The ol’ band was back together on the 5th instalment of Top Gear, as Sabine Schmitz made another cameo, as did Eddie Jordan – no spoon playing this time thankfully. But I’ll get on to that bit later on – let’s focus on the highlight of the show.
Top Gear, Top Content
I have been impressed with the content featured in this series of Top Gear and it’s fair to say the Beeb and the TG production team have really stepped up. So much so, that I’ve seen people on social media say that this is better than The Grand Tour. I really think that is testament to the hard work that has been put in to turn the Top Gear ship around. What do I think? Well for me, no-one can replace Clarkson, Hammond and May, however, The Grand Tour has not been able to bring us cars such as the Chiron and the Ford GT. Not yet anyway.
Well Top Gear is on the front foot as it featured the Chiron twice in episode 4, with Chris Harris piloting the super-expensive hypercar. Episode 5 brought us another exclusive – the Ford GT. This time it was the turn of LeBlanc to slip in behind the wheel, but I suppose that’s only natural, with him being a yank and everything. What a way to start the show, I thought Harris’ piece on the Chiron was of a high standard, but LeBlanc’s delivery on the GT was even more captivating.
He started off some lovely twisty roads in the states before making a rapid u-turn to head to a place where he and the GT could really let their hair down. Laguna Seca to be exact – a place that LeBlanc declares as his favourite racetrack. Is that because this is the place where Chris Evans had his ‘strawberries’ moment perhaps? Before setting off though, LeBlanc needed to put the car in to race mode, which meant the car hunkered down (in a very cool fashion) at the touch of a button. The rest is pretty much poetry in motion.
Gold Standard Guest
Like the last series, I’m still not sold on the celebrity guest bit as it still feels a tad clunky and at times a bit awkward. However, it’s a lot better when you have someone on that is properly in to cars, or indeed someone that even races them. 6-time gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy appeared on this week’s show and because of his background, it meant that what he had to say was genuinely interesting. As predicted, he went to the top of leaderboard after putting in an impressive stint in the GT86. Ok, so he spun massively in practice, but it showed he was pushing the limit – I like that.
Putting The Hammer Down
Although the Ford GT was for me, the highlight of the show, the main film featured a rather ambitious challenge. Now, we all know The Stig is the fastest person/thing in the Top Gear team, but who is the fastest out of Chris Harris and Sabine Schmitz? Well there was only one way to find out of course. However, don’t think that the two would be treated to a smooth tarmac surface for this challenge though.
The King of the Hammers tournament, based inside the Californian desert was the venue for this genuinely dangerous challenge. The pair would be driving extreme off-road jeeps with chunky suspension, massive wheels and a big ol’ V8 mot’er. This form of motorsport was not the fainthearted and I think Harris was genuinely worried about what lay ahead of him. Schmitz on the hand, was a cool as a cucumber.
With this being motorsport, the two of them needed team managers. Harris was ‘treated’ by the reunion of ex-Formula 1 team boss Eddie Jordan, whilst Schmitz would be managed by Joey – I mean Matt LeBlanc. It was interesting seeing how the two approached the challenge and I have to say, I’ve got the upmost respect for them for taking on this life-threatening challenge. This is a sport where people breaking bones is almost an everyday occurrence.
Once again, I enjoyed the way in which the film was shot and although the cinematography is not quite there with The Grand Tour, it’s not a long distance away. Not only were they competing against each other, the pair were also competing with season veterans in the sport in a gruelling 8 lap race. Throughout the race itself both Harris and Schmitz faced problems – Harris face gearbox issues, whilst Schmitz had to urgently climb out after a fire. Was she able to make it to finish and take the win? You’ll need to watch to find out.
Sorry, Where Is Rory Reid?!
Ah yes, poor ol’ Reid. He has been a breath of fresh air for Top Gear, but sadly he’s simply not being used enough. Why? Well that is a very tricky question to answer, but like many people, I want to see more of him – no, not like that of course. He did feature in a short but sweet film in which he introduced the Nissan BladeGlider to Harris and LeBlanc, both of which are sceptical about electric cars.
This was until they found out the BladeGlider had a drift mode – that certainly raised their eyebrows. This meant it was only natural for Chris ‘The Crab’ Harris to take control of the electric three-seater and drift it effortlessly around the Top Gear test track. Even when he lost control it looked cool, and although it was a shot clip, it was a rather enjoyable one. They must have had so much fun filming that!
So, we are over the halfway point in the series and so far, so good from the new Top Gear format. I’m not going to say it’s better than The Grand Tour, simply because my heart will not let me, but I will concede Top Gear is very much a motoring programme, for motorists. You’ll find no silly gun fights in Jordan here, just pure motoring content. The Grand Tour boys will need to look over their shoulders if Top Gear carries on like this.