I was soon living with Angie. She lived in these slum apartments near the garage. Her mother had an apartment downstairs where she lived with Pat. I came to think of her mother as 'Panda' because her face was always black and blue from the beatings Pat gave her when he got a few drinks inside of him. He was a monster. One night Angie and I could hear him knocking seven colours of shite out of her mum, so Angie and I went down to try and stop it. We calmed him down and he sat down with Panda and apologised, and me and Angie went back upstairs. About ten minutes later we heard it all kick off again, so off I went again. This time it ended with him on top of me, choking me and taking a bite out of my cheek. I was begging for my life. He had the strength of ten men and was completely crazy. I came back upstairs. Angie used to rock back and forth when she was distraught. There we both sat rocking on the sofa together as Pat went another couple of rounds with Panda. After about fifteen minutes of this I was starting to get mad about the begging I'd had to do to save my ass and started looking for a weapon. There was a broken table in the flat from another of Pat's temper fits. I picked one of the legs from it and hid the others around the room and told Angie to call him upstairs and that when he came we'd beat the shit out of him. So she calls down the stairs, 'Leave my mum alone you Irish bastard. Come up here and I'll give you what you deserve.' So he comes running up the stairs and the first thing he does is punch Angie in the face, knocking her out cold. I grabbed my weapon and began hitting him across the skull with it. With the help of Panda I got him to the ground and every time he tried to get up I'd whack him again. I was hitting him so hard it was ricocheting up my arm. I actually began to feel sorry for him but I knew if I let him get up I was a dead man. I thought of running but decided to stay because he would have taken it out on the two women. Eventually he started to lick ass, 'Ah, Tommy, Angie. I'm sorry. I was only jokin' with yers. Let me up so I can have a fag.' I wasn't buying it but Panda was and the silly cow had been letting him get away with it for years. Suddenly a growl comes from him and he gathers his strength and goes to get up. I whacked him really hard: BANG, stay the fuck down, BANG, stay down - this time catching Panda's finger and breaking it. Eventually the police arrived and because he was such a mess they wanted to charge me, not him. But that was sorted when he threw another of his crazy fits in front of them. Now they believed me.
Half an hour later I was in the emergency room, lying in a bed getting a tetanus shot in my ass, with Pat in the next bed, getting fifty stiches in his head. He was talking and laughing about it all, friendly, like nothing had happened. The police assured me he would be spending about a week in jail. Angie, Panda and me went back to the flat. About 6am I was woken by the sound of breaking glass. The bastard was trying to get in through the front door. I grabbed a broom handle and began beating him back through the broken door window, shouting for Angie to call the police. He then took off, vowing he was going to get me.
This, I predict, will become the most acclaimed sporting book of the year. It is the story of how Tommy Byrne, a 'culchey' (redneck) from a poor Catholic family near Dundalk, rose to the cusp of a glittering Formula One career, and then lost it all. Byrne's words are conveyed and linked together into a coherent narrative by motorsport's best journalist and writer, Mark Hughes. It's a fabulous book.
Three years after the events above, Byrne is dominating in Formula 3, and meets McLaren's Ron Dennis, with a view to Dennis signing an option on Byrne's future services:
Ron did most of the talking then started asking questions. I'm an open sort of guy and just answered very honestly.
'Where were you born?' Dundalk. 'What was your education?' None. I left school at fifteen and got a job. 'What does your father do?' Works in a factory making shoes. 'How many brothers and sisters do you have?' Four sisters and a brother. 'How good are you as a driver?' The best in the world.
Then I popped in the question of getting money to finish the F3 season. 'All our money is tied up in R&D,' he replied.
'What's R&D?' I asked quizzically.
You could have heard a pin drop. I knew I'd just made a bad mistake. He looked at me like I was The Knacker from Dundalk and in a tone you wouldn't use on a dog, he sneered, 'research and development.'
Twenty-five years later, I still feel that moment. It fucking haunts me.
Tommy Byrne Mark Hughes Ron Dennis