MOVIE REVIEW: Crash and Burn

Documentary about Irish Motor Racer Tommy Byrne who is the best driver you’ve never heard of. We chart from his humble origins to the present life, and see not just a huge chip on the shoulder of this man, but the regrets of a life lived his own ways.

The phrase that came to my mind while watching this superb documentary is one that my parents would say about my Brother. This phrase was ‘He’d be great if he could get out of his own way!’ The meaning was that my brother has a natural and wonderful gift with Wood Work that could have made him a fortune, but his attitude of ‘Why should I do things that way?’ has meant he hasn’t fulfilled his potential. Attitude is everything, it is the thin line of difference between being a talented genius or a loser.

Tommy Byrne, as you learn through watching, was a natural behind the wheel, he could read a circuit track quicker than most of his fellow competitors, and the speeds in which he was able to move the car would have terrified even the most experienced drivers. Born into a less than well off family and with a Feck you attitude he found it hard to fit into the upper class set that filled the numbers of the Motor Racing scene in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He had to beg, borrow, and steal to get his start and at the time drivers had to pay for their own race, which was a costly thing. His down to earth attitude fought against the amount of races that he won with ease and the racing establishment found conflict between the two. On the one hand the more races you win the more sponsors that you attract to the team, but the attitude of the driver was key to winning the sponsors over.

We see footage from his races, his interviews from back in the early 80’s, and then we see him today. Working at a racing drivers school in America he carries the scars, mental and physical from the time when he should have become one of the greats of Formula One driving, back when it was the drivers that won the races, when the cars were not basically driving themselves. He is grooming the next generation of wannabe drivers and although there is a bitterness about the people and companies that stopped him from realizing his goal, he’s found a type of peace about him now.

There are many interviews with some of his peers from the racing world back in the day, and the journalists who covered some of the amazing races that he’s won. There is a sense from some of the interviews of the two-faced nature of the business that he entered, when a well-known company owner says in one segment that Tommy could never have fit in, and in a later moment admits that he tried to help him find a ride in a Formula One team. It’s easy to see why Tommy has a chip on his shoulder. The financial strains mixed with what can only be described as a party lifestyle meant that Tommy was not going to reach the full potential that was inside of him.

This documentary shows that natural talent in any discipline is not enough to carry you to the heights that you want. Also there is a lessen here for all those talent show contestants that seem to think that the world is going to love them instantly, and that their quickly made fortune will last for a lifetime. Tommy Byrne is living proof that talent needs to be mixed with a basic understanding of the rules of the game and the players. If ever Mister Byrne is down on his life again he should remember that he is still alive while his biggest rival in the game who made it to the Formula One top spot died tragically. Captivating and interesting Crash and Burn is a documentary that anyone can go see and understand the world that is being presented.

Director Seán Ó Cualáin
Cast Tommy Byrne, Eddie Jordan, Martin Brundle, David Kennedy, Mark Hughes
Script David Burke, Seán Ó Cualáin
Producer David Burke


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