The latest in the historic scene and important dates for your diary
After 25 years out of racing, former Formula 1 driver Tommy Byrne made a surprise comeback in an Ensign N177 in the Historic F1 races supporting the British Grand Prix. The outspoken Irishman raced the 1977 Cosworth Dfv-powered car owned by James Hagan in the two FIA Masters Historic Formula 1 Championship events, held on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit.
Byrne, now 60, made just two Grand Prix starts in 1982 with the uncompetitive Theodore TYO2. His colourful career – a tale of a bright talent lost to wilfulness – has recently been celebrated in the book Crashed & Byrned.
“My last race at Silverstone was in 1984 when I drove the Anson-alfa Romeo in the European F3 race, which was the penultimate time I drove in the UK,” said Byrne. “I raced in the 1986 Birmingham Superprix in an Eddie Jordan Racing March 86B. My friend James Hagan asked me to drive the car [the Ensign] and I was happy to oblige.”
Byrne finished 16th in the opening Historic F1 race after being involved in a fierce late-race battle with Adrian Newey’s Lotus 49. However, a misfire halted further progress in the second race and the 1982 British F3 Champion was forced to retire after eight laps.
In spite of the problems, Byrne enjoyed his return to racing and has plans for another go. “I had a great time,” said Byrne. “It was a struggle at the start. When you don’t race for 25 years and you jump into an F1 car it’s definitely harder work than when I was younger! I learned the track and I learned the car and we made the car better all the time. We were making progress but something happened in race two, which was a real shame. I’d love to have another go.”
After his F1 career stalled, Byrne looked to North America and raced through to 1992. He now works as a driver coach and teaches high performance and defensive
driving from a base in Florida.
A landmark car from the BRM story has returned to racing this summer in the hands of Californian enthusiast Charles Mccabe. He has now taken over the frontengined BRM P25 most recently owned by Gary Pearson.
Mccabe’s car is the one used by Jo Bonnier to score BRM’S first world championship F1 win at Zandvoort in 1959. The car was soon made obsolete by the rearengined revolution, and BRM left it alone owing to the Zandvoort result, so it remains very original.
“It’s a lovely car and very nicely balanced,” said Mccabe after racing it on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.“the car will stay in the UK with Hall and Hall because this is where all the grand prix cars from that period are.”
Mccabe will commute from California and plans to race it four or five times a year in Europe with the Historic Grand Prix Cars Association, racing it alongside his rear-engined Lotus 18.
The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is the biggest historic racing festival in North America and will run over the weekend of August 23-26 at the outstanding Laguna Seca track in California, famed for its sensational Corkscrew section.
Many cars and drivers will also be in action over the preceding weekend at the Monterey Prereunion, the warm-up event that is nearly as big as the feature meeting. Masters USA will field a strong grid of 1967-1984 Historic F1 cars during the very full weekend, which features a total of 550 historic race cars.
In the 25-strong F1 field will be rising US historic racing star Tim de Silva in a 1982 Alfa Romeo 182, running alongside the Shadow DN3 of his father Harindra. European front-runners Mike
Cantillon (Tyrrell 010) and Jamie Constable (Tyrrell 011) are also set take on US aces including Charles Nearburg (Williams FW07).
The main event on the second weekend is also celebrating 50 years of the Formula 5000 category, and as many as 50 of the 5-litre monsters will be on hand. Plans have been laid for an open race for F1 and F5000 cars at the end of the weekend to re-create the flavour of period non-championship races such as the Silverstone International Trophy and the Brands Hatch Race of Champions.
One of the stars of the event will undoubtedly be double world champion Mika Häkkinen, who returns after driving the exemerson Fittipaldi Mclaren M23 a year ago. This time the Finn will mark 25 years of the Mclaren F1 GTR road car and is demonstrating one of the iconic supercars.
IN SPITE OF THE PROBLEMS, BYRNE ENJOYED HIS RETURN TO RACING AND HAS PLANS FOR ANOTHER GO
Byrne (below, left) enjoyed his time in the Ensign N177
At Brands Mccabe was full of admiration for the BRM (right)