Crashed and Byrned, by Tommy Byrne with Mark Hughes

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The Independent Culture

"Forget Senna and Schuey. Tommy Byrne was the best of them all." Who? And who says? To answer the second question first, it's the opinion of Eddie Jordan, the former team owner who gave Michael Schumacher his first Formula One drive.

As to who, Byrne escaped a life of poverty and petty thieving in Ireland by virtue of being blindingly quick behind a wheel. Success came quickly in Formula Ford and F3 before he entered F1 in 1982. But his team, Theodore, were never competitive, and after five grands prix it was over.

Drifting to the US and Mexico, he raced a variety of formulas with only occasional success before retiring in 1994. Women, drugs and booze all played a part in his downfall, but one suspects Byrne, once feared by Ayrton Senna, also lacked the ambition to reach the very top. For all the rollicking yarns, this is a tale of talent wasted, but in spite (or perhaps because) of that, it is far more honest – and funny – than the anodyne autobiographies of many more successful drivers.

Published by Icon Books in paperback, £10.99