14.07.10: Celebs at Abarth launch

Time 11:38 pm, July 14, 2010

big_raefbjayouTHERE are few things stranger than an Italian maker’s launch – and the unveiling of the latest Abarths is no different.

Last night I arrived in Helmsley, North Yorkshire, to try the latest Abarth 500C and Punto Evo – but it wasn’t until pre-dinner drinks I noticed something wasn’t quite right…

You know that feeling you get when you recognise someone but can’t quite work out where from. Well I got that more than once as I looked around the room.

Firstly there was a dapper dressed chap with a very large quiff. I couldn’t work out whether he was a well-heeled hack (there are few) or if I knew him from somewhere else.

Then it struck me – it was Raef Bjayou from The Apprentice! What on earth was he doing here? But before I could compute an answer I spotted another familiar face.

This time it wasn’t a good feeling of recognition, but one of slight concern. Like spotting an old school teacher. Then I realised why – it was Jim Burnside from The Bill!

Now things were just getting weird…

Was this some kind of TV convention? Was there a casting for a new advert? Apparently not. One of my colleagues put me out of my misery and explained the celebs had been bussed in by Fiat.

My equally bemused journo friend pointed out Tom Chambers – he of Holby City and Strictly Come Dancing fame – sat in the corner hob-nobbing with some other writers.

After dinner I managed to collar Raef for a chat. He was a thoroughly nice chap and more than happy to give me the inside story on The Apprentice. He was in the series won by Lee ‘That’s What I’m Talking About’ McQueen and told me how he still feared Lord Sugar.

By the end of the night, there was still one question remaining – nice as it was to rub shoulders with some TV faces, what on earth were they doing at an Abarth launch?

‘No one else does it – and it gets people talking,’ Fiat’s PR chief told me.

And I suppose he’s right. I’ve just written this blog about it after all…


James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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