Crash and Burn: The Greatest Racing Car Driver You’ve Never Seen
Film, 86 minutes
© 2016 – Directed by Seán Ó Cualáin, Written by David Burke

For a brief and seemingly incredible moment in the 1980s, Irishman Tommy Byrne was arguably considered among the world’s greatest racing drivers, but he was sadly never afforded the opportunity to showcase his skills.

Tommy’s foray into F1 was very much ‘flash in the pan’ – he made a meteoric rise through the lower formulae and joined the little Theodore team in 1982, but the project dramatically failed to gel. Despite impressing all with a superb test session with McLaren – part of a prize for winning the Formula 3 crown – any hopes of a future in F1 failed to get off the ground.

Here is a trailer of Crash and Burn…

The steep and seemingly-impossible road to Formula 1 glory is littered with the stories of drivers who may have laid claim to being the best in the business without ever having had the opportunity to showcase their skills.

Tommy Byrne, 1982

Tommy Byrne, 1982

Crash and Burn is effectively a follow-up to Byrne’s outstanding 2008 autobiography, Crashed and Byrned, which charts the journey of his unlikely escape from his poverty-stricken upbringing in Ireland, his rapid rise to Formula 1, his all-too-brief stay there, and his rapid decline back to obscurity.

Today Byrne lives a modest life of relative obscurity, helping the next generation of wannabe racing drivers as a driver coach and mentor in the United States.

There are times when he may appear in the film as a man whose time has passed and left him with nothing more than a massive chip on his shoulder and anger towards those who thwarted his path to glory.

Yet just minutes later, the wall comes down and the man before us also carries the regrets of a life lived his own way.

Attitude is everything, and Tommy’s lower-class ‘Feck you’ approach rubbed too many people up the wrong way. Contrast that with his incredible talent, and you have a contradiction that the elite racing establishment found difficult to overcome.

And yet, one only needs to look at the fortune – and the tragic fate – that befell his fellow up-and-comer, Ayrton Senna, to recognise that there is no tried and tested formula  for long-term success.

Byrne’s story is no fairytale, by any means. There are some anecdotes that are genuine eye-openers, mixed with flashbacks and interview footage from his peers in the industry.

This is a raw, painful, honest and often funny film. It doesn’t shy away from criticising its own star, and that in itself is a refreshing contrast to a number of other biopics that have hit the cinemas in recent years.

It’s a quality that shines through in this must-see film.

Tommy Byrne

Byrne made five appearances – qualifying just twice – for the little Theodore F1 team in 1982. Going from being a British F3 frontrunner to an F1 backmarker proved demotivating for the Irishman, and the inevitable clash with team leadership ensued. Despite missing several F3 races due to his F1 commitments, Byrne still won the 1982 Formula 3 title and an ill-fated test with McLaren…

Crash And Burn is currently showing in limited worldwide release in cinemas. We would like to extend our thanks to Dot Television for giving us the opportunity to review this production.

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Film stills supplied

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Geoff Burke

Journalist at MotorsportM8
Site co-founder. Social Media guru. All-round trouble-maker.