Over at Top Gear, it’s good news! Unless they’re not allowed to do that without Clarkson. In either case, the new series seems to be finally getting a groove all to itself. Chris Evans manages to restrain his ego and personality to a better degree and things are delivered with more of a personal touch.
We’re given a brief rundown of the new R8 V10, Audi’s fastest car ever. Chris freely admits that neither he nor the Top Gear track are truly worthy of testing it. Instead, they both head to Laguna Seca and invite Sabine Schmitz. Even by the old standards, they design an ingenious challenge. First lap, the Audi has all the driving assists turned on and Sabine just steers and pedals. The second lap, Sabine is in full control. Using just Chris as a measure, the results are obvious. First time round makes him slightly dizzy. The second time has Sabine forcing him out the car to avoid vomiting over the inside. Sabine beat the machine by a solid seven seconds as a prize, she’s allowed to introduce the Stig who pulls in a respectable 1-15.7.
We get a look at the new and old Ferrari Tour de France with new Chris Harris stepping up from Extra Gear. He dotes on the history, drools over the five-million-pound car he’s allowed to drive around the countryside. There’s a fantastic comparison between the new car and the old. His choice of language is the same as if he was talking to his family or friend. Words like ‘explode-y’ do slip out. Harris, unlike Evans, just gives his personal review of the car with enough statistics are thrown in that the public learns everything. Harris clearly loves the new TDF and praises the difficulty to drive it as most other cars have so much assistance that anybody can drive them.
Laps & Stars
Then we have twenty minutes – a solid third of the show – dedicated to the Stars section. Normally, it’s only half that amount. I admit, my attention drifted so much during this segment that I barely remember the basics. Kevin Hart and Anthony Joshua drop in and there’s a segment from the upcoming film Central Intelligence, starring Hart and Dwayne Johnson. Hart score 1-57.7 and Joshua ends up with 1-52.6 and becomes the new fastest.
Rory Reid – also from Extra Gear – steps onto the set with his presentation of the new Ford Focus RS. He gives an easy review, always managing to keep the tone interesting. There was a fantastic cutaway where Reid claims that it’s so easy to drift ‘a kid could do it’. True enough, the next corner suddenly has a child driving, claiming that the Focus RS was so easy to drift, ‘[his] granny could drift this’. Sadly, there was no drifting granny but the mental picture was almost enough. The summary is that the Focus is okay, but looks ‘tame’, the gear change is ‘woolly’ and the seats are slightly too high. Reid then takes on the Honda Civic R. Despite starting off well, it quickly crashes in response to the RS and Reid comments that Honda has perfected ‘the old formula’ and it quickly loses to RS and the newly appearing A45 due to its front-wheel drive. The A45, despite being quick off the mark, is less fun and ‘something a dad might drive’. At £10,000 more expensive than the other two, Reid settles on the RS.
Matt then presents his London ‘Top Gear Tour’ with rally driver Ken Block. In a scene reminiscent of Joey’s trip to London, Matt tries his best to recommend them some tourist destinations as Ken drivers doughnuts around roundabouts and passes places like Canary Wharf, head through Lloyds ‘secret route’ and bomb past St Pauls and over Tower Bridge, all with Mat constantly reciting facts. Eventually, the police catch up with them and provide an escort around Buckingham Palace. Thankfully, the BBC decided not to air the controversial Cenotaph footage which sparked outrage earlier in the year.
I genuinely think that Top Gear is finally finding the new pace of things. Everyone is slowly coming together and building bridges and the future looks bright. But the main problem right now is that they’re still at the stage of getting to know each other. Chris Evans has assembled a great team but maybe he should step back slightly and let them run things. LeBlanc has that showmanship that lets him pull off ideas that nobody else could. Schmitz, Harris and Reid all have an excellent history with cars. Even when Clarkson, Hammond, and May first worked together, they needed a period of adjustment before becoming the ‘Three Stooges’. I genuinely think that the new crew may have a shot at coming together and pulling this off but right now things are just a bit too forced. Maybe I’ll pick Top Gear back up later in the season when things have smoothed out somewhat. For now, I’m going to wish them the best and step back. Good luck guys, I hope you don’t need it.