It’s season 25 of the popular car show Top Gear, and while it took some time for presenters Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid to warm up to each other, they’re look pretty comfortable now.
This season was filmed in locations including Japan, the US, Portugal Italy and just outside of Guildford. IOL chatted to Chris and Rory to find out what the latest season has in store for viewers.
Last season, things were quite epic. Has there been a big focus to up the ante for season 25?
Chris: I think the focus has always been for Top Gear to be visually spectacular; for it to be hugely ambitious in terms of the places it travels to and the way it presents the vehicles it features.
There is one cautionary note, and that is if you define your success by only being more “epic” than the previous series, you will probably fly yourself to Mars or something as you can’t keep “out-epic-ing” your previous efforts.
Rory, myself and Matt trust the production team to always push things as far as we can, but to not define ourselves by always being more outrageous than before. Top Gear is one of, if not the, most ambitious factual programmes on the planet. The things we do are remarkable and it’s amazing to be a part of it.
What has been the most exciting stunt you have filmed for this season?
Rory: In the films I’ve made I think fear often becomes one of the dominant emotions you feel.
So you’re in a car, you’re about to do something - you don’t necessarily feel excited by it, but you feel apprehension about what’s about to happen. I often ask myself whether they have triple checked that stunts are 100% safe and they definitely do.
They often ask you to drive at a certain speed over a certain object which will upset the car, and you always go into it with a sense of trepidation. It’s not something you look forward to just as you’re about to do it!
So there are several moments in season 25 where we find ourselves in a situation where we might not be 100% comfortable, but I think that makes great television.
What was one of the toughest locations to film in this season and why?
Chris: They’re all challenging. We went to some forest in northern California to film with Matt and I found some of that tough, largely because I didn’t know much about the local relief of the land. The animals - they can probably eat you.
You have that as well in South Africa, animals that can eat you. If I go into the British wilderness the biggest thing I’m going to find is a badger, so that’s quite foreign to a little Brit, as is things like poison oak, which you brush against and it leaves you with a frightful rash.
Rory: I think a Top Gear shoot is always challenging - even Dunsfold, our Surrey home, on a cold January day can be challenging as well. When I do an easy Top Gear shoot I’ll tell you about it - it’s not happened yet.
Which car would you consider the best from this season and why?
Rory: I would say that would be the Suzuki Ignis. It’s a small hatchback, it’s not as fast as some of the MacLarens and Ferraris that my esteemed co-hosts might have enjoyed this season, but wait until you see what we do with it and where we put it. It’s a very capable little car and I think it will surprise many people.
Chris: I want to mercilessly make fun of Rory for saying that, but actually the Ignis is a cool little car - it’s one of those cars that only the Japanese could make. Small, funky and it doesn’t conform to a previous template of a car.
It’s fresh thinking and I’m a big fan of it. But it’s nothing like as exciting as a MacLaren 720S, so he’s wrong. This is Top Gear after all and not some white goods show, so it’s a worthy statement but he’s wrong.
You all have kids. Would you ever allow them to do some of the crazy stunts from the show?
Chris: You’ve seen what the average child can do if left in a room with no objects. So yes, their lives are on a minute-by-minute basis, more hazardous than anything Rory and I could do with a supercar and12 long spikes.
Rory: I don’t think I have much of a choice. My little boy is obsessed with cars and I think the moment he gets his driver’s licence, he’ll be unstoppable.
He’ll find himself in situations I’ll be terrified of, but I won’t have any choice in the matter. They have their little electric cars they drive in the neighbourhood and I have no control over that.
They go on their own little adventures, so it’s only a matter of time before a group of people start following them around with cameras. It’s inevitable.
* Catch Matt, Rory and Chris on Top Gear on Wednesdays at 8pm on BBC Brit (DStv Channel 120).