Former Irish Formula One driver Tommy Byrne is set to return to the cockpit of a racing car later this month, driving a Hesketh raced by James Hunt in the 70s.
Tommy Byrne, a multiple Champion in lower formulas in the early 80s, made it into F1 with Theodore in 1982. After half a season with the team, he was called upon by McLaren to test their race winning MP4/1 at Silverstone. Byrne immediately went quicker than regular race drivers Niki Lauda & John Watson but was never called upon by another F1 team for his services.
A documentary about his life and career was produced and released in 2016, with Byrne also granting FormulaSpy an in-depth interview ahead of the film’s London premiere.
He spoke at length about his missed opportunities, why he felt F1 never worked out for him, and the career he’s enjoyed in America. With much more media attention on him since the film’s release, Byrne has signed up to be one of the star attractions for the upcoming 50th anniversary showcase event at Mondello Park. With Ireland’s main motorsport venue celebrating half a century on the weekend of August 18th & 19th, there will be plenty of racing as well as remembrance of the late Martin Birrane. The former owner of Mondello and Lola Cars boss passed away in early June at the age of 82.
Byrne is set to race in the HSCC Derek Bell Trophy Races using the 1975 Hesketh with which the late James Hunt won the Dutch Grand Prix in that year. The car is now owned by Historic F1 racer James Hagan.
Aside from an outing at the Silverstone Classic ahead of last months’ British Grand Prix, Byrne hasn’t been a racing driver for a long time, and is understandably thrilled about the prospect of racing again: “I am so excited to be back at Mondello Park where it all started for me 42 years ago. To drive James Hunt’s first F1 car is also a huge honour for me. I would like to thank James Hagan and Mondello Park for giving me this opportunity!”
The Mondello Historic Festival takes place on August 18/19. Drivers of classic cars and riders of classic bikes will be allowed into the event for free and will have a specific parking area.
Similarly, those wearing period 60s/70s attire will not have to pay admission. Other attractions include live music, a Gin Bar, historic aircraft display and flyover and much much more.