new presenters will be Chris Evans, Matt LeBlanc, Sabine Schmitz, Chris Harris, Eddie Jordan Rory Reid and The Stig. The program will be back on UK screens in May.
So let’s see what we know about each.
Chris Evans went from a really rather good weekend radio program on BBC London to fame on The Big Breakfast TV program. One car story he told on the radio was how, having first made a little money as a presenter, he bought a Porsche 924. His first real sports car. But it was making a clunky noise. Evans is incredibly fiery. I once met a TV producer who said that one girl who worked for Evans was still in counseling years after. So you might imagine how he felt when the Porsche started making a metallic clunking noise. He threw it back at the dealer. When he insisted they tell him what was wrong they obsequiously, apologized that they couldn’t find anything but did, hesitantly, mention that they had found some empty Coca-Cola cans under the driver’s seat and that might have had something to do with it.
Matt LeBlanc has been hailed as a genius move by the BBC, which has to make sure that Top Gear‘s international sales stand up. He’s famed for topping the Top Gear lap chart and is a proper petrolhead. If you watched the program Episodes, the Alfa 8C in the show is his. He’s been doing his homework.
Sabine Schmitz is a clever move. Not since Vicky Butler Henderson has the program had a female presenter and the mix is sorely needed. Having a woman who is a far better driver than the men will make for some interesting interplay. Schmitz is the driver of the Ring Taxi, a Porsche GT3 in which she gives passenger rides around the Green Hell.
Chris “Monkey” Harris brings motoring credibility to what was a program and became a show. He’s the motoring journalists’ motoring journalist. If Evans has trouble talking to the camera, Harris is the world master at rabbiting while drifting. For many petrolheads he will be the reason for tuning in. This is hugely important because among those petrolheads are the people in the car companies who need to be wooed if the program is to get early access to the most exciting cars. The P1 versus LaFerrari versus 918 is home territory for Harris.
Eddie Jordan is described by the show as an F1 pundit but he’s a hugely respected expert on motorsport, having had his own eponymous F1 team. The yellow cars of Eddie racing never really made the top table, coming close oh so often. The respect the world shows Jordan was not shown at a team summer party. As Eddie dived into a pool someone threw a toupee into the water ahead of where his boss was to surface. As Jordan came up he found the rug floating, panicked, and slapped it on his head.
When Evans announced that he was picking up the Top Gear baton from Clarkson, he asked “unknowns” to post 15-second pieces on YouTube to apply for the job. Rory Reid is an established motoring journalist for the website Recombu. I met him at a Fiat launch and he’s a proper petrolhead. His showreel might have one thousandth of the hits on YouTube of the Harris video, but he’s a great addition to the team. Perhaps not the raw amateur Evans implied that he was hunting for.
Going from three to six presenters is going to change the chemistry, and it will be interesting to see how they make it work. The huge egos of Jordan, Evans, and LeBlanc will no doubt add to this.
And Clarkson, Hammond, and May? Their program is on Amazon prime in April. It’s the perfect outcome for car fans. Two big-budget shows, the old one was becoming formulaic. They had a huge hit on their hands and seemed scared to fiddle too much. This is a massive shakeup for both and we will no doubt have intense competition between them.
I’ll indulge in a quick Clarkson story, because this is my story and no one else can tell it. And I’ve never written it down before. It’s my claim to fame: Clarkson changed the wheel for me on my car.
Clarkson was writing a column at the back of Performance Car magazine. He wasn’t famous. Only car geeks knew who he was. I was the editor of a computer magazine called Amstrad User. It was published by Amstrad to help sell and support the computers by having a magazine on the newsstands. The computer was amazingly successful and the magazine enjoyed the benefits of this.
I could commission anyone I liked to write for the magazine and I liked Clarkson so I got him to write some articles. As a writer he also wanted a computer and I could get an Amstrad CPC on staff discount. So I got the discount and then drove the computer to Clarkson’s Fulham office in my Lancia Delta 1500 (not an Integrale, but I had one of those years later).
Outside Clarkson’s office I curbed the wheel of the Delta and got a puncture. I explained this to JC and, no doubt so delighted at having a new computer, and because I was in a suit and he in jeans, he changed the wheel for me.
I don’t think he’d change a wheel for anyone now. But then that was over 30 years ago.
The new Top Gear is back in May. I had tickets for the first of the three shows, which were cancelled when it was suspended. I wonder if they will honor that.
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