5 minutes with ... Nina Sebastiane

If you don't know who Nina Sebastiane is, that's because you're not into speedway

If you don't know who Nina Sebastiane is, that's because you're not into speedway. She presented Channel Four's GP speedway coverage, is mad on bikes and any sport that is either dangerous, glamorous or preferably both. We collared the girl in her local North London hang-out...

What's your story, then - where you from? You sound pretty posh
Bit of a mixed bag really. My parents are Greek, then I was kidnapped when I was 3 years-old by my then-estranged father, who told my aunt that we were going away for the weekend. Instead we went to live in Canada for five years. When I came back to the UK I had to change my accent pretty bloody quickly - I was like "hey guys, wait up!" everywhere, and no-one could understand a word I was saying.

What's the score with the speedway thing? You doing it again this year?

Well we're waiting for the agreements to come through for this year, but hopefully yes, I'll be doing the speedway for 2002. I absolutely love doing it - the smell of a methanol-filled stadium is my idea of aromatic heaven! We did the six rounds of the Grand Prix series last year, and it's a lot sexier than regular speedway simply because there's more money in it. So you get nicer stadiums, better outfits - the whole package is tidier than going down to see, say, Peterborough Pirates on a soggy Sunday afternoon.

Isn't speedway a bit, you know, pikey compared to, say, the British Superbike Championship?

I wouldn't call Speedway pikey, I'd call it a working-class sport. You've got to remember that it was absolutely huge in the 1970s, full of famous names and big British heroes, and then all of a sudden it just disappeared. I think it was partly carried high by the whole Barry Sheene phenomena, and then as Sheene fizzled out from public view, so did the public's interest in motorcycles in general. Speedway went out of vogue, and with no big names in the sport it withered and died.

So is speedway due for a big comeback, then? I've heard that one a few times before....

I think it is, yes. Thing is, people want more than just a few bikes blasting round a gravel track these days. You want somewhere nice to sit, somewhere nice to go, families are quite discerning. They want a proper day out, and that's what BPI - the people now behind the speedway GP series - are doing. They're pouring shitloads of money into the sport to make it a proper event again. They had 40,000 people at the Cardiff GP last year.

And that's where you come in, being the presenter's face of speedway on Channel 4?

Well unfortunately, the way things work these days are that if it hasn't got full TV coverage and sponsorship, and if it's not available to the average Joe on terrestrial TV, then it's going to be loads more difficult to get it the coverage it deserves. BPI have done all the right things to make speedway big-time. All we need is a couple of good events to put it back on the map, but it's a bit of a Catch 22. Without good television exposure, you won't get the big sponsorship. And without big sponsorship, it's harder to get good TV coverage!

Isn't speedway still mega-popular out in the further reaches of Northen Europe? Like, just south of the Arctic circle?

Yes, it's huge in Poland, Czechoslovakia, countries like that. The sport gets prime-time coverage on the TV out there, and they've got some big speedway stars like Tomas Gollob. He's making serious money out of it - I can't really explain why, but speedway is huge in those parts of the world. They just love it.

So what's your personal riding  history, then?

My first experience in bikes was about three years ago. I was doing a travel series called Travel Express on the UK Style channel. It was a case of thinking of the most over-the-top adventure that you'd like to do, and I was like, 'how can I do something a bit different?' So basically I organised a week's biking through the Highlands of Scotland. Hadn't even ridden a motorcycle before, but I passed my bike test - got it first time - Honda leant me a FireBlade, and off we went. Rode all the way up to Fort William in May, and it was just the most amazing thing. I fell in love with bikes right there and then.

Thing is, just when you're falling in love with bikes they tend to have a habit of dumping you on your arse at 70mph...

Well I have crashed, but it wasn't too bad. I was pottering along some real bumblefuck back-road, and came across a sheep in the middle of the road. I look at the sheep, sheep looks at me, sheep gets out the way but I've grabbed too much front brake. It tucked under and down I went. Can't have been doing even 20mph so the only thing that was hurt was my pride.

What else are you into, speed-wise?

I love snowboarding - maddest thing ever, that. I'm not really into the big air though, I seem to spend more time on my arse than on my board every time I jump. So I'm more into the flat-out speed down a steep mountain in fresh snow. Just a wicked feeling, that.

Any near-death experiences along the way? Bikes and snowboarding are a dangerous mix...

A year ago I did a Ski series called Ski America, and a couple of times on that I'm being filmed doing my piece to camera and trying to snowboard at the same time. At least once after we'd finished taking the shot, I relaxed afterwards thinking it was over, and nearly went straight over a ravine. It would have really upset the Travel Channel if they'd had a dead presenter on their hands...

Tell me, is there all some big Life Plan you're following, stage by stage?

God no - I just kinda shamble along and see what's coming next! I'm not very good at sitting down and doing nothing, and if being a telly presenter works out for me and I get more work, great. If it doesn't, never mind - I'll just do something else. I worked in the music industry for 10 years, worked in A&R for Polygram Music before I got poached by Pete Tong, who's my old boss. The music business was fun, but I kinda got bored of doing other people's stuff and wanted to do stuff for me. So I was 28 and thought I'd better get off my arse and do something about it. I think I'm a natural entertainer for TV stuff anyway - more balls than a football team, and I'll happily do anything that's asked of me!

Isn't your brother a mega-famous international top DJ-type dude?

Yeah, Phil. Calls himself Pure Science. He's had a bunch of dance singles out, travels all over the world playing at clubs and raves. He's a resident DJ at Fabric nightclub in London and is dead good at what he does. So I guess there's a bit of music in the family!

You loaded yet, then?

I certainly don't classify as rich yet. I have a couple of really good holidays a year, have drinks with my mates couple of times a week, and a nice bicycle without any punctures. That's about the limit of my wealth right now!

And can you be a right bitch when the mood takes you?

Not really. I'm a Scorpio, and whatever that means it definitely involves being quick to anger and quick to subside. I don't really bottle stuff up - what you see is what you get with me. I guess life's too short to waste time on sulking.