‘Top Gear’ Producer Gets in the Driver’s Seat
We could have stayed there for hours, but it was starting to get dark. We looked over all the other cars that were in various states of repair. There was a proto-type beetle like the one dropped from the helicopter, several Reliant Robins, and even the Audi used in the train challenge was sitting on the lot. As we headed back to our car, Peter asked if we’d like to take the double-decker Jaguar for a quick (low-speed) whirl around his back yard. Again Denny went first! The way the car was setup, the guy on the bottom (Peter) handled the gas and brakes and the top guy steered. We both proceeded to do a pretty good job ripping up his garden with this automobile oddity… under his direct supervision. It was time to go to the hotel and get some sleep.
The next day was a long one. Andy was a pro and spent a very long day shooting everything we needed to assemble the show. He never complained about doing multiple takes or having to make tweaks to the copy on the spot. At a few breaks we spoke about the show and every time he was grateful for the U.S. fan base and genuinely glad to be doing a show based on their voting. We finished our last shot around 6pm and Andy when outside to have a few publicity shots taken. Denny and I presented him the best wine we could find at Tesco’s… not exactly a lot of choices in the middle of nowhere and he was off. The crew packed up all the equipment and we returned the production office to its original state of dishevelment. As we were leaving I saw Peter one leaning against his pickup truck and went over to thank him for all of his help.
Jokingly I said, “There is one more thing I need.”
“I need to take a lap”
“Chris, I don’t think we can do it. They have a lot of traffic this weekend.”
“Ok, maybe next time.”
“Nah, we’ll take a quick one, better to ask forgiveness than permission. Let’s go!”
The three of us piled into the car (buckled up of course) and made our way to the track. Peter made it very clear we were only going to get one pass on the track; this meant I had to do the stupid thing first. This was ok because my rule has a clause in it that if the stupid thing is really cool and of limited opportunity, than as the boss you get to do it. We started the run and I was accelerating pretty steadily. I hit about 70 mph as I approached the Chicago turn and Denny started to remind me that there was a rental agreement in the glove box which probably contained some fine print about “test track” and stunt driving. He did this by loudly saying “rental” repeatedly. At least that’s what I heard. After a quick discussion about the supplemental insurance we didn’t have, I slowed down. The rest of the track was taken quickly, but not at breakneck speed. It was still thrilling and I’ll save the really fast track times for Gran Turismo. We dropped Peter off, thanked him and headed back to London.
So that is basically what I did this summer. I won’t lie; it felt more like fun than work. I learned the “Top Gear” team are somewhat oblivious to what a mega hit the show is worldwide. They are too busy thinking up new ways to entertain us by putting incredible, unusual, and sometimes downright peculiar modes of travel to the test. They are friendly and generous with their effort to please to the fans. They seem to have lots of fun working together, they laugh a lot together, have a really shitty office and maybe the luckiest people on Earth… except for me when I got this project.