Friday, June 22, 2012

Top Gear Festival 2012

Its possibly the most watched TV series about cars in the world which features 3 men that are permanently in a midlife crisis with what seems to be an endless budget. That sort of sums up Top Gear in a nut shell. Now take all of that and turn it into a live show. Its got the making of being the best live the world!

After hosting shows in Jhb for the past few years, the host city changed to Durbs after a bidding process. The venue, Durbans iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium. The multipurpose stadium played host to the actual show whilst the Peoples Park had many brands exhibiting their products and the old A1 street circuit was reassembled for the track events.

Having attended last years show at Kyalami, I was aware of what was to be expected but then again, this is Top Gear, nothing can be predicted with these lot! So it was proved as most of their creations were flown down to be displayed as well as the actual stage used on the show! The street track had numerous events such as a parade with the various formula one cars of the different decades as well as races between the 3 presenters in Supercars and the Stig joined in for a few but the main attraction was by far the Mercedes Benz Silver Arrows Formula One car. Hearing the roar of that V8 engine as it blasted around the streets of Durban by Sam Bird was not only a sight to be hold but it also left one with tingles in their spine. It did a few laps around the narrow and windy street circuit before taking on challenges by some production model Mercs as well as a Superbike. I cannot put into words the sensations your body experiences as it shrieks past you at high speed, its something every motor enthusiast has to experience in their life time.

Where ever you looked there was something taking place, from the Stunt school where the drifting stole the show, to the Monster FMX display where bikers pulled off the most insane stunts to wow the crowds. Even if you had some spare change in your back pocket, there was a supercar auction! Where the likes of a limited edition 599 GTO got sold! I tried bidding on an SLS but they didn't accept monopoly money.Making my way back to Peoples Park to view what was on offer there, I was arrested by the AXE SA police and locked up temporarily. Fortunately I escaped charges and was set free, love your work guys!

Unlike the other years, this year the Festival has a proper programme so visitors to the show knew what time the various events were taking place and the map made it easy to find your way around. Eventually I got back to the Top Gear Exhibition and Manufacturers tent area in Peoples Park. There was tons of things on display, from car audio accessories, to custom wraps from your car.

Then as strolling past the IBV tent, a certain orange super car caught my eye. There it was, the Lamborghini Aventador! One of the best looking supercars on the market today and what is rumoured to be the last Lambo with a V12 engine (due to carbon emission laws, damn hippies!). Not everyone was allowed in the IBV but we made a plan to get in, there I met Zantelle van der Linde, marketing coordinator for Lamborghini South Africa. She let us drool over the Aventador all we liked. Pity it was a customers car so no one was allowed to sit in it.

Other manufacturers had displays as well,  Mercedes Benz had all their AMG's on show and the BMW stand pulled a crowd since it had the new M6 cabriolet on show as well as the M5, M3, 1M and the new 3 series with the performance kit on it. The Franschhoek Motor Museum were also kind enough to bring some of their vintage models to display at the show, the pick from the bunch was definitely the original Merc SLS gull wing. The men from Maranello also had a display, with Ferrari and Maserati both sharing a stand. The 458 and FF were on display at the prancing horse end whilst the Quattroporte and GT convertible were on the other end. Time flew by quickly as you visited each stand and soon enough, the sun was down and it was time for the main event.

I had tickets to the final show of the weekend, as you entered the stadium, you could just feel the excitement from everyone. Taking up about a 3rd of the stadium, this venue was much better than last years and everyone had a good view of the action. The show began with a small feature from on of the sponsors Shell, then the 3 men of the hour drove in with their supercars, James May in the new Mclaren MP4-12C, Richard Hammond in the new Porsche GT3 RS (VW Beetle) and Jeremy Clarkson in the Aston Martin DBS. Seeing that London was hosting the Olympics this year, they decided to have that as a theme for their show. Kicking off with an opening ceremony which saw the Queen bungee swing from the arch.

Now this is Top Gear we're talking about so everything was done with in style and also with loads of explosions, daring stunts and everything else that wowed the crowd. Even though the team had done the show 3 times before the one I saw, everything was done to perfection and it went off with out a hitch. Certain acts could have spelt disaster if one thing went wrong but item after item they just got better. From the Top Gear precision driving team having people gasping for breath to guy jumping over a moving Dodge Viper! The 3 presenters them selves took part in many of the events as they adapted the some sports played at the Olympics into the motoring world. Richard Hammond facing the most daunting one, human ten pin bowling! Whilst he sat in a shopping trolley, Jeremy supposed to propel him to the pins with a golf cart but instead he opted for his much more powerful DBS!

The Stig made an appearance too, as they raced around the stadium track in their motorised chariots which comprised of a bunch of scooters joined together. After the Stig claimed victory we were asked by the presenters to sing the popular Beatles songs "Hey Jude" to send him off as it isn't a favourite of his. The daring acts continued as we saw drifting with a difference where by 2 Porsche 911's were set on fire as they drive around also the famous car soccer which is a popular event by them was played at a venue that suited it! It was SA vs England, with the home team captained by "Captain Slow" James May winning it 5-4. Being them, they had to end the show off on a big note, a record breaking 720 "death loop". Two 360 loops which were driven through in succession with a modified buggy. It happened so fast but was surreal seeing it happen.

After the show was concluded, I was lucky enough to head back stage to see all the cars and props that were used in the show. Pity I didn't get to meet any of the presenters.

Many people prior to the show complained at the high ticket prices but to be honest, it was worth every cent. Its a whole day outing that if you're a motoring enthusiast will love every minute off. If I had to compare it to last years event that Joburg hosted, this was at least 5 times better. I'm not being biased to my city but it was just organised better and there was loads more to see and do. We're fortunate enough to have them here for the next 2 years so if you missed out this year, make sure you get here for at least one of the next 2 annual events...and on that bombshell, its good bye till next year for the Top Gear Festival!

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