Curbing anti-social supercars in London’s most affluent areas will no doubt make our streets quieter. But will they become less colourful too? Phil Clarke from the London Evening Standard investigates…
Power-sliding round the corner, a pearl-coloured Maserati with diplomatic plates screeches off Hyde Park Corner and onto Grosvenor Crescent, an AMG Mercedes E63 hot in pursuit. With a crunch of gears and a perfectly executed five-point-turn, we add our slightly ailing white Nissan to the fray. Finally we’re on the trail of London’s super rich boy racers.
The Maserati leads the way as they speed onto Pont Street. They cross Sloane Street and continue up towards Beauchamp Place, breaking left onto Walton Street as the Merc, sporting Russian number plates, attempts to undertake, cutting across the pavement. They stop at traffic lights, and both cars impatiently rev their throttles, sending pigeons fluttering.
Our people carrier, panting from trying to keep up, whirrs painfully. On green they’re off again, up Pelham Street and past South Kensington station. The AMG driver nearly loses control as he skids onto Onslow Square, just missing a grey delivery van. Unwilling to risk following further, we fall back and London returns to it’s normal pace, the unmistakable howl of exhaust reverb disappearing into the distance.
It is this noise that Kensington and Chelsea Council wants to stop. The last few years have seen a rapid rise in the phenomenon of wealthy car enthusiasts using the roads of Knightsbridge, Chelsea, Kensington and Belgravia as an unofficial street circuit. As prestigious as Monte Carlo, yet as accessible as a drive down the shops — if your local stores are Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, that is.
The cars themselves are expensive, powerful and highly customised. Million pound cars capable of speeds over 200mph, clad in chrome wraparounds costing tens of thousands vie for pole position with Boris buses and Ocado delivery men.
The council has responded with “car asbos”, Public Spaces Protection Orders, which will be imposed on anyone racing, revving or playing loud music from their cars in the streets around the spiritual home of the London supercar scene: Harrods.
I spot a jewel-encrusted Mercedes, exactly the sort of thing that must send council employees apoplectic, and wait to meet its owner. It’s a thing of strange beauty, like the end-of-term prank on the boss’s car at a disco ball factory. Or possibly a Damien Hirst installation circa 2007.
Finally it pays off and I hear keys jangle, but the owner isn’t quite what I was expecting. Not a Saudi Prince or Russian oligarch, ready to terrorise the local population with their wheel spins and endless revolutions, but a 21-year-old female fashion student.
Puppy-loving and self-confessed careful driver, Daria Radionova was given the car, a Mercedes CLS 350 worth £50,000, as a birthday present from her parents, who still live in their native Moldova. It has one million Swarovski crystals attached, individually stuck on by hand at a cost of over £35,000. “I brought experts over from Russia. There were four people doing it, and it took two months sticking them on one by one,” she explains.
The one thing I’ve been unable to find is any real evidence of the Arab and Russian wide-boy car fanatics of the kind Nick Paget-Brown, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, warned of when he told the Standard: “the area has become a destination for boy-racers from the Gulf states”.
After several hours pacing the pavements of Hans Town I am yet to see anything but stationary supercars, the odd Saudi or Kuwaiti numberplate but certainly none of the aggression and antisocial behaviour the council hope to outlaw. Each car is constantly surrounded by tourists, snapping and selfie-ing away. While we were chatting to Daria one man came up to her driveable-glitterball to say thank you, telling us he brought his young son up to Harrods just to show him all the cars.
But then came the car chase, and having witnessed first-hand the reckless driving, not to mention racket, I can see why the council is keen to act. Yet thinking about Daria’s outrageous vehicle and the tourists milling round her, I wonder if our streets may be about to become a little quieter, but a bit less colourful too.
Source: London Evening Standard