacturers involved and they don't what
people that are a little bit wild like that.
He got from nothing to Formula 1 in little more than four years.
We may never see a similar story ever again.
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've got a great group of guys back there in the back.
Tommy Byrne down at the end, very accomplished open wheel driver,
..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.
'94, 21 years now. You've been here what, 22?
-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.
Of course my car was broken.
-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 fingertip reach of the pinnacle of
'the sport and it slid down the other side of the mountain
'when it just slipped from his grasp.
'Some of us ended our careers on our own terms.
But for the longest time, Tommy went to sleep, woke up,
and thought, "This isn't fair.
"I should have, I would have, I could have."
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.
There's just when you don't make it, people, you know,
they try to say, well, you did this, you did that. But do you know what?
I just couldn't have anybody telling 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 is 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.
At the start of the '80s, the two hotshots were Tommy Byrne and Ayrton Senna.
Had it not been for Senna arriving at around the same time,
Tommy's talent would have been enough to carry him through.
It would have been irresistible.
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.
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's 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.
It's a little overgrown since the last time I was here, that's for sure.
Oh, man, look at this.
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 any more because I'd be dead. Because everywhere they went I was flying.'
Flying down the roads. Flat-out.
Couldn't slow down.
That's what happens when you're born in the back of the car on the way to the hospital.
INDISTINCT SINGING AND CONVERSATION
"Tommy Byrne away to a flying start."
"Three firsts for Irish."
"Sports star of the week."
'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 listen.'
When he was a child,
he was a nuisance to everybody around him.
-How's it's going, Maurice?
-Oh, I'm humbled.
-How's it going?
Yeah, very good.
'Now I thought he was a little bastard at that stage.
'He was just a little brat.
'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 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.
-show me what you've got there.
-That would be quite an important one.
Is that the British Grand Prix one?
That's the British Grand Prix one.
Look at that.
Is this the Championship one, Maurice?
You think it would be maybe a little bit looked after better than that.
-Well, look at this.
-You didn't even know where to wear it to.
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...
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 clean that one.
We had the annual Tommy Byrne Dinner Dance to make me money and I think I
that was as much money that was collected for that one particular dance.
Enough money to get me some clothes.
We needed 300,000.
When he came on the scene in 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.
I think '77 is when I talked my mum into getting a loan from
the bank and I think we told the bank manager my sister was pregnant
and we had to build an extension on the house, which was true,
my sister was pregnant, but there was no extension going on the house.
The extension was going into Formula Ford 1600 Crossle.
It was £1,250 and then we went to Mondello for the first race, and just
rednecks, out of sync with everything.
There was this kid, 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."
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.
The 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 mum, 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, you know,
so obviously I thought, "If they can do it then I can do it."
So I left Ireland at the end of '78, and that was it.
Never looked 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.
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 team 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
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 you wanted him in the car he was going to have to give him the drive for free.
-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,
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.
That was quite impressive for a guy straight over from a regional
championship to being at that level immediately.
He was winning national Formula Ford races.
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 and you knew he
was going to go places because of his prestigious talent.
You just didn't know how high that elevator was going to go because of
his personality. You could see that it would be a limiting factor.
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.
-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 practice,
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.
Fun, 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...
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.
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.
So, '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 going to say he was afraid of Tommy,
he was afraid that he wasn't going to do as well as Tommy had done the
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 me, I was a fast man, too.
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 know it, you know,
they just smell it and they know and they just want to fuck with you and
treat you a little bit different. But nobody messes with people with money.
You're coming over, you're paying, you better do it like you asked.
How much money do you need to find every year?
Well, in '81, I would say around £20,000, £30,000,
which is always very difficult to get, even with good results.
Wins and 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,
just sort of skipping up the ladder, seemingly for free.
Senna didn't like the way I conducted myself.
Cos 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.
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. 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, "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 says, "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 to him. We didn't come to blows because somebody came 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.
I just got lucky, I guess.
Oh, shit, look there.
That's my old car. Holy smoke.
Hey, guys, what's up?
-Hey, Tom, how's it going, buddy?
-Nice to meet you.
-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 the nicest seat.
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 tiny.
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.
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...
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,
"Tommy, 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 off somebody
and £300 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.
Unlike other drivers, his friends put together the pennies,
not the pounds, to facilitate his onward step.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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, he must have had a beer last night,
"mustn't be feeling too good today." Nothing like the way it was.
I was still leading the Championship,
but why should Murray Taylor even continue to run me even more if I'm
not going to win the Championship?
Cos the only thing he's getting out of it is winning the Championship.
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,
because they actually start believing what these guys are telling them.
You start thinking, "Well, maybe they're right."
That was never a problem for me.
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.
Tommy 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.
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.
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 ten to 12 teams on the grid in the world.
If you get an opportunity to show your talent, you take it.
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 tell you everything you needed to know about Tommy's talent.
I was 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.
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,
just a couple of tenths off, Monza, same thing.
When I qualified for a race in Austria I was the last person to get
in the car because I was starting last.
I really wasn't impressed at starting last.
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
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 again
cos I got in his way or something, just a complete dick.
For three years I won everything, everything,
and I had everybody behind me to help me win.
Now I get in a Formula 1 car and I am last.
Not only am I last, when I speak to the duty manager he tells me if
Keke Rosberg was in my car he would be first.
Any suggestion I give the team, they didn't listen to me at all.
For the first time, my ability was being questioned by these guys.
I was 14th-quickest on the Friday practice.
I thought I might have heard something pop I at the end.
I wasn't too sure but I did mention to one of the guys,
"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 round 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 and 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've got to change the car. But what he didn't realise is you can't use those same techniques,
you cannot 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 is 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
I was fucking pissed and 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
stormed out of there, and that was it. So I was done.
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 to see how many cars drop out.
I knew I had something.
I knew I had a talent
and I could have taken that talent to another team.
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 Championship was a Formula 1 test with McLaren.
He felt that it could be the
make-or-break opportunity of getting into Formula 1 in a top team.
-That's how close it is. First, second, and third. One, two, three.
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.
He did that sometimes three times per lap.
In different areas. Nobody did anything about it.
..Probably to get out of the car and walk away...
The number-one guy was not 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, banging wheels,
and Tommy Byrne is 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.
Now Byrne goes through... Magnificent!
Within half a lap after I passed the other guy,
I was two seconds a lap quicker on the last lap.
They were holding me up that much.
We won the Championship with a very small budget.
It was huge deal. Big, big deal.
Now I'm going to get to drive for McLaren.
We've got VHSes.
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. A big, big day.
Right there I was shitting myself.
That particular time, right there,
I definitely was getting worried about the whole thing.
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.
It just doesn't get any better than that.
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, that is really consistent,
certainly people would've been talking about it. Certainly.
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 aftermath of when he got out of the cockpit and
who was listening to him, what he said to the team.
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.
Of course I didn't say any of that.
But at this stage the rumour mill was going.
I only had to open my mouth and somebody would 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 sealed Tommy's fate.
The management of McLaren wiped their hands of him.
His cocky nature did not quite sit well with a very English-minded
set-up of Ron Dennis and McLaren,
which was ultra-corporate, ultra-professional.
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.
That was a bit of a let-down.
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 he had blown his chances.
When it didn't happen he threw himself to the wind.
That was it.
I tried hard for four or five years to get to Formula 1 and I did
but after that it was all over.
Then obviously the drinking and drugs got a little bit more.
I'm lucky to be alive, I guess.
I was just going through life like there was no tomorrow.
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, 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 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,
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,
the parties and the lifestyle.
I won a bunch of races hung over in America.
It was just a matter of, you know,
having a bit of fun and winning some races at the same time.
He just hung it out there.
He wasn't afraid to tell you what he thought.
Guess what? That is what I liked about Tommy from the very first day.
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.
If you are good enough, 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 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 was enjoying himself.
He would talk about the dreams that he still would have and after Tommy didn't make
it in Formula 1 his dreams went into other things.
Different things that he would say, "I am 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.
Well, this place hasn't changed much.
15 years, huh?
Last time I was here.
Spent a lot of good years here, ten good years, you know.
Kind of sad. Sad and happy.
Happy and sad. Look at that.
'This is my home. It was just, it was perfect.
'It presents 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.
Can't get much better than that, it was brilliant.
In America, I only made half the effort.
Half my effort was OK.
You always think you're going to get 1 million,
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 a 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.
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 ten 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.
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.
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.
..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,
I was driving the shit out of it.
This is the battle that's been joined since the drop of the green flag.
Barry, something has happened directly behind you.
It looks as if one car has gone off the course out of turn number 11.
Now, does it involve Byrne, maybe?
I think something's wrong with Byrne.
I don't know how the car got over on that part of the...
Oh, Tommy Byrne has nowhere to go.
Your thoughts at that point when you realised you were about to lose the Championship?
I don't think I can say it on TV.
'So that day I lost the Championship and 80,000'
and the Triple Crown. I lost a lot, and the chance to get into IndyCar.
So I lost it all in one day.
It just wasn't to be.
I should have stopped 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.
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.
There was some issues. I was coming to the end.
It was just... That was 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.
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,
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 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 in New Mexico.
The first visit, I met this guy, Orchio.
But I would just mention to him, "If we had an Italian engine,
"I think we'd go 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
round 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.
Mexico, it was just a total mess.
It was just partying and whores.
That's all Mexico was.
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 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...
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,
fucking completely naked, and he's got a gun in his hand.
I'm going, "Jesus, Orchio, que pasa? 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!
I said, "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 Alberto called me two weeks later and he said Orchio was dead.
He drowned in a 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 our relationship was gone to shit.
We were done. And it all fell apart here.
People get fed up, you're complaining, you're calling people, boo-hoo.
Lost my wife, she left me.
And 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 any more.
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 cos 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 I ended up, in the end, getting custody of the kids,
but it was rough.
It was nothing... That's when I needed some stability, job-wise.
'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 a little
bit of coaching on the side. '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.
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 realising'
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 going to get away from it.
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 alone.
It's very easy to be critical of the things around Tommy that didn't
give Tommy what he needed, but certainly, in my experience,
Tommy Byrne deprived himself of the opportunity to be a world champion.
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 any more.
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.