Top Gear ‘bro­mance’ is revving up as hosts steer bumper new se­ries

The National - News - Arts & Life - - Front Page - Chris New­bould

With the new se­ries of Top Gear al­ready on screens in the United King­dom, and ex­pected to be aired in the Mid­dle East shortly thanks to the smash-hit motoring show’s re­cent deal with StarzPlay Ara­bia, we caught up with hosts Matt Le­Blanc, Chris Har­ri­son and Rory Reid to find out what au­di­ences can look for­ward to.

The hosts were in Dubai re­cently to film up­com­ing episodes, though the shoot was strictly off lim­its to the me­dia and pub­lic.

Eye wit­ness re­ports sug­gest a yacht ver­sus car race through Dubai Ma­rina may be on the cards, but sadly the stars were not able to shed any more light on it. The episode still has not screened, so the cast are re­quired to re­main tightlipped about their ad­ven­tures.

Har­ri­son, how­ever, was in no doubt as to why Dubai was an ideal lo­ca­tion to shoot the show: “It is hyper-car cen­tral, isn’t it? It is the epi­cen­tre of peo­ple buy­ing in­cred­i­ble cars. If you re­verse-en­gi­neer it, the rea­son why those cars ex­ist is the Mid­dle East,” he says.

Co-host Reid agrees: “It is one of the few places where we could turn up with a film crew and an amaz­ing car and no one would bat an eye­lid,” he adds.

Dubai res­i­dents may be some­what blasé about the au­to­mo­tive beasts the gang reg­u­larly travel around the world in, but for Le­Blanc, the nov­elty clearly has not worn off yet. “Some­times, I sit there think­ing: ‘I can’t be­lieve I am mak­ing a film about this car’. As far as dream jobs go, it is up there,” he says.

“It’s re­ally fun. I wish I could say it is not that great, but if I am hon­est, it is to­tally awe­some.”

“I was ac­tu­ally sup­posed to be semi-re­tired right now, but when they of­fered me this, I said: ‘That sounds like great fun. I’d love to do that’.” Le­Blanc and the gang may be barred from talk­ing about their Dubai ad­ven­tures right now, but of the episodes that have al­ready screened in the UK, he al­ready has a clear favourite stunt – it is from the se­ries pre­miere.

“Kaza­khstan was pretty out there,” he says. “It is a chal­lenge where we have to drive across Kaza­khstan in cars that have half-amil­lion miles on the clock. It was tough to find them, but it was re­ally fun to try and keep them go­ing. You have to choose the right course. We had one Mercedes, one Volvo and one Lon­don taxi. We ex­pe­ri­enced what it means to drive a car that is truly old.”

The cur­rent Top Gear team have faced a tough chal­lenge since re­plac­ing the show’s long-stand­ing and much- revered former hosts Jeremy Clark­son, Richard Ham­mond and James May, who also shot an episode of their own fol­low-up show The Grand Tour in Dubai for added lo­cal com­pe­ti­tion.

The first Top Gear sea­son with the new team re­ceived mixed re­views and some­what dis­ap­point­ing view­ing fig­ures, cul­mi­nat­ing in the de­par­ture of co-host Chris Evans, leav­ing the cur­rent trio of main hosts to carry the show. Re­views of the new episodes have so far been good, with episode 3 widely touted as the best post-Clark­son show so far.

Much of the ear­lier crit­i­cism stemmed from the fact that the chem­istry be­tween the new hosts did not match up to that of their pre­de­ces­sors – per­haps un­sur­pris­ing as the pre­vi­ous trio had 13 years in the hot seat to de­velop their re­la­tion­ship.

Har­ri­son feels this is some­thing that is im­prov­ing, and will only con­tinue to do so. “A large part of the ap­peal of the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion of Top Gear pre­sen­ters was the chem­istry be­tween them,” he ad­mits. “But that took time. It does not hap­pen overnight. We have a great emerg­ing ‘bro­mance’. We’re learn­ing about each other and when we can nee­dle each other. After all, if you can’t laugh at your­self and your mates, then you are a bit doomed, aren’t you?”

This gen­er­a­tion of hosts have no de­sire to sim­ply be car­bon copies of their pre­de­ces­sors, he adds.

“The ex­pec­ta­tion might be that our chem­istry would be the same as the pre­vi­ous pre­sen­ters, but of course it is not go­ing to be the same,” he says. “I’m re­ally en­joy­ing the fact that we are stamp­ing our own au­thor­ity on the show. It feels like we are do­ing it our own way. There are some re­ally funny bits, proper belly laughs, but it We have a great emerg­ing ‘bro­mance’. We’re learn­ing about each other and when we can nee­dle each other Chris Har­ri­son host is not an im­i­ta­tion of a pre­vi­ous sense of humour. It is our sense of humour.”

Le­Blanc agrees: “I think it is work­ing very well. [There is] a gen­uine re­spect for each other and a gen­uine un­der­stand­ing of each other’s po­si­tion. We all have a fond­ness for the au­to­mo­bile and travel, cul­ture and ex­plor­ing,” he says. “Even though we are very dif­fer­ent, we all share this pas­sion for cars. In my ex­pe­ri­ence with friends back home, in­evitably gather­ings al­ways end up in the garage around a car or a bike. That is when the laughs start flow­ing and the rib­bing starts, and the whole ‘bro­mance’ hap­pens. Al­ready, Chris, Rory and I re­ally en­joy each other’s com­pany and hav­ing a laugh to­gether.”

Le­Blanc also gives a glimpse into the fu­ture when he adds: “I’d like to carry on for the fore­see­able fu­ture. I’m re­ally en­joy­ing it.”

Har­ri­son is per­haps more ef­fu­sive when he says: “I come from a back­ground of mak­ing films about cars. They used to be broad­cast on a thing called YouTube. As and when this ends, I’ll go back to do­ing that. That is what I like do­ing. It just so hap­pens that I’ve got this in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to work with th­ese amaz­ing guys.”

se­ries 24 is ex­pected in the Mid­dle East shortly on StarzPlay. It is al­ready screen­ing in the UK and the US

Cour­tesy BBC World­wide

Top Gear’s new hosts, from left, Rory Reid, Chris Har­ri­son and Matt Le­Blanc are en­joy­ing the ride.

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