Tommy Byrne behind the wheel of a McLaren Formula 1 car at a Silverstone test in 1982. Tommy Byrne behind the wheel of a McLaren Formula 1 car at a Silverstone test in 1982. Courtesy Jerry Priddle

Canadian Premier of Crash and Burn Comes to Toronto’s Regent Theatre April 7 And 8 Featured

Written by  on Friday, 24 March 2017 16:34

For a brief moment in the early 1980s, Tommy Byrne was arguably the world’s greatest driver – the motor racing equivalent of George Best and Muhammad Ali rolled into one. His rise was meteoric and his fall spectacular. Crash and Burn is his story – how he became motor racing’s bad boy, who rose from humble beginnings in Dundalk, Ireland to be one of the hottest prospects of early 1980s Formula 1, mentioned in the same breath as Ayrton Senna, and how it all went wrong.

MiniGrid, Toronto’s motorsports enthusiast store, is presenting the Canadian premier of Crash and Burn at the Regent Theatre (551 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON), with shows on Friday, April 7 (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday, April 8 (1:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.). Tommy Byrne will attend the screenings, along with producer David Burke and join in Q&A sessions after each show.

Tickets are $20 (includes HST) and are on sale now at MiniGrid (608 Mt. Pleasant Road, Toronto, ON), by phone (416-488-7663) or online at minigrid.com.

The feature length documentary, which has received strong praise from fans and critics during its European premiers, is directed by award-winner Seán Ó Cualáin.

Byrne went from driving a Mini Cooper in stock car racing to the big-time in Formula 1 in a little over four years, securing five championships along the way. He was a cocky, aggressive driver from humble roots and the Formula 1 glitterati simply didn’t like the mix. But he was fast!

Eddie Jordan, the former Formula 1 team-owner, who worked with both Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, will tell you “Forget Schuey and Senna. Tommy Byrne was the best of them all.”

Byrne’s 1982 British Formula 3 championship title earned him a test with the powerhouse McLaren Formula 1 team. That test has become the stuff of legend, because Byrne’s time wasn’t just good, it was unbelievably good. It was the fastest time any McLaren had ever recorded at Silverstone, including the qualifying times set by former World Champion Niki Lauda and John Watson in the same car at that year’s British Grand Prix. Why McLaren didn’t offer him a drive is still a matter of debate to this day.

“I wasn’t the type of driver that Ron Dennis (the McLaren Formula 1 team boss) was looking for. He was looking for a yes man – he knew probably after a couple of interviews that it probably wouldn’t have worked,” said Byrne, adding that he found out his car was slowed down 24 years after the fact.

Then there was his taste for sex, drugs and booze. Jordan suggests that had he played the game, Byrne may well have risen to the very top despite McLaren’s snittiness. Happily, Byrne appears to have found peace now.

He currently lives in Florida, teaching Honda Teen / Adult Defensive Driving, Advanced Defensive Driving, Acura High Performance and Acura Advanced Performance Driving during the race season at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, OH.

Crash and Burn shines a light on one of professional racing’s most dashing and charismatic talents and a glittering career that was doomed before it ever began – the story of the greatest Formula 1 driver never to emerge.

Courtesy Jerry Priddle

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