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Top Gear Festival Sydney 2014

It’s 4pm, Friday afternoon, March 7th. Ominous clouds hover overhead whilst Thor throws down bolt after bolt of lightning. Thunder ripples through the air as a result but most eyes are on the scene unfolding in a marquee. Not only are there Jeremy Clarkson and production assistants, there’s a McLaren MP 4/4, once driven by Ayrton Senna. There’s also the engaging nephew of Ayrton, the swoon inducing (according to my female colleagues), Bruno. The interview concludes, it’s due to be shown on the large screens dotting the Sydney Motorsport Park complex, host to the Top Gear Festival Sydney 2014. The storm moves on around to the east and heads north, allowing the unveiling of the McLaren 650S, just days after the world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show. Startling in its intensive blue colour, it’s more than a machine, it’s a work of art. It’s a great lead in to what promises to be a great weekend.

Saturday morning, 7am. I’m up, if not awake. Coffee, breakfast, I’m away. There’s a queue already at the gates, people waiting for the doors to open at 8.30am. My co-host, John, meets me at our commentary spot and we catch up with the people behind the scenes from last years successful debut. We’re on the mics, welcoming exhibitors and letting them know the punters are baying for their blood. gates open and roles are reversed, letting the punters know who’s there to see and buy from. There’s plenty, from ROH Wheels to Turtle Wax to HDT-SV to look at, plus, on the South Circuit, where the McLaren resides, is the Motoring in Motion section, where people Some Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagscan experience rides in the Volvo S60, Jaguar range and more.

Come 9am and it’s time to introduce a couple of people……except 9 comes and goes. There’s a delay in getting the opening presenters to the stunt vehicles opening the show. Eventually the Isuzu D-Max utes are rolling, on their right side wheels, with Steve Pizzati and Riana Crehan to jump out and kick things off. The day becomes a melange of stunt driving, posties bike racing, Matt Mingay cars and bikes, drift cars, Shane Michelle Jenneke and some bloke called Jeremy.Jacobson’s lightning fast wisecracks, banter between Shane, Steve and Riana, Daniel Ricciardo blasting around the circuit in the Red Bull F1 car from 2011 (breaking Mark Webber’s Saturday time quickly), a contest between a ute and an esky…race offs between various kinds of cars such as the Erebus Motorsport GT3 SLS or Neal Bates and a WRC Corolla. Channel 9 reporter Erin Molan was taken for a lap with Bruno Senna, erstwhily answering general knowledge questions….failing dismally in the process. There were more screams in two minutes than in a horror movie marathon. And yes, Jeremy and James were there, as was the Stig. The English presenters seem distracted, disinterested and, in truth, account for barely an hour of the schedule. But at least it didn’t rain.

Sunday was a repeat, program wise; the presenters started on time, there were two more Big monster truckpeople in the Car Bungy jump, including Riana. There were more drifting demos, more jokes, another few laps from the D-Max duo whilst the crowd seemed restless. Michelle Jenneke made an appearance, a much appreciated one to reprise her race against Clarkson from last year but with a twist. This time round, she would do some hurdles instead of all sprints, while Jeremy would also hurdle. In a car. Unexpectedly (cough) the lissome Jenneke’s warmup routine was warmly greeted by the male crowd. Hilarity ensues as Clarkson makes a few gags, drives the Lexus LF-A through polystyrene ramps and takes Michelle away. May contributes by attempting to race a monster truck with…a monLexus LF-Aster truck, in this case, a radio controlled one through the wheelbase of a genuine one. Little monster truckSadly, a few models gives their lives. Happily, they’re donated to a couple of younger crowd members. Minus controls.

Ricciardo comes out, makes a mockery of yesterday’s time, runs in the car challenge which features a few laps of high speed and includes Garth Walden’s World Time Attack winning monster. There’s a couple of drag cars, one bloke sets a burnout record, there’s applause. It’s all good fun, there’s the car soccer with the three wheeled Robin Reliants, the day rounds off with the third race of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and that’s it. At least it didn’t rain.

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