Who's the diva of the group? And what's that about bungee-jumping a car? We sit down with the presenters of 'Top Gear'

2020-03-05 08:05
 
Freddie Flintoff, Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinnes

In January, Channel24 flew to London to attend the premiere of the 28th season of the motoring show, Top Gear. Leandra Engelbrecht sat down with presenters Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinness to find out more about the new season and behind-the-scenes secrets. 

It's a cold, dreary day in London as I make my way to the Cineworld Imax in Leicester Square.

The air around the cinema complex is abuzz as preparations are underway for the premiere of the 28th season of Top Gear, which premieres Thursday, 5 March at 20:00 on BBC Brit (DStv 120).

In the motoring show's long run there have been several presenters, the latest being Chris Harris, Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff.

Season 27 - which was the trio's first season together - has been the most successful series yet captivating younger audiences. It's no surprise their chemistry and camaraderie is entertaining to watch, and, of course, there are the cars too.

I head up the escalator for my 15-minute chat with Chris and Paddy.

For Paddy, the pressure is very different this time around compared to his first season on the show.

"I'd be lying if I didn't feel that there was pressure. The pressure is different because obviously everyone's got an opinion when you first get the job and everyone's, you know, watching it, and all eyes are on it. Luckily, the first series did well. So, it feels a bit more relaxing."

Chris, an old hand at this - it is his fifth season in the driver's seat - says it is fantastic to work alongside Paddy and Freddie.

"I think the first season with the three of us as the presenting line-up was very well received, certainly over here. I think you'll see there's undeniable confidence in what we're doing now.

"I mean, I think it was confident the first-time round. But when you watch the real unity, it is mega. I am proud of it. I'm the grumpy one, so I'm very rarely positive and proud of anything that I do."

What the show hasn't gotten right is the delicate balance between entertainment and hardcore car testing and reporting. It's not just for petrol heads anymore.

"I think that's the good thing about Top Gear where it is now," says Paddy.

"It isn't just a pure car show, it's got the entertainment aspect as well, which is great because there are a lot of people who say to me 'Oh, I wasn't that interested in cars, but I started watching Top Gear and I like it and enjoy it'."

And when it comes to entertaining this season is packed with plenty: from bungee-jumping a car, to being doused in a lubricant, to Paddy building a car.

"There is some really silly stuff. The bandwidth between serious car testing and silliness is really good this time. It's got everything in there. We even roast a household pet, right?" says Chris.

This season Chris has one of his wishlist items come true: he gets to race against a fighter jet.

"I was desperate to drive a McLaren Speedtail this season. It's really big because we got into it before anyone else and that's quite rare nowadays. I've always wanted to see an F35B Lightning II up close. We've raced against a fighter jet. That's outrageous!"

"You know I've not thought about stuff like that. I might now though, now that you've put it in me head," adds Paddy.

LIFE ON THE ROAD AND MARIAH CAREY

From Bogner Regis to Essex, to Peru, to Baja California (a Mexican State) the trio gets around.

So, what is life on the road like, who's the biggest diva, and who gets annoyed quickly?

"We're quite different people, and we come at it from a different perspective. So, Fred and I are probably a bit more similar in the way that we travel in that I'm disorganised. I don't like any structure at all. Structure scares me. I like to turn up and be told what to do. And I don't like to travel heavy, so I travel very light. I have a small bag. And if I need something, I'll pick it up in the country normally.

"Paddy is very organised. He likes everything to be right. Sometimes the situation suits me better and sometimes it suits him better. Fred's a bit more towards me too but probably sits in the middle."

"To give you an idea of what these two are like they'll have a go at me because I have a suitcase. That's just a normal thing. They call me Mariah Carey!" adds Paddy.

The friendship we see on screen is the same in real life, a bond that is forged from spending hours together on the open road talking to each other all the time.

Chris Harris, Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinnes

(ON THE ROAD: It's all laughs and good-natured banter between the three. Photo: BBC)

Paddy shares that there's never a moment when they're not talking to each other.

Chris agrees: "We can go for an hour or two, and then Fred can't handle the utter rubbish, we will talk for example about what the best sweets are. Fred, after a while, will go, I can't deal with you two and turn his radio off. We will witter for hours. I do need someone to chat with. Otherwise, it's utterly monotonous."

'WE WON'T BUNGEE-JUMP A CAR'

In season 27 the lads travelled through Ethiopia, drove through the rainforest in Borneo to deliver a car to the Sultan of Brunei, take on Iceland's Formula Offroad racing, and voyage the capital of Nepal to a kingdom perched high on the Tibetan plateau.

For both Chris and Paddy, the Nepal special was one of their most daunting challenges.

"There were some very, very dangerous roads," explains Paddy.

When it comes to something they won't do, it's the challenge Freddie does in the first episode of the season.

Top Gear attempts to bungee-jump a car with the former cricketer at the helm off a massive Swiss dam.

Freddie Flintoff in Top Gear.

(THE DAREDEVIL: Freddie likes the line of most resistance. Photo: BBC)

"We've been asked several times whether we would do it," says Chris.

"We even think that was his initial idea. I'm sure he mentioned he wanted to do it. We were all like 'Get on with it Fred knock yourself out'," quips Paddy.

Chris continues: "He's made of different stuff. You've got a field, and you could walk through with a nice bit of grass to walk along, or there's a lot of brambles or cactus that is going to rip your leg apart. Fred will always walk towards the cacti; he likes the line of most resistance."

On what they are excited for viewers to see Paddy says, "To show that the first season wasn't just a one-off. We've kept that momentum building and we've built on it as well."

"For me, Paddy McGuinness in a cowboy hat is a highlight and also trying to deliver cowboy lines," Chris adds.

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Channel24's trip to London was sponsored by BBC.

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