THE TOP Gear Festival took place last weekend and as it was the first time I had attended one of these events, I had many expectations.
All three TV presenters, Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May (pictured) were in attendance and it was intriguing to see the TV show presented live.
For their grand entrance the trio each drove a luxury car ranging from a Lamborghini to Aston Martins. You could see they were in their element as they took in the South African welcome.
Held at Durban’s Moses Mabhida stadium, one half of the venue had a stage that was comprised of two steep ramps which hinted at what would take place later. It was unclear whether the trio’s banter was scripted as they tended to blend in with whatever unplanned things happened throughout the afternoon.
In keeping with Top Gear’s standards, the first act was a parade of luxury cars around the stadium’s athletics track. Although there were many cheers from the male fans in the terraces, there were a lot of women, many of whom had accompanied their partners.
A show like this will take you to one of two places. You either feel so broke that you want to work even harder to be able to afford one of the vehicles on show, or you feel content with your life and believe further aspirations are not necessary. I was torn. On the one hand I want to cruise in the Lambo, but on the other the costs and attention it brings are not worth it.
Back to the English trio. After the parade they stepped aside to allow a few stunt drivers to do some really bad driving that would make the average taxi driver jealous. It was one of those high-speed routines in which they almost bump into each other, but nothing serious really happens.
To heighten the danger, two of the drivers taking part mostly drove in reverse at high speed. They made Jason Statham and the crew from The Fast and the Furious look like go-cart drivers.
As this high-speed stunt seemed too good to be true, Clarkson quelled our curiosity but revealing that the drivers of the “reverse cars” were driving specially adapted vehicles. The entire mechanism of the car – the direction the wheels turned in, the axle and even the steering wheel all faced to the rear of the car. It was an amazing stunt.
The ramps mentioned earlier were put to good use when a bunch of dirt-bike riders sped through the arena to do amazing stunts that were enjoyed by the crowd.
One of the most innovative segments was when Clarkson, Hammond and May spoke about how they could make vehicles out of household appliances and then argued about who had made the best one. So from ironing boards to washing machines, we saw several things that we would not ordinarily see moving on the highway. It was a hilarious yet thought-provoking showcase that you would easily find in Popular Mechanics.
Sensing that the crowd loved what was going on, but wanted more, the Top Gear crew brought it home to something we’re all familiar with. The subject was how to improve the comfort level in taxis. So a few taxis were brought in and the three petrolheads came up with ideas.
One of the most ridiculous was to tie a couch on wheels to the back of a taxi and the trio almost got injured while trying it out.
In keeping with the South African flavour, and perhaps milking the World Cup, there was also a three-on-three Toyota Yaris soccer match. Clarkson and his buddies represented England, while three local drivers represented South Africa. It was great to see the Bafana cars win 5-1 because you know the team won’t give us that result.
All in all, the Top Gear event is that place you go to for a little escape to see the cars that only a select few have the privilege to drive.