x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Stars and cars: Snooker star Ronnie O'Sullivan rockets around the race t

Snooker's Ronnie O'Sullivan on racing on and off the track.

The world of snooker is not synonymous with speed but the one caveat to that is the UK's Ronnie "The Rocket" O'Sullivan. As his name would suggest, he's the quickest and most explosive player on the circuit.

O'Sullivan's love-hate relationship with the sport is well documented and he has flitted between being world champion and being on the verge of quitting; most recently earlier this year when he announced he was set to walk away from the sport.

While his love for a game that has earned him something in the region of £6 million (Dh35.2m) has wavered on a season by season basis, his love of cars has not.

His most publicised motoring purchase never actually came to fruition. After pocketing a Dh881,400 bonus for his ninth career 147 break at the 2008 World Championship - the maximum score possible on the green baize - he planned to buy a Bentley Continental GTC, and it is reported widely on the internet that he owns one.

O'Sullivan laughs it off. "I wanted to get one and got to drive one," he says. "Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful car and I definitely wanted one but sometimes in life you've got to be sensible. I'm a dad and I can't exactly go around splashing that sort of money out on a car."

In fact, it is Mercedes rather than Bentley that tends to be the car of choice for the 36-year-old, despite an accident earlier this year in his SL500 which saw him career into someone's garden fence.

"I still don't quite understand what happened - I couldn't really believe it at the time," he says. "I was all right but the car was a bit of a wreck."

Speed is of the essence for O'Sullivan when it comes to his cars. He has enjoyed track days, appearances on British motoring shows Top Gear and Fifth Gear and even taken part in races.

The Volkswagen Racing Cup at Silverstone was one such race. O'Sullivan got behind the wheel of a Jetta for four races over the course of two race weekends at the home of the British Grand Prix, and also at Brands Hatch.

He suffered two did-not-finishes when he crashed out and then boasted a best finish of 13th in the other two races.

"Both crashes were novice mistakes, a bit embarrassing really," he says. "But it was great fun. I love the buzz of going fast on a track.

"It was harder than I thought. Actually, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not all that great a driver; well, racing driver anyway."

O'Sullivan, though, clearly has pace on track. He was the fastest "star in a reasonably priced car" in season four of Top Gear with a time of one minute 47.3 seconds around their UK track back in 2004. And on Fifth Gear, he hurtled around the track in a Mercedes C63 AMG and a BMW M3 while being driven by host Vicki Butler-Henderson.

"Honestly, it was proper mental," he admits. "I thought I was quick before but that was different, the way she went round the corners, with the back end popping out.

"Learning from her about the lines and getting the car to do a lot of the work, I absolutely loved it. It was such a buzz, certainly a better buzz than snooker, as much as I love it."

As for his next motoring ambitions, he wants to race again as he prepares for the first big ranking tournament of the season, the UK Championship in December. "It's just finding the time that's tricky."

But given the chance of going to the snooker hall or race track? "There's only one winner there, isn't there? I'll leave you to decide which one."