’Top Gear’ presenters tackle the Wall of Death challenge in 29th season
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There was a time when “Top Gear” fans were concerned about the future of the show after Jeremy Clarkson’s forced exit, which was followed by the resignation of his co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May.
But the show did go on with Chris Harris, Sabine Schmitz (2016–2020), Chris Evans (2016), Rory Reid (2016–2019), Matt LeBlanc (2016–2019) and Eddie Jordan (2016–2018), stepping behind the wheel, so to speak.
It was a tricky juggling act but I believe the “Top Gear” creatives have finally got the character dynamics down to an art form with Harris joined by Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff.
Each of them brings something different to the show and their personalities meld marvellously as they take on dare-devil challenges, be it off-road, on a track or through some bustling street somewhere in the world.
What’s great about the show is that it is immensely entertaining as the boys try to one-up each other. They love pulling a fast one, too, but it’s done in the name of good fun.
Also, viewers get to explore different places, cultures and cuisines by living through the adventures of these three.
This season proved a little trickier thanks to the unforeseen arrival of Covid-19. As such, they filmed at a drive-in studio on the “Top Gear” test track.
Paddy shared: “Not hosting in the usual studio; it’s a bit of a happy accident, actually, because we did it because of what is going on at the moment.
“We stayed Covid compliant. And Clare (Pizey) and Alex (Renton) sorted of suggested the idea to us and we were like, ‘Yeah, let’s go for it’.
“And we turned up on the day, I think all three of us were totally taken aback by how amazing it looked.
“And again, just for the audience to get back out there and see other people and bring their own cars and Chris was wandering around talking to people…
“It might be that way when we back to normal life.”
One of the talking points this season is the Mr Nippy episode where Paddy rescues a traditional ice-cream van, which is dying out. He decided to an electric-powered ice-cream van for the 21st century.
A chuffed Paddy added: “When you see it in the flesh, you think, ‘Oh my God, the amount of engineering that goes into something like that…”
Chris laughed: “It is something to behold.”
With travel restrictions in place, Chris managed to sneak into Italy.
He said: “I was lucky enough to drive the Ferrari SF90 and that involved going to Italy. I was a bit nervous about getting onto a plane.
“Turned out Italy was beautiful and sunny and the food was amazing.”
Other standout moments for Chris include getting to drive one of his favourite cars of all time - the Audi RS6 estate - as well as GTs on big open Welsh roads.
“It reminded me we don’t have to go around the world looking for great driving roads, we got many here in the UK,” Chris added.
Whatever the stunt, Freddy throws himself into it on the show.
He laughed: “So far, there is nothing that I have said no to but that might change. From doing the bungee in the last series, it seems the challenge is getting more and more bonkers.”
As for Freddy’s highlights, he shared: “I enjoyed driving the Jaguar XJ220, a 30-year-old supercar, trying to get it to 200mph on a runway. I don’t know if you have seen, there’s a place called Alton Towers in Stratford-upon-Avon. We got the change to take electric cars there and race around because everything was closed.
Paddy added: “Obviously we filmed certain things out of sync before and after the lockdown.
“Whenever we see each other we are hug, so that was a little bit different, not being able to do that.
“What is interesting, I don’t know which episode it is in, is the Wall of Death. We all get into our cars and set off for a drive and then when we get out the other end, I have beach blonde hair, Chris has lost about 2 stone and Freddy’s has got longer. So continuity has kind of gone out the window.”
“Once we got around certain things and not being on top of each other, it was just like it always was, really, just a laugh,” he admitted.
Yes, there are restrictions this season. But the range of rides from exotic supercars, written off rides to Honda’s new electric car and its rivals, combined by the character-driven personalities of the presenters, makes it a not-to-be-missed season.
“Top Gear” season 29 airs on BBC Brit (DStv channel 120) on Thursdays at 8pm.