The Channel 4 documentary Millionaire Boy Racers explored the frictions in Knightsbridge between long-term residents and wealthy Arab supercar racers
Racial tensions don’t only flare up in the likes of Bradford and Brixton. The Channel 4 documentary Millionaire Boy Racers explored the frictions in Knightsbridge between its long-term residents and the new(ish) waves of wealthy Arabs who enjoy racing their supercars through these exclusive London streets.
As you can imagine, these clashes aren’t resolved with sticks, stones or petrol bombs. Instead, in the un-improvable words of my TV-watching partner, most of the programme consisted of ‘lots of posh people trying not to sound racist'.
The loud revving and reckless driving of supercar owners is an irritant, but it’s clear that problems run deeper than this – it’s not only about cars, but also the ‘exodus of more traditional residents'. In a sense, the cars are helpful in providing something tangible to complain about.
‘I think this sort of behaviour is very uncivilised, and if this is all about diversity, then I don’t want to know,’ says long-term Knightsbridge-resident, Justin, whose pink shirt perfectly matched the pink bowl of roses behind him.
‘Poor old London,’ sighs another, who thinks Knightsbridge is becoming more like ‘the Kingdom of Qatar'.
The documentary-makers don't always treat their subjects kindly— they accompany Panda Morgan-Thomas’s rousing rooftop speech about the loss of traditional Knightsbridge with deliberately over-dramatic music.
They set out to expose the narrowness of the resident's world view, the mismatch between their passion and what is actually at stake. That said, some might be relieved to hear that the supercar owners fare little better. Whenever the filming moves to the Gulf a silly little pseudo-Middle Eastern jingle is played. The Gulfi rich-boys are breathtakingly blinkered: if the UK didn’t have nightclubs and alcohol they’d have as much money as the Gulf, one said.
‘It’s oil, not abstinence, that pays for your supercars you moron!’ I think I actually shouted at the telly. Even I struggle to drink a supercar’s worth of champagne, and certainly not on a regular basis.
‘My God silence its noise’ mutters another supercar driver over the roaring sound of his engine when he hears Big Ben chime. If there’s one thing that unites Knightsbridge’s divided population, it’s low tolerance levels.
Watch a video of supercars in Knightsbridge
Another thing struck me though. Abdel-Aziz, a Saudi supercar racer, says that while he’s aware that his late night, loud driving annoys the community, no one’s ever come to talk to him about it. He claims, rightly or wrongly, that he would stop if someone confronted him.
The Knightsbridge anti-Arab Action Group (that’s my own name for the residents’ group) that is campaigning to clamp down on boy racing admit that not one of them has ever confronted one of the drivers about their habits. The only confrontation I witnessed was one old man telling a driver, ‘that’s the ugliest car, I’ve ever seen,’ which is hardly the same as ‘my children are trying to sleep. What do you think you are doing driving like a lunatic at this time of night?’
In my corner of NW1 there are all kinds of nuisances — there are late night revellers, noisy house parties, and occasionally a more home grown variety of boy racer.
We have a way of coping with this, however. It involves opening up your window and screaming ‘will you effing keep the noise down, I’m trying to sleep!’
It’s not very civilised, but it’s very effective, if not at actually reducing noise levels long-term, at least at providing a healthy outlet for pent- up rage.
Read more from Sophie McBain
Watch Millionaire Boy Racers