Variety & spice at Durban Top Gear

Petrolheads who braved the traffic jams surrounding the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban this weekend were treated to an action-packed event that fused hard-core racing, comedy and what's become known as 'theatrical' motoring.

Even though the stadium event, presented by Top Gear 'boys' Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, felt a little too short - it lasted just under an hour and a half - there was plenty of action taking place before the show in the areas surrounding the stadium.

Clarkson, Hammond and May entered the stadium on a motorised stage, with V8 power of course. Image: Independent NewspapersThe Boys showed the crowd why most cars have four wheels.Fun, and lots of games.Jeremy Clarkson, looking uncannily like Tickey the Clown doing a lap on his tricycle, salutes an appreciative audience at the Top Gear show. Image: Independent Newspapers.The RB7 made an appearance in an enthrawling cloud of tyre smoke.Bungee jumping, the automotive way.A woman puts her trust in one of the many stunt bikers that added to the spectacle in Durban. Image: Independent Newspapers.Meanwhile, on the street circuit next to the stadium, Michael Stephen won both races in round 5 of the Bridgestone Production Car championship.The new Jaguar F-Type made its first appearance on local shores.


The tight street circuit that had been erected next to the stadium saw plenty of rubber scorched in a variety of races that ranged from serious to comical.

Crowds looked on in amusement as former F1 champion Mika Hakkinen, Gugu Zulu and Sasha Martinengo raced each other in bright yellow tuk-tuks and felt the goose flesh form as Antonie Felix Da Costa screamed down the road in the RB7 Red Bull F1 race car.

There was some serious action too as the fifth round of the Bridgestone Production Car championship saw Audi S4s dominate on both Saturday's and Sunday's races - with Michael Stephen taking a pair of wins. Spectators were also treated to hot rod and hot hatch races as well as some drifting action.


As headline sponsor of the event, our hosts from Shell provided more than their fair share of the spectacle. In addition to fuelling the cars of the event, Shell entertained crowds with its V Power Stunt School demonstrations, while the Shell stand challenged fans to an F1-style pit stop challenge, as well as the incredibly realistic Cruden Ferrari F1 simulator - mounted on hydraulics.

The expo area also gave motor-heads the chance to admire a wide variety of cars from classics to supercars and even some not-yet-launched vehicles like the Jaguar F-Type and Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG.


Of course, the real highlight of the event was the Top Gear stadium show, which saw Jeremy, James and The Hamster entertain with the clownish antics that they're known and loved for.

The trio wafted into the stadium on a moving stage that was, quite fittingly, powered by a V8 engine. They even gave it a good rev just to prove that, before indulging in some donuts.

Jeremy was his usual cocky self, quipping that Richard was "just a helmet with feet sticking out"; that James only joined Top Gear from the second season because it took him that long to drive to the studio; we also found out that the long-in-the-tooth Lamborghini Gallardo was first found in the Sterkfontein Caves and even Oscar got a few rude mentions.


The trio, together with The Stig, treated crowds to a few theatrical races, including a Reliant three-wheeler dice in which they spent most of their time on their sides; the RB7 made another appearance as it smoked up the stage with some spectacular donuts and there was some eye-popping stunt biking action and a motorcycle polo match.

For that all important "on that bombshell" finale, the crew strapped Sasha Martinengo into a Nissan Micra, which they hoisted into the air with a crane to ultimately send him on a 61-metre plunge. We got to see his face on the giant screen as he descended, although the state of his trousers remained a subject of speculation.

All in all, the festival was an entertaining event but given the amount of investment it required, and the ticket prices for that matter, a longer main show would no doubt have been appreciated by many.