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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Netflix series Fastest Car: Street sleepers versus supercars

Fastest Car is Netflix’s way of throwing down the gauntlet at Amazon Prime – in a direct challenge to its successful but expensive motoring hit The Grand Tour

'Fastest Car' is taking on the likes of 'The Grand Tour'. Courtesy Netflix
'Fastest Car' is taking on the likes of 'The Grand Tour'. Courtesy Netflix

For the true petrolhead, skinned knuckles come with wrenching under the bonnet in the eternal quest for more horsepower and speed. What really stings is bruised pride when some fool dares to insult their precious ride. Just like that, the duel for dominance is on – and it is off to a racetrack to settle the score.

This piston-packing psychology isn’t lost on Netflix, which, in its first serious foray into motoring, injects some high-octane adrenaline into its streaming service this Friday with Fastest Car – a new reality series that takes us to the drag strip to pit the have-nots with their home-built beasts against the haves with their pricey, exotic thoroughbreds.

In each hour-long episode, three souped-up “sleeper” cars – tinkered with and lovingly laboured on – go head-to-head with one of the world’s most sought-after supercars.

“Money doesn’t always win,” a backyard-mechanic racer declares in the series trailer, to the derision of his wealthy, snobby opponent, who snipes: “I don’t want pieces of your car flying on me.”

It is surprising that it took until now for someone to come up with this delightful high-conflict concept. After all, what could be more amusing or entertaining than rooting for a humble soccer mom’s SUV to blow the doors off of a millionaire’s Lamborghini?

Diverse car owners go head-to-head on 'Fastest Car'. Courtesy Netflix
Diverse car owners go head-to-head on 'Fastest Car'. Courtesy Netflix

“Don’t believe a 1984 Honda CRX can beat a Ferrari California? Or a 2011 Pontiac minivan will leave a Porsche [911] GT3 in its rear-view mirror? There is a whole subculture which begs to differ,” according to Netflix.

Meanwhile, the streaming giant – now available in more than 190 countries with US$8 billion (Dh29.38bn) to burn on content this year – is as fiercely competitive as the track rats who light up their slicks during the series’s eight episodes.

Fastest Car is Netflix’s way of throwing down the gauntlet at Amazon Prime – in a direct challenge to its successful but expensive motoring hit The Grand Tour, which has already completed two seasons with former Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond driving on new adventures and, as always, destroying cars. There have been cancellation rumours surrounding The Grand Tour, but Clarkson has recently denied them.

For the uninitiated, a “sleeper” car is one you look at and say: “That can’t be that fast.” But what really revs up the fun in Fastest Car is the never-ending trash talk that spews from duelling egos like blasts of nitrous oxide.

“I assembled this car in three days in my grandfather’s garage,” boasts a proud do-it-yourselfer. “My whole life I’ve been the underdog.”

“I would be humiliated if I get my doors blown by a station wagon or ice-cream truck or whatever the heck this stupid car is,” says a supercar owner.

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The competitors are male and female, and hail from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life.

“People will see that me being in a wheelchair doesn’t really matter,” says the driver of a vintage hot-rod pick-up truck he affectionately calls Lunchmoney.

“I was stuck in the streets [with a gang] every day,” says an African American drag racer, who finally found his niche in motorsport.

“It’s always fun to beat the boys,” says a sassy member of an all-female crew.

Fastest Car should have no problem winning a following – it taps into an age-old rivalry and tries to settle the big question that has dogged racing enthusiasts since the invention of the internal combustion engine.

Bob Sorokanich of Road & Track magazine perhaps puts it best: “Is it better to pour your hours and energy into building a fire-breathing monster by hand? Or to reach a level of wealth where you can write a cheque for one of the fastest cars on Earth?

“[As] teams of hardscrabble hot-rodders search out every last advantage to prove their worth over the mega-buck exotics... wealthy car collectors hope they won’t be embarrassed by a Frankenstein hunk of junk.”

Fastest Car is available for streaming from Friday on Netflix