x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Brendan Cole has light feet for dancing and a heavy foot for driving

The Strictly Come Dancing star holds a racing driver's licence in the UK, but despite having had his share of bad scrapes on the road, he has no plans to give up the hobby.

Michelle Williams and dancing partner Brendan Cole during group rehearsals for Strictly Come Dancing, at Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden, central London.
Michelle Williams and dancing partner Brendan Cole during group rehearsals for Strictly Come Dancing, at Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden, central London.

Brendan Cole is best known for his fancy footwork on the BBC television show Strictly Come Dancing.

A renowned ballroom dancer, he won the first series of the global hit, which now has franchises in 32 other countries around the globe under the Dancing with the Stars title.

Cole has been branded as the "bad boy" of the programme in the UK, although he insists it is only his passion for dancing that leads him to often fiery confrontations with the judges.

The 34-year-old's other great passion is for cars. He has a racing driver's licence in the UK, but admits that he very nearly met his end while driving in his native New Zealand.

"I've had a couple of nasty crashes," he recalled. "My first car was a Honda CRX. I was 16 when I got that, but I'd written it off by the time I was 17. I wasn't a very good driver in those days and I came off the road and ended up in the gravel.

"The second accident I had must have been when I was about 21 or 22 and was a lot more serious. Thankfully, on this occasion it wasn't my fault.

"I got hit head-on by a Volvo, the driver of which swerved to avoid a load of parked cars that she was going to hit. I was a very silly boy, as I wasn't wearing a seatbelt and I smacked into the windscreen."

His head made an "unbelievable dent" in the glass, he recalled. "I looked in the mirror afterwards and my face was pouring blood. I remember checking, assuming it must have been my mistake, but it turned out it wasn't. The woman was fine but I had some nasty cuts.

"I got to hospital and one doctor said I had a broken neck and the other said I didn't, so I had to wait five or six hours to find out the truth. Thankfully, my neck wasn't broken, but the nurse who dealt with my cuts tried to clear up my face with antiseptic, but in doing so ended up digging the shards of glass into my face and neck."

In fact, the glass was embedded to such an extent that the last of it came out only two years ago.

Despite his poor run-ins with four-wheel machinery, it hasn't been enough to put Cole off driving.

Not part of a motorsport-mad family - although he recalls his father briefly driving "a nice BMW" - his passion for cars came later on in life.

"It really stems from the time when I first got my own car," he said. "Ever since then, I've just got more and more interested in cars."

He currently drives an Audi A5 and admits to having become a bit of an Audi convert with a series of test outings in Audis ranging from the RS 5 to the R8.

"I'm not sure what it is about Audis, they're just great road cars really, and I'm in the process of getting another one," he added, before admitting that his ideal car is from Audi's main rival, Mercedes, and stems from his motoring passion, F1. "I love the Mercedes safety car at the grands prix - the SLS AMG. That'd probably be the ideal for me."

Other cars on the wish list include a Lamborghini - "of any variety" - having felt the power of a V12 engine on a track day, and a McLaren road car "just because having one of those would be great".

Cole's next motoring foray will be at the Silverstone Classic weekend on July 23; he is taking part in a celebrity racing challenge for former England football captain Bobby Moore's cancer charity and will be at the wheel of a Fiat 500 Abarth.

"I did it last year and the cars are nicely souped up," he recalled. "I had a lot of fun and didn't embarrass myself. I think I came eighth out of about 17 guys. Next up, I'd like to have a go at being a 'star in a reasonably priced car' on Top Gear. They haven't called yet, but I can at least say I've driven a lap of the British Grand Prix circuit."

Cole and his wife, the British model Zoe Hobbs, both share a passion for Formula One and watch every race together when their schedules allow.

"My interest in it has been at its peak the last few years," added Cole.

"I guess first and foremost I'm a Lewis Hamilton man and then Mark Webber, but Jenson Button's not for me. He whinges too much and makes too many excuses."