Recently, Formula One has become a hotbed for filmmakers, whether that be a documentary or a biopic of the sport’s most successful stars and the biggest rivalries that helped turn it into the global sensation that it is today.
However, Crash and Burn tells a tale far removed from the glitz, glamour and success that Formula One is associated with. BBC Northern Ireland’s documentary a tale of a Dundalk man from who came from nothing, and whose eventual fall from the pinnacle of motorsport was nearly as rapid as the road that brought him there.
Like me, even the most ardent Formula One fan may struggle to recall the name Tommy Byrne, and I take great pride in being able to recall every single Formula One champion from memory.
After all, Byrne only entered five races in 1982. He failed to qualifying for three and the two he did manage to wrestle his way onto the start grid, the unreliable Theodore car failed to finish on either occasion.
Byrne’s story is a tale about a man who fought against the odds to reach the top, but fate intervened and his name vanished into the history books. As the title for his book, which preceded the documentary, states, “Tommy Byrne: The Greatest Formula One Driver You Never Saw.”
Byrne and Van Dieman Racing team mate Ayrton Senna and Byrne both demolished the opposition throughout the junior racing categories.
One went on to win three Formula One world titles, the other ended his career racing for a drug cartel owner in Mexico.
You almost have to watch it to believe it.
It’s the unknown and unexpected nature of his career, the feeling of rooting for the underdog, that makes Crash and Burn such an intriguing watch.
In the recent successful films Senna and Rush, the story line is well documented, the viewer knows what is coming up next.
Crash and Burn doesn’t give a happy ending. At one point, it looks like Byrne is destined for stardom and suddenly he’s working at an advanced driving school in Florida.
And the film doesn’t hide it. It doesn’t pretend to be a success story. It’s his spectacular fall is that draws you in.
It’s an important documenatry. It’s not only a piece on a local underdog that was close to making his mark on the big stage and fighting against the establishment, but it’s also a film for the many drivers who didn’t make it, they’re in good company.
In Byrne’s own words, “It hasn’t been a terrible life. I just missed out on 100 million dollars, that’s all.”