TopGear TV part 3

Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Andy Wil­man talks celebri­ties in the fnal in­stall­ment of his History of TopGear TV

Like any TV show that de­cides to have a guest slot, the frst thing you do is make a wish list of stars you want.

With our list back in 2002, the em­pha­sis re­ally was on the word “wish”. We had Arnie, Tom Cruise, the whole of U2, Beck­ham, Paul McCart­ney, Cameron Diaz… ba­si­cally any­body whose agent was go­ing to say: “Re­ally??!!”

And so it was that we found our­selves in the pub one evening – Jeremy, Richard, Jason and I – try­ing to fnd the num­ber for the man­ager of the drum­mer from The Ru­bettes, when Harry En­feld walked past. Not three feet from us was an ac­tual celebrity, more to the point an ac­tual celebrity un­pro­tected by the force feld of his agent or pub­lic­ity per­son, so we pounced. We de­scended on him like pi­ranha fsh in a lo­cal swimming bath, like 14-year-olds in a One Di­rec­tion dress­ing room. He was Bri­tish, he was mid­dle class, he was po­lite. He never stood a chance.

With the guest for show one sorted, we now needed the car. It had to be rea­son­ably priced, it had to be un­cool in an un­der­dog way, it could only have a mod­est amount of power so that non-petrol­head celebs would feel com­fort­able foor­ing it, and it had to be from a man­u­fac­turer who would agree to give us a car. In truth this last point was sort of the clincher, as we dis­cov­ered when car­maker af­ter car­maker put the phone down on us. But the chap at Suzuki, a wise old fox, un­der­stood the tongue in cheek­ness of the whole ven­ture and stumped up a lovely Liana, lit­tle know­ing that this unas­sum­ing boxy saloon would one day be­come the most fa­mous car on the planet.

A month later Harry En­feld found him­self pi­lot­ing the Liana around an air­feld and then sit­ting op­po­site Jeremy in a hangar, telling an au­di­ence of 60 gen­tle­men in Subaru feeces – chaps who kind of pre­ferred watch­ing Colin McRae to Tim Nice But Dim – all about the ex­pe­ri­ence. The ge­nial com­edy mae­stro didn’t re­ally know what was go­ing on, as you can see from his be­mused face in that orig­i­nal show, but nev­er­the­less The Star in

nd a Rea­son­ably Priced Car was of the launch pad and head­ing for the strato­sphere.

Sort of. The prob­lem was that no mat­ter how of­ten we sat in Jeremy’s lo­cal, we weren’t go­ing to get a celebrity brush­ing past ev­ery week. We called in favours from celebrity petrolheads we knew – Jay Kay and Steve Coogan in par­tic­u­lar, both of whom agreed with­out hes­i­ta­tion, and I will for­ever be in their debt for that. How­ever, Steve, Jay and Harry gave us a grand to­tal of three, we had ten slots to fll and Renée and Re­nato weren’t re­turn­ing our calls.

It was at this point we got lucky again. Jeremy rang me one af­ter­noon, just as I’d got of the phone to Bobby Davro’s agent, telling me that he’d bumped into a fa­mous knight of the realm who would love to come and drive a small Ja­panese saloon around a track. Yes, Sir Michael Gam­bon was up for it. We are talk­ing here about not only one of the great­est ac­tors of all time, but a man who had re­fused all chat shows, in­clud­ing Parky. How­ever what those shows didn’t ofer was the chance to rif about cars and en­gines and gear­boxes and all the things it turned out that Gam­bon loves. Dum­ble­dore him­self was our frst petrol­head-who-youwouldn’t-think-was-a-petrol­head, and TopGear would go on to un­earth quite a few of these, in­clud­ing Kevin McCloud, Joanna Lum­ley and Jen­nifer Saun­ders.

Sir Gam­bon said he was free to do the fol­low­ing week’s show, which quickly fo­cused our minds on the sort of hos­pi­tal­ity our guests were be­ing ofered. You see, most celebs when they go on Jonathan Ross or Graham Nor­ton get given a comfy dress­ing room with en-suite bog, mini­bar, telly and ba­si­cally ev­ery­thing you’d get in a top-end Premier Inn. We, how­ever, in those days – and I’m talk­ing about the whole TopGear pro­duc­tion crew – had to make do with a Por­tak­abin the size of Frank and Pat Butcher’s mini­cab ofce, so we could only aford to cordon of a quar­ter of it as a top celebrity hang­out. Now this was fne for Jay Kay, who only re­quires some Jafa Cakes and a chair to keep him happy, but a the­atri­cal de­ity? How would this feapit go down?

In the end, bet­ter than we could ever have imag­ined. Gam­bon turned up four hours early, pored over the old planes in the var­i­ous hangars, then set of in the Liana to do his timed laps. Since he was quite old and wear­ing a jacket and tie, we weren’t ex­pect­ing a blis­ter­ing per­for­mance, but then came the mo­ment when he bar­relled into the fnal cor­ner on two wheels, giv­ing the thumbs up to the cam­era as he went. In hon­our of his brav­ery, we in­stantly named the cor­ner af­ter him, but Gam­bon’s near-death an­tics were of much greater sig­nif­cance. He had put the Star in a Car seg­ment on the map – peo­ple were no longer talk­ing about it as a bit of telly where petrolheads could have a bit of fun, but as a thing where celebs you’d nor­mally see on a comfy chat-show sofa were now push­ing them­selves in an ex­cit­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

Slowly, the guest list started to fll up. Pa­trick Stewart gave us the nod. At that time he was at the height of his Hol­ly­wood fame with the X-Men and Star Trek movies, but like Gam­bon – maybe old English thesps

are just well-man­nered – he turned up early and unan­nounced. In fact, when we saw this chap in jeans and a base­ball cap walk­ing to­wards us, Jeremy turned and said: “Sorry mate, we’re just go­ing through the script here. If you’re drop­ping a car of, can you talk to one of the lads in the ofc­c­c­c­c­cce… Mr Stewart so nice of you to come how are you please have a seat can I get you a cofee?”

A cou­ple of se­ries in, we got our frst big Amer­i­can star, Lionel Richie. Since he would ob­vi­ously be com­ing with an en­tourage and a scary man­ager, we fgured we needed to hire our frst-ever celebrity Win­nebago. Roger, our pro­duc­tion man­ager at the time, is the tight­est man you’ll ever meet, so when the man from Ace Win­nebago Hire opened up with: “The cheap­est one comes for £200...” Roger stopped him right there and told him to de­liver it promptly for Lionel day. When it did turn up, it was browny beige and would have easily ft­ted in the bath­room of Jen­son But­ton’s mo­torhome. But no mat­ter – it was bet­ter than a quar­ter of a Por­tak­abin.

Then Lionel ar­rived, as ex­pected, with a con­voy of three blacked-out Mercs and a very scary man­ager. That par­tic­u­lar day was wet, cold and windy, and as the scary man­ager stood at the side of the track, his

nd LA tan be­ing stripped away by the side­ways Bri­tish rain, look­ing at his su­per­star tal­ent pound­ing round in a small Ja­panese car, with no prospect of per­form­ing his new sin­gle, you just knew he was think­ing: “What are we do­ing here?”

“So this is a pop­u­lar show?” he asked, as he spat rain­wa­ter out of his mouth.

“Oh yes, very,” I replied. “Mil­lions and mil­lions of viewe…” At that mo­ment, I aban­doned the sales pitch be­cause he and I were both look­ing at Lionel ca­reer­ing across the tar­mac in a shower of sparks, the front wheel hav­ing com­pletely sheared of. The man­ager’s jaw mus­cles did a lit­tle dance as the com­poser of ‘Hello’, wrestling with the re­main­ing three wheels, hur­tled across the grass and just missed a pile of tyres. Hav­ing re­trieved Lionel, we de­cided he needed hot cofee and shel­ter from the rain, which meant it was time to un­leash the Win­nebago. As I opened its door, the smell of mildew from unloved velour came gal­lop­ing out with quite con­sid­er­able force, but nev­er­the­less in full Basil Fawlty bowingand-scrap­ing mode, I ush­ered Lionel and the scary man­ager up the steps. Once in­side, they turned to look at me in stony si­lence. I peered past them, and it was then that I saw the sole dec­o­ra­tion on the wall – an old Athena poster of the Twin Tow­ers.

While I beat Roger the pro­duc­tion man­ager to death around the back of the Win­nebago, Lionel set­tled in and, as it turned out, was charm per­son­ifed. In his climb to the top, he’d clearly en­coun­tered much worse set­backs than a frontsus­pen­sion col­lapse, and he hap­pily joked about lawyers and whiplash claims, and then de­liv­ered beau­ti­fully in the in­ter­view. Ba­si­cally he gave a mas­ter­class in how to be a big star of the old school.

As one se­ries fol­lowed another, the pop­u­lar­ity of Star in a Car slowly grew, along with the sur­re­al­ness of the mix. One week it would be Roger Dal­trey, a proper rock god, stop­ping mid-lap and ask­ing for a nice cup of tea; the next, it would be Johnny Ve­gas, still on L plates, stop­ping mid-lap and ask­ing for a can of Tennent’s Ex­tra. Equally di­verse was the qual­ity of driv­ing. At one book­end you had the likes of Si­mon Cow­ell, who we thought was just an over­groomed ligh­t­en­ter­tain­ment luvvie, but in fact was a bril­liantly fo­cused and brave driver who topped the board on both of his ap­pear­ances. At the other end of the book­shelf you had Terry Wo­gan, who never un­der­stood or cared that set­ting a lap time re­quired a difer­ent at­ti­tude to driv­ing than when you drove to work. In the mid­dle, you had Jimmy Carr, a one-man wreck­ing ball who had the con­vic­tion of Cow­ell, but was so men­tal be­hind the wheel that he rarely man­aged to com­plete a lap. I re­mem­ber driv­ing down to the start line to check on his progress, only to come across The Stig, who dou­bled as the celebrity tu­tor, com­ing the other way. “I give up with that t**t,” he an­nounced with un­char­ac­ter­is­tic vigour. “He just won’t lis­ten, and he’ll end up on his roof.” Stig also said it was a shame, be­cause in the rare sec­onds that Jimmy fo­cused, he was a very nat­u­ral driver. We pulled Jimmy in, forced the cheeky comic to fo­cus via a bit of tough love, and, as Stig had pre­dicted, he went top of the board.

Af­ter sev­eral se­ries we chopped in the Suzuki Liana and re­placed it with the Chevy Lacetti. By now we were no longer

strug­gling to fnd guests, but to pull in the big names, we had to do some­thing we’d hoped we never would, which is let them plug stuf. The diehard TopGear fans whinged, but there wasn’t an infnite sup­ply of petrol­head celebri­ties out there and the show was start­ing to go global, so we had to play the game. I guess the turn­ing point was Hugh Grant, who came on to pro­mote a rom­com to fve mil­lion be­mused Subaru fans, but in re­turn we got a blind­ingly funny in­ter­view – he is one of the greats in a chat­show chair – and an A-list name we could then use as a mag­net for other A-lis­ters.

For me per­son­ally, the most tu­mul­tuous megas­tar mo­ment came when Ron­nie Wood’s pub­lisher rang and asked if we wanted him on to pro­mote his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy. Now I bow to no one in my love of the Stones. I have the bootlegs, the rare vinyl nerd records, the ticket stubs from count­less con­certs, the men­tal mem­ory stick of point­less trivia that would make you kill me if we were stuck in a lift. All I’d never done was met an ac­tual Stone, and here was my chance, which was why ev­ery­one was quite sur­prised when I said no. It wasn’t a case of “never meet your he­roes”, it was just that I knew the Stones had lived in a bub­ble for pretty much all of their years, a par­al­lel uni­verse where ques­tions were vet­ted and any­thing they didn’t want to do was re­moved from their path be­fore they even knew it would have been there. And if you ex­ist in that sort of en­vi­ron­ment, the odds are that you won’t give a good in­ter­view be­cause, well, you’ve never had to; you’ve never been judged on how funny, re­veal­ing or en­ter­tain­ing you are or aren’t, and never been told you were bor­ing, ei­ther. I didn’t want Jeremy to have to strug­gle with a mono­syl­labic rock god, so with a heavy heart, I de­clined the ofer. But then Ron­nie’s pub­lisher rang back and said she knew where I was com­ing from, but that this would be Ron­nie on his own, not Ron­nie in Rolling Stones world. Would I like to go around to his house to meet him and have a chat? There was a si­lence, fol­lowed by the sound of all my high-minded prin­ci­ples col­laps­ing in a shame­less heap, then fnally me squeak­ing: “What’s the ad­dress?”

Ron­nie him­self was wait­ing on the doorstep to meet me, which made me so ner­vous, I nearly backed into his Bent­ley. In­side he had an espresso ma­chine on per­ma­nent dis­pen­sa­tion mode, and while he drank his 28th cofee of the morn­ing, he told me how much he was look­ing for­ward to com­ing on the show. I sus­pected he was just be­ing po­lite and hadn’t ac­tu­ally seen it, and when his daugh­ter had to ex­plain to him who The Stig was, that sort of con­frmed things. This mat­tered not a jot to me, though, be­cause I was al­ready to­tally starstruck and half an hour later I was also of my tits on quadru­ple-strength cofee.

By then I’d com­pletely for­got­ten that I’d come to fnd out if he’d be any good on the show, and was jab­ber­ing on about all the Stones con­certs I’d seen, reel­ing of set lists, who did what guitar solo, etc., ba­si­cally show­ing of un­til he’d re­alise I was the best friend he’d never had. I think at some point he got a word in and men­tioned he’d heard I was wor­ried he might not be great as an in­ter­view: “Non­sense,” I howled in a cafeine-fu­elled yelp. “That must be some­one else, not me.” Fi­nally I said I’d see him at the track next Wed­nes­day and he opened his lap­top, pulled up an email and said in­no­cently: “Yeah, Dunsfold, I’ve got the ad­dress and the de­tails and ev­ery­thing right here.”

In­side my cofee-flled head a small bomb went of: “What!!!??? Hang on a minute!!” I thought. “Ron­nie’s a Rolling Stone. A Rolling Stone should not be clut­ter­ing up his god­like Rolling Stone brain with mun­dane drivel such as ad­dresses and ar­rival times – that sort of task is for mere or­di­nary peo­ple.” Since my neu­ro­log­i­cal sys­tem was now ba­si­cally pow­ered by espres­sos, I de­cided to share my thoughts with him: “You shouldn’t

know that! It’s not right!” I de­clared loudly, and then left a rather bafed Ron­nie look­ing at his lap­top as I bid farewell and pow­ered of down his drive­way.

If you caught that show, you’ll know he was great: funny, mod­est, charm­ing in his shy­ness, and I seem to re­call he nearly wiped out half the cam­era crew on the fnal cor­ner. But that would have been OK. He’s a Rolling Stone.

There were many other happy mem­o­ries from the Chevy Lacetti era. Brian John­son, what a leg­end – the blue­print for be­ing world-fa­mous and not let­ting it change you. He must have been half an hour sign­ing au­to­graphs in the au­di­ence. Usain Bolt – sheer charisma, Si­enna Miller – top girl, James Blunt – too funny, and Eric Bana, who I think could have been top of the Lacetti board if it hadn’t been a wet day on his visit. We’ll never know, but what we do know is the lit­tle Chevy ended its reign with Jay Kay as its fastest pi­lot.

Although the Lacetti even­tu­ally gave way to the Kia Cee’d, the orig­i­nal Suzuki Liana was still putting in the oc­ca­sional ap­pear­ance, on ac­count of it be­ing needed for the For­mula One driv­ers. This lit­tle Star in a Car spinof had be­gun with Damon Hill, and even­tu­ally the board boasted most of the big names, in­clud­ing Lewis, Jen­son, Mark Web­ber and Vet­tel. Even though we are talk­ing about a 1.6-litre roly-poly­sus­pen­sioned car, all of these guys took their stint in the Liana ex­tremely se­ri­ously, be­cause it was the one time they got to com­pare them­selves in the same car. They would quiz the hap­less TopGear pro­ducer in charge about all sorts of non­sense: “What was the track tem­per­a­ture when Vet­tel came down?” “What were the tyre pres­sures when Lewis did his laps?” Then their hearts would all sink when they asked where the tim­ing de­vice was po­si­tioned and the pro­ducer would point to a re­searcher with his fnger poised over the stop­watch on his mo­bile.

I say all the F1 driv­ers took the Liana lap se­ri­ously, but there was an ex­cep­tion and, as you can prob­a­bly guess, he’s Fin­nish and cur­rently drives for Fer­rari. At the time he vis­ited us, Kimi was just re­turn­ing to F1 with Lo­tus, and you’d think most driv­ers com­ing back to the top arena in motorsport would be anx­ious to prove they’d still got it. Not this boy. Ad­mit­tedly it was a wet day, so he was never go­ing to go top of the board, but even so af­ter half a dozen laps, he’d had enough and headed for the arms of the La-Z-Boy chair and the warmth of his mo­torhome. Don’t get me wrong: he wasn’t sulky – he was per­fectly ami­able – he just gen­uinely didn’t give a shit what peo­ple would think or not think about his lap time.

I went into his mo­torhome and told him it had stopped rain­ing and the track was dry­ing, which it was. Re­luc­tantly, he pushed him­self up in the La-Z-Boy, peered out of the win­dow at the now ob­vi­ously dry­ing tar­mac, then said, “No, I don’t think it is,” and fopped back into the chair.

“Kimi,” I said, “there’s a lot of F1 fans, us here in­cluded, who are re­ally ex­cited about you com­ing back and you do not want to be watch­ing this show on Sun­day night with that lap time, which I can’t tell you, but you re­ally can do bet­ter.” I thought he was go­ing to tell me to sod of, but even­tu­ally he smiled – well, ar­ranged his lips slightly difer­ently – and said “God, it’s worse than F1 here,” then got up, went out­side and did some more laps. He could have gone faster than he even­tu­ally did be­cause the track was dry­ing all the time, but what­ever. I can at least put on my grave­stone: “I got Kimi Räikkö­nen to shift his arse.”

The one F1 driver who didn’t do the lap was Michael Schu­macher. Although he was in tem­po­rary re­tire­ment at that point, he clearly was not go­ing to muck about with the myth sur­round­ing the great­est sta­tis­ti­cal

nd driver of all time. How­ever, Jeremy and I had met him sev­eral times over the years and seen him grow from an up­tight youth into one of the most ami­able gen­tle­men in the pit lane. There isn’t the space here to re­count the per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve had of his de­cency, or of sim­i­lar sto­ries I’ve heard from peo­ple I know, in­clud­ing my wife when she worked at Mi­nardi. Bot­tom line, I ad­mire that man im­mea­sur­ably, and it was no sur­prise there­fore that he agreed to out him­self as The Stig when it was put to him.

Michael’s day at the track kicked of in typ­i­cal TopGear fash­ion. Since he was ar­riv­ing in his pri­vate jet, fight plans had been logged, per­mis­sions to land ob­tained, and at 9.15am his pi­lot was lin­ing up on the ap­proach path, as ar­ranged, when sud­denly the con­trol tower heard the voice of another pi­lot: “Erm, Fox­trot Al­pha Papa Tango James May. Hello, re­ceiv­ing wilco over.” Yes, James was also lin­ing up in his Sop­with Tiger Moth or what­ever it is, which in turn meant Schu­macher’s pi­lot had to sud­denly make new plans.

Once the seven-times world cham­pion was fnally on the ground, he got ready to do a lap in the Fer­rari FXX. Now nor­mally The Stig takes the F1 driv­ers around frst, just to show them how the track goes, but Schu­macher wouldn’t get in his car be­cause it was a Jaguar and since he had an endorsement deal with Fer­rari/ Maserati he couldn’t be seen in any other brand. “No prob­lem, you go around; I’ll fol­low you in my car,” Schu­macher said to Ben Collins, our Stig at the time. And thus Ben flled up his grave­stone epi­taph as he bar­relled round the track with Schu­macher on his arse in an FXX.

Michael then wanted to say hello to Jeremy, Richard and James. “I’ll go get them,” I said, know­ing full well the state of the lit­tle script­ing room they sat in. “No, it’s OK” said Michael, “I’ll go see them.” There is lit­tle doubt his tem­ple of a body would have con­vulsed as he walked into the wall of cig­gie smoke in the room. Then he perched on the bank-hol­i­day-sale DFS sofa and had a good chat with the boys, even though his eyes kept be­ing drawn to the col­lec­tion of cock and balls il­lus­tra­tions on the wall. We told him that guests were some­times in­vited to con­trib­ute one, but he po­litely de­clined the marker pen. What I do re­mem­ber though is him say­ing that the frst cor­ner on our Heath Robin­son cir­cuit was “pretty in­ter­est­ing”, which is good enough for me.

We then asked him to think of some an­swers to some daft ques­tions in The Stig re­veal in­ter­view, and if you never saw the mo­ment he took The Stig hel­met of, I urge you to watch it, be­cause it’s the most elec­tri­fy­ing stu­dio mo­ment in our whole history.

Schu­macher is al­right. Bet­ter than al­right. I still can­not be­lieve a man of such tal­ent, for whom mo­bil­ity and speed is such a fun­da­men­tal urge, sits now as a pris­oner of his body, and I re­ally hope that one day medicine pro­vides the key to re­lease him from his cell.

Back, though, to the am­a­teur driv­ers, and by the time we en­tered the Kia Cee’d era, we were pulling in the big names quite regularly. Ryan Reynolds – one of the top fve fun­ni­est men you’ll ever meet; Mick Fleet­wood – leg­end; Rowan Atkin­son – deeply shy and a com­plete gen­tle­man. Then one day we got the call that the man we’d of­ten joked about, as in: “Oh yeah, you’ve got more chance of get­ting Tom Cruise on”, was ac­tu­ally up for com­ing on. What’s more, he would be with Cameron Diaz. Now hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced the en­tourage non­sense that ac­com­pa­nies any nor­mal Hol­ly­wood Alis­ter, we ex­pected the hoo-ha sur­round­ing Tom and Cameron’s visit to be of the scale. And it was. A se­cu­rity team came to check out the track. Ap­prox­i­mately 48,000 peo­ple would be com­ing from the flm com­pany. Then a cou­ple of days be­fore the visit, we were sent a timetable for how the day it­self would run, and it wasn’t short on de­tail. Tom would ar­rive at 12.01. He would say

hello to Jeremy, Richard and James at 12.04. He would go into his mo­torhome at 12.07. He would reap­pear at 12.09 and get in the Kia Cee’d at 12.11, and so on and so on.

All of this went to s**t at, I don’t know, let’s say 10.04, when we heard the thrum of ro­tor blades and Tom’s he­li­copter de­posited him on the ground a full two hours early. He’d got up, de­cided he wanted to get down to the track, and the truth is, the fuss and non­sense that pre­cedes the man is most defnitely not the man. As for the timetable, he talked with ev­ery­body, goofed about and hardly went in his mo­torhome once, but what im­pressed me most was how he han­dled the flm com­pany peo­ple. Ba­si­cally, when he’d done his laps it was rain­ing, but then the sun came out, the track dried, and he turned and said: “I’d re­ally like to do my laps again. Do you think I can?”

“You defnitely should,” I said, “I can tell you’ll re­gret it if you don’t do a dry time. Trou­ble is, you’ve got 48,000 peo­ple stand­ing right be­hind you who’ve got you on a re­ally tight sched­ule be­cause they need to get you to your flm pre­miere in the West End.” Now at this point, he could have sim­ply fexed his Big­gest Star in the World mus­cles and de­clared that that was what he was go­ing to do. But in­stead, he asked the flm com­pany peo­ple if it would be OK for him to go again, and when he saw the anx­i­ety on their faces, he sug­gested they scrap the time they’d al­lot­ted for go­ing to the ho­tel to shower and get dressed for the pre­miere. “I can change in the car on the way there,” he said. Gen­uinely, he was one of the nicest guests we’ve ever had at the track, as in­deed was Cameron Diaz. I re­mem­ber at one point telling her that Jeremy would be ask­ing her how her nose looked so per­fect, given that she’d bro­ken it four times. “It’s not per­fect, it’s ter­ri­ble,” she said. “Well, it just isn’t – it’s per­fect,” I re­torted. She then took my hand and ran my fnger up and down her nose. “Look, feel that,” she said. “It’s ter­ri­ble.” To be hon­est, though, I wasn’t lis­ten­ing; I was too busy com­pos­ing another epi­taph for my grave­stone.

Read­ing back through what I’ve writ­ten, I know it comes across a bit like a Hello! fea­ture be­cause I have not been crit­i­cal of any of our guests. But the truth is, out of all the stars we had in the cars, only one (and I’m not go­ing to say who it is) was a knob. The rest were any­thing from per­fectly pleas­ant to an ab­so­lute joy. I don’t know why that was. Maybe, as they sat in our ter­ri­ble stu­dent bed­sit of a green room with wonky pic­tures of pre­vi­ous celebs and a fridge that kept the drinks warm, they ap­pre­ci­ated the lack of the usual TV non­sense. Per­haps it was the fact they could have a fag with­out be­ing tut­ted at or sim­ply that they could bomb around a track – or both of these things, in Michael Fass­ben­der’s case. I think a lot en­joyed it, though, be­cause they came down be­liev­ing they would em­bar­rass them­selves at the wheel of a car but then, with a lit­tle help from The Stig, pushed them­selves right out of their com­fort zones and found them­selves in a place they never ex­pected to be, and ac­tu­ally re­ally liked.

I dunno. I’m just glad no­body got hurt – I hon­estly can’t re­mem­ber if we ever both­ered to take out any in­sur­ance.

Sir Michael Gam­bon, knight

of the realm, se­cret petrol­head

and giver of his name to a TopGear

Track cor­ner

WORDS:

James McAvoy: 1:43.6 de­spite go­ing over the grass. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz: Hol­ly­wood roy­alty come to shonky Dunsfold ofce

STARS IN AND OUT OF CARS

Tom Cruise: for­get

the Fer­rari in Risky Busi­ness – all he ever wanted to drive was a

Kia Cee’d

Jeremy didn’t get to feel Cameron’s nose, un­like Andy. So there...

Ron­nie Wood: rock

god and fan of ex­tra-strong cofee

Michael Schu­macher: for­get what you think you know about him, and re­alise that he’s

truly spe­cial

Schuey re­fused to get in a Jag. Only Fer­rari

prod­ucts for him... The leader board. Ob­ject of scru­tiny

and envy...

Prob­a­bly the iconic mo­ment of TopGear TV.

Schuey is The Stig!

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