Tommy Byrne – a driver to have had one of the most rapid journeys to and (sadly) from Formula 1 – is today celebrating his 54th birthday!
Born in the Irish town of Drogheda, Byrne’s rise to Formula 1 was among the most rapid of any driver to have graced its stage.
Barely midway through his first season of Formula 3 racing, Byrne took up the opportunity to join the little Theodore team in 1982. But the car didn’t enjoy the competitiveness he had hoped for, and he sank without trace almost as quickly, never to be given another racing opportunity in the top flight.
While his F1 foray may have proven unsuccessful, Byrne incredibly won the British F3 title in spite of being absent for several rounds when on his F1 duties.
McLaren was contractually-bound to give him a Formula 1 test at Silverstone at the end of the year for winning the F3 title, but – so the story goes – the team engineered his car to have less than the full throttle percentage and incorrectly quoted his incredible lap times to make him appear slower than he actually was on the day.
With limited opportunities left in Europe, Byrne headed Stateside and ploughed out a respectable career in the Indy open-wheeler scene. He now works as a race driver instructor, and earned huge acclaim for his autobiography Crashed & Byrned (reviewed here).