When my husband heard that Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond would be presenting the MPH Top Gear Live show in Cape Town and Johannesburg, he went online and reserved our tickets in a flash. To say that my man “enjoys” the BBC show is like saying that Michael Schumacher “enjoys” driving Formula One cars: it’s not so much a passion as an obsession.
I watch the programme as well, but I am no petrol-head by any stretch of the imagination, so I tend to discern more entertainment from Clarkson’s caustic wit and Hammond’s tight jeans than the actual facts and figures and fast machines. Still, I was excited to see what the threesome would bring to our sunny South African shores.
The result? In a word – showmanship. And lots of it.
Clarkson and Hammond were on hand for the Cape Town show, as May could only secure enough free time for the Johannesburg leg of the tour. The tall man with the appalling dress sense wrote off Captain Slow’s absence in the Mother City by saying that he’d discovered Sandy Bay (our local spot for nude bathing) and decided to stay there. The short man in the faded denims seconded this theory when “photographic evidence” was produced showing May in flowery cutoffs instead of his trademark flowery shirt. In truth, it was May’s head morphed on to a slightly flabby, slightly sunburned male body, but at least there wasn’t a Speedo in sight!
The evening kicked off in spectacular fashion, with a toned, bronzed young woman showing off her skills with fire sticks while pyrotechnics welcomed Clarkson and Hammond as they made their grand entrance behind the wheels of two exotic sports cars. Clarkson took the time to chastise the “potty-mouthed” producer in the sound booth who, during a pre-show sound check, had cursed without knowing that the speakers were broadcasting his tirade to all and sundry! “Just do the f*cking microphone check,” he had drawled. My fellow Capetonians, alert as ever, responded by holding up the red side of their voting cards (for the Cool Wall), effectively giving him a stadium-wide red card. You had to be there to appreciate the moment, but it was pretty funny!
Due credit must be given to the stunt drivers, whose talents were truly astounding. The stage area at the Grand West Casino is not nearly as large as some of the locations used abroad, but these guys proved that they can do 360s on the head of a pin. The term “precision driving” doesn’t do justice to their mad skills. And I say “mad” because they must be slightly left of the middle to push themselves and their machines to the kinds of extremes we witnessed from the stands.
And then there was The Stig, the “tame” racing driver some say escaped from the CIA after a government experiment gone wrong. His identity remains a secret, but his pedal power is unrivalled. He wiped out three vehicles during the Carmageddon skit and completed the loop-the-loop stunt without even breaking a sweat. In the words of Ali G: “Respek!”
Local DJ and F1 fanatic Sasha Martinengo did an admirable job as the third presenter, but the evening belonged to Clarkson and Hammond, whose banter is really the core of Top Gear. We loved them! And they loved us, too. “I fancy Cape Town, it’s a beautiful city,” Clarkson said, before offering his opinions on Table Mountain and the locally produced red wine… He thinks Capetonians make a mountain out of a mole hill regarding the famed tourist attraction and he says his tongue will never recover from the pinotages he’s experienced at the hotel. Here’s a word of advice, Mr C… Try the stuff in the bottle, not the Chateau De Box swill on the room-service menu *wink*
The title of this post is borrowed from the lyrics of Drive by The Cars. Find the song on amazon.com