Top Gear fever got me revving my two-litre sports car’s engine more often than usual this past weekend. I’ve used a little extra petrol than needed, spent more time in first and second gear – to hear the “roar” of my engine, possibly placing added strain on to my tyres, brakes and shocks – all in the spirit of the most popular motor show in the world.
And if I was in a Petrolheads Anonymous class and the question put forward was, “Have you been imagining yourself on a race track this past weekend?” I would look to the ground like a naughty schoolboy and raise my hand.
And I’m sure I’m not alone.
After six months of preparation, Top Gear made Durban its home for the weekend. Roads were closed and havoc caused to traffic a day before the event, but thousands of Durbanites and others were treated to a motoring spectacle, with memories to last for some time.
It’s not the easiest of sensations to describe, the thrill of watching cars whizz past – but I loved it, and apparently so did 64 000 other South Africans who made the trip to catch the Top Gear festival at the weekend.
As a member of the media contingent taking part in the festival, the experience is somewhat embellished. For media, the boundaries that control the public are broken and we are often free to wander in areas that remain hidden from most of the public, and speak to people many do not have access to. Three such recognisable individuals were the Top Gear presenters themselves, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.
I had the rare opportunity of interviewing the trio for a television programme – and what an experience it was. Possibly the most difficult of interviews, and probably the funniest I have done.
Difficult because those three madmen just cannot stand still, they finish each other’s sentences, insult each other and fight over the microphone – much like the characters we all love on the show. A fantastic experience, one that pushed my Top Gear experience into… well, top gear.
They praised South Africans for their support and joked about the scary drivers on our roads.
I did love how they all politely introduced themselves to me just in case I did not know who they were.
“Hi, I’m James May, nice to meet you.”
The festival itself was great, incorporating all the elements needed to fulfil a petrolhead’s (or dieselhead’s) motoring fantasy.
The trio’s praise for Durban was inspiring, and they repeatedly said the Moses Mabhida stadium was the most spectacular they had seen.
“Profound and massive thanks to the Durban Top Gear Live audience. You were absolutely epic. 3happyboys,” Clarkson tweeted on Saturday.
Then in another tweet to his daughter in London, Clarkson said: “We just had our first pitch invasion. THE most amazing show ever. Applause beyond belief.”
The show was world class – great presentation, flawless driving by the skilled Top Gear drivers and the usual humour and wit that goes with the show.”
One of the motoring challenges included “car football” between South Africa and England with six little Chevy Volts, a giant soccer ball and goal nets.
The match saw Bafana Bafana “win” their first match at Moses Mabhida Stadium, even if it was behind the wheel.
I do, however, feel that the game was rigged, as it seemed SA won in all four duels during the weekend.
Even Durban’s bunny chow got a mention in the show, but it was not known whether any of the presenters tasted the city’s most famous meal. Local print media hounds were not given an opportunity to speak to the trio.
But May tweeted yesterday: “Durban gave me a tremendous chicken tikka bhuna last night” with the hashtag “#MultiCulturalismImprovesTheGlobalDietAndThatWillEndWar”. A reference to a bunny chow, perhaps?
Now for next year’s show.