The roaring of engines and screeching of tyres has started. The Top Gear extravaganza – one of the biggest motoring events in the world – has arrived in Durban and with it the familiar faces of BBC presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond.
The trio landed in Durban yesterday and were soon up to their usual high jinks during their first public appearance at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Clarkson apologised for “being late” and blamed one of the show’s crew before telling Hammond to stop looking up a photographer’s trousers when the gathered media started snapping pictures.
May, on the other hand, maintained his usual quiet decorum.
“This is the best stadium in the world,” said Clarkson, when asked how it felt to be back in Durban, adding that the city had the “best audiences”, too.
BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER
Hammond, ignoring Clarkson’s mocking, promised that this year’s show would be “bigger, better, and faster” than last year’s production.
Below, on the customised tarmac track around the grass pitch, tyres screeched and high powered engines revved as cars were tested ahead of the weekend’s action.
The three presenters briefly answered shouted questions from journalists and appeared to be in an amicable mood, but they were quickly whisked away by the show’s support staff.
Outside Moses Mabhida Stadium, cars were moving at a much slower speed – road closures meant traffic was bumper-to-bumper.
Masabalala Yengwa (NMR) Avenue, the M4 Ruth First Freeway, Sandile Thusi (Argyle) Road, and Snell Parade were all cordoned off as final preparations to the street circuit were under way, resulting in uMgeni Road being used as an alternative route in and out of the city.
Metro police spokesman Eugene Msomi said the police were manning all road closures and alternative routes to ensure smooth traffic flow with 240 officers, plus additional “general patrol” police working the routes.
“We try our best to make sure the road closures minimise backlogs, and the plan has been extensively advertised,” he said.
“I think we have learned from the past, and this is well thought out.”
Msomi did warn that if drivers did not need to venture into the vicinity of the stadium they should steer well clear.
“The stadium precinct and the North Beach area should be no-go if you are not going to Top Gear this weekend,” said Msomi.
He added that if people did need to visit the surrounding area they should plan alternative routes before they left.
The manager of Pennylane Cars in uMgeni Road, Pravesh Ramsoonder, said that traffic had been “chaotic” and his customers had battled to get to their showroom.
“I hope the festival makes lots of money and it comes down to the people,” he said.
Ramsoonder said that taxis and buses had “been doing their own thing” on the road, too, and not adhering to the no-stopping signs put in place by traffic officials.
This, combined with the extra traffic, saw him taking “roundabout routes” and an extra 30 minutes to get out of the area. -The Mercury