If there’s one thing that daredevil Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond is petrified of, it’s the big swing at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban.
While Hammond has been part and parcel of a number of incredible stunts during his time with Top Gear, he would much rather hang out with locals and enjoy a bunny chow than tackle the stadium bungee swing when he returns to Durban next month for Top Gear Festival.
“I’m not brilliant with heights… the last time I was there I thought about trying out the swing at the stadium but decided not to… it’s scary,” says the popular television presenter who added that he was looking forward to being back in South Africa.
“When I discovered the Top Gear Festival in Durban was going to be bigger and better and more explosive than ever there was no way I could miss it.”
Hammond has frequently visited South Africa over the last 10 years for the purpose of filming Top Gear episodes and regards the country as his “second home”.
“It’s a great place… the locations and scenery is excellent. It’s also an easy place to travel to. You just get on the plane, go to sleep and you wake up and it’s the time you think it is so you can get some work done,” says Hammond.
The Top Gear Festival will be staged for the fourth time in South Africa, and for the second time in successive years in Durban, on June 15 and 16. It is essentially the live version of the popular motoring show featuring a variety of exhibitions and track events. Since 2008 Top Gear Live events have entertained more than 1.75 million fans in 20 cities.
SURPRISED BY SUCCESS
Hammond says that hardly anyone associated with the show thought it would grow as big as it is today.
“None of us did, the show didn’t believe it would,” he recalls, “they wanted to revive a show that I had grown up watching. There was no science to making the show. It wasn’t a case of if we did this or that we’d have a great show. Nobody cared really, we just wanted to make the best show we could,” says Hammond, who joined the show in 2002 when the show was relaunched.
Even the appeal of the show to audiences is somewhat baffling to the 43-year-old car fanatic.
“I really don’t know (what draws audiences in). If I did I’d be a very clever television executive. I think the subject matter is a fabulous place to be.
Everyone is affected by cars in some way or another. Whether you love cars or hate them. It’s a brilliant subject from a journalistic point of view. We’ve looked at cars as a form of expression. Top Gear is not a buyer’s guide, no one watches the show for that… it’s the unusual way we look at cars, we look at things like how cars make you feel.” -Independent on Sunday