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The Top Gear Live Stunt Team has become the first to complete a double loop-the-loop on four wheels. The stunt - dubbed the Deadly 720 - was the finale to the first of four Top Gear Festival shows staged at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban at the weekend.
The team was also the first to complete a single loop-the-loop in an indoor arena, but Top Gear Live creative director Rowland French admitted: “We've pulled off some pretty outrageous stunts in the past but this was by far the most audacious yet.
“We were all holding our breath as the buggy hit the first loop, knowing there was virtually no margin for error - we'd tried this stunt three times in practice and failed on all three attempts.
“Nevertheless, the maths said it was possible if we got everything exactly right - and we did.”
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The stunt featured two giant steel loops positioned eight metres apart, which the specially prepared buggy had to complete in quick succession. Testing had shown that the G force would have held the accelerator pedal down, causing the buggy to crash on the exit, so special hand controls were fitted, along with a big shift light that went from red to green when the speed was just right to complete the loops.
“To avoid disaster, the buggy had to enter both back-to-back loops at exactly the right speed - too slow and there was the danger that it would have tumbled from the top; too fast and the driver could have blacked out from the G-force,” explained French.
“It really was one of those epic 'I was there' moments. The fans just went wild.”
To defy gravity not once but twice, the buggy had to enter each loop at between 38 and 42km/h. Failing to achieve the minimum speed risked the buggy falling out at the top of the loop. Too much speed would have resulted in extra G on the driver and could have caused him to black out. Moreover, the buggy needed to exit the first loop going fast enough to enter the second loop at the right speed.
Top Gear's three television presenters - Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond - were hosting the show in Durban.
Clarkson said later: “It was quite remarkable - we're much more famous for mucking about and breaking things like caravans, certainly not for breaking world records! I'm just glad nobody asked me to do it… “