Top Gear, series 18, episode 7, BBC Two, review

imageRachel Ward reviews the final episode of the current series of BBC Two’s Top Gear

Thanks to Dave (the TV channel, not Cameron), I’ve seen my fair share of Top Gear episodes. This, the last of the series, was the one with Slash, Kimi Raikkonen, and golf. I must admit that much of this 18th series has passed me by, mainly because (sorry super fans) I’m usually tuned into Dancing on Ice on ITV1 – an adrenalin-fuelled activity of a very different kind.

Nevertheless, I settled down on my beige Mark 1 sofa as Richard Hammond started off the show by reviewing the new BMW M5, which he described as having the “distilled essence of single malt driving pleasure.” A pleasing metaphor, but Jeremy Clarkson does these better – I’ll never forget his quip from a few years ago that “this TVR is tighter than Vanessa Mae’s g-string”.

Hammond seemed genuinely excited by the BMW – it “devoured” corners and was the “new boss”. But no matter how many times they roll out another BMW (they always seem to be reviewing them on this show), they’ll never convince me to buy one, especially at £73,000.

Hammond is at his best when talking straight and naturally about cars. When he tries to be funny, as in the news section, he just isn’t and is plain annoying. The news section itself is also a bit of a waste of time. It’s too scripted and too rehearsed and this week the boys made stupid remarks about satnav and police sirens.

Better, is the main feature section. This week’s challenge was to prove that you can go motor racing for less than it costs to play golf (a pretty expensive pastime). Clarkson, May and Hammond all bought relatively cheap cars to take part, against other enthusiasts, in a rally cross motor race. It was a thrilling 20 minutes as they competed in various heats. Hammond didn’t shut up all the way round his lap despite screeching “this is too exciting to speak.” But he put in a fast time and found himself in the final with Clarkson, and the pair finished a respectable second and third place respectively. Naturally, James “Captain Slow” May was watching from the sidelines.

Because this was the final episode of the series, there was a double helping of the Star in the Reasonably Priced Car. First up was F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen who is returning to F1 racing from World Rally Championship for the new season which kicks off next week in Australia. As expected from a professional driver, he was perfectly calm and composed as he held the car on a wet track. Our second celebrity was Gun N’ Roses guitarist Slash, who was introduced by Clarkson with typically boyish behaviour.

Clarkson: “I need a slash… and luckily we’ve got one.”

We found out that Slash likes Aston Martins and leather trousers, because “you don’t have to wash them much.” The trousers, not the car. Unfortunately, for a man whose debut album was entitled Appetite for Destruction, he didn’t serve up much speed on the track, though he did beat fellow rock star Alice Cooper, so the man was happy.

James May made an interesting trip to radio DJ Chris Evans’s house – the man has more vehicles in his garage than my local Kwik-Fit – to take a ride in one of the world’s rarest cars, the Ferrari 250 California. This was a nice little segment, not only because I’ve never seen May smile so much (it was his childhood dream car), but because apparently the car had once belonged to the film star James Coburn, who had been convinced to buy it by Steve McQueen when the pair were working on The Great Escape. Naturally Evans looked nervous as he handed over the keys to May who took it for a spin around a wet Windsor Park. But we always knew his baby would be safe in the hands of May – the man rarely veers outside the lines.

All in all, this wasn’t the most entertaining episode of the show but it careered along nicely and was palatable enough to keep the fans happy.

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