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F1's Rags to Riches To Rags Story

Tommy Byrne's rags-to-riches-to-rags tale is the craziest adventure from the bottom to the top and back to the bottom that any F1 driver has experienced.

Broke and punchy during his prime,

Byrne was a terror on four wheels,

a terror on his sponsors and competitors

and a terror in the pubs.

Byrne turned his innate skill behind the steering wheel into a one-way path from poverty to near-stardom. But that trajectory to the top—to wealth and success in F1— was repeatedly sidelined by a wild streak that would not be tamed.

His youthful defiance towards convention, authority, healthy living and measured behaviour ensured most opportunities were surrendered at crucial points in his career.

Byrne's big F1 opportunity came in 1982 while chasing, and ultimately winning, the British F3 championship.

Byrne earned an invitation to test for McLaren. Byrne’s record-setting test with the McLaren team in 1982 is the stuff of legends. Despite his unholy speed at the Silverstone test, a contract to drive in 1983 did not materialize.

It also marked the start of a rapid personal decline.