Sport on TV: Dettori jockeys for position as race issue arises on street
Sunday 06 January 2013
After the utter gluttony of last year, 2013 has begun with thin pickings. Even the darts is disappointingly slimline these days, and you can't really get less flesh on the bone than Frankie Dettori in Celebrity Big Brother (Channel 5, from Thursday).
After the nightmare of watching the racing pundit John McCririck on one of the reality show's previous incarnations, it would be good for the Italian to represent the sport of kings in a more acceptable light, even if it doesn't make great TV.
But he has probably only taken up residence because he is serving a six-month ban for abuse of prohibited substances. You might have thought he couldn't go any lower, but then he is very short.
So the only ride Dettori can hope for in the next three weeks – apart from a Page Three thoroughbred called Banghard and a load of old soap opera nags – is on the back of Neil "Razor" Ruddock, who is styling himself as a "grizzly bear". If Dettori is not quite full-size, the old footballing hardman has swelled to the size of two or three men. They are both down in the Big Brother basement already, and must have come at a bargain price for the pair.
To relieve the new-year tedium there was a curiosity about racing in the streets of London. It's not strictly sport, perhaps, but then nor is ballroom dancing or darts. The Millionaire Boy Racers (Channel 4, Thursday) have teams of men looking after the cars they bring over from the Emirates, fans line the pavements to catch a glimpse of the motors and the "carparazzi" are on hand to film the action.
Life must be dull in the desert. You can buy a few racehorses and football clubs, but it seems the only way to beat the boredom is to spend the summer in London racing high-performance cars around Knightsbridge. The only problem is there's no room in the boot to hold all the shopping.
In Matt Rudge's fine programme the local residents decry what they call "the Arab supercar season". It's a case of posh people getting upset about foreigners who have even more money than they do, but presumably they have fallen on hard times and had to rent out their summer retreats and stay in town.
Diana Gaskill sits in a basement flat while the cars roar past 50 times a day for 12 hours or more, and when they park, they rev the engine for five minutes. At least they don't have to worry about the price of petrol. There are residents' meetings and letters to embassies but no one actually speaks to the drivers. Maybe they just can't make themselves heard, and you wouldn't want to get in the way.
It's remarkable these souped-up cars accelerating up to 80mph have not killed anyone. Perhaps it helps that the cars are all bright pink and turquoise and canary yellow.
Eventually the police start pulling them over, but there is only one winner in this "battle of the fast and the furious". The only other thing that annoys the drag racers, strangely, is noise. In one (literally) priceless moment, Rashid from Dubai is cruising through Westminster in his £525,000 Lambo Aventador when Big Ben's chimes startle him.
"May God silence his noise," he hisses over the roar of his engine. Ask not for whom the bell tolls – soon he will have to go home, grow up and ring the changes in his life. But there are plenty more boy racers waiting in the gull wings.
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