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Top Gear in SA: New presenter Chris Harris on...

2016-05-18 07:20

TOP GEAR IN SA: New Top Gear host Chris Harris (left) sat down with Wheels24 Sean Parker for an insight into the chaotic life of his new gig. Oh, the Stig was there too! Image: Supplied

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Watch new Top Gear host Matt LeBlanc roar past a wedding procession during filming for the new series of the hit motoring show.

Sean Parker

Johannesburg - Would you believe that South Africa is the second biggest Top Gear market in the world? Yes, the popularity of the world's biggest motoring show has had a huge effect on SA enthusiasts.

The 23rd season, with an all-new cast, of the world's most popular motoring show will air on June 1 in South Africa.

Wheels24's Sean Parker sat down with the show's new presenter - YouTube sensation Chris Harris.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Harris, his show 'Chris Harris on Cars' was launched in 2014 with the help of longtime friend Neil Carey.

The channel has over 350 000 subscribers with one video about a hypercar shootout garnering over 1.7-million views. Harris has written for Autocar and EVO magazines, and still contributes to Pistonheads.com 

Here, he shares his thoughts on the new show, life as a new Top Gear host and general motoring musings..

Here's Chris Harris on...

1. The first person he told once he got the new TG gig..."I phoned my dear old mummy, who I don't see that often. She was the person that got me into cars, she's 82-years-old and she was an auto-cross driver in the late 1950s, early 60s. She's still a very fast driver, has an Audi S4 and drives like a lunatic in it.

She's sort of helped me get here (new job), because you need people to support this nonsense. You don't get to do this stuff, unless people are very patient with you.

She has been very supportive and obviously goes back a long way, so I phoned her and said: "I've just been offered this job", and she laughed down the phone and said "Naaaa, you haven't."

2. What he currently has in his garage (besides press cars)..."512 TR, E30 M3 rally car, lots of rubbish old French stuff, Mercedes W124 320 Sportline cab, BMW E28 M5, classic Range Rover and a Mercedes-Benz CLK Black Series.

Bearing in mind that I own 10% of all of them, and then when the bank squawks at me and says you've got no money, I sell one and then a year later I buy another one.

I will always overspend on cars, I'm passionate about cars, it's not enough to just drive other people's press cars. I have to own my own cars because they're mine and I don't care about going broke about it.

I've fallen out with every major bank and lending facility in the UK over cars and I'll carry on doing it."

3. What he loves about South Africa..."The sense of freedom, the sense of space, I love the fact that you just see stuff happen to anything: it could be the behaviour of people in a queue to someone driving and I just love it when I'm with you 'ouens' and someone goes "that's Africa", I just love it. It's a fascinating place, full of colour, it's frustrating sometimes and it can be a bit scary but it's just magnificent.

And when the sun goes down and that 'honeyglaze' light (points to the sun-setting at Kyalami) comes out. I have many happy memories of being down here, it's a wonderful place."

4. The best roads he has ever driven...'I remember coming down here (Western Cape) and driving the Franschhoek pass and I thought that was a stunning road. And actually one of those roads where you could get carried away, because you come out of Stellenbosch with a bit of Pinotage on board and you're like "whooooar, boom!", that was really fast and I enjoyed that. I nearly hit a baboon on that road, I was driving a Focus ST, and this baboon came out of nowhere and I thought "Oh God".

I think the Route Napoleon is a stunning road, a lot of (European motoring journalists) go on about it. It is the archetypal European road. (It) heads up from Grasse which is right down on the South Coast of France and then heads up into the Alps. It's beautiful. So if you imagine where James Bond drives his DB5 in those films, that's what I'm talking about.

A photo posted by Wheels24 (@wheels24_sa) on

But do you know what, the best drive is the last 10 miles home, when I've had a long day and come from an airport and I'm in the right car and the road's empty and it's 1am in the morning and I've got a lovely 10 miles (I won't say where it is) off the motorway to my house and if I want to pin my ears back it's just...I love the fact that it takes me to the place I want to be and when I leave in the morning I get that road again(And I don't tell anyone where it is).

5. Which one he'd have, McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari or Porsche 918... Easy, the P1.

6. What Chris Harris on Cars (his YouTube channel) has in store...I can't talk about what's happening there officially, but there will be an announcement very soon. It's going to be news that people like, (COHC) will be in a perpetual state of hibernation for a while, maybe indefinitely. But you're going to get something in its place, and I think you'll be very happy about what it is and the way that's funded.

There's going to be a lot of content coming, you're going to be quite sick of me by the end of 2016.

7. His favourite type of food...I have a particular passion for slow-cooked lamb, and I quite like older lambs, mutton, hoggit, that sort of stuff. So once they grown a few teeth, in English markets, their price goes down, so you can buy them cheap and they've got more flavour. It's a fattier meat, but it has that more sort of pungent, lamby flavour which I love, really love.

8. The most exciting car he has driven in 2016...Ferrari TDF, it's exciting in all the right ways and a couple of wrong ways.

For me, that's the limit that I can do in terms of sliding a car around and talking at the same time.

I just find myself thinking, I really need to think here, rather than talk. It lets go so quickly, but God it's exciting. If you drive an F12, you get out of an F12 and you feel that your head's been frazzled and for someone to then say we've took 150kgs out of it and added 40hp (30kW), you'd go 'why?', why would you do that?, but they did and the result is spectacular. 


9. His favourite watch...I'm actually not that into watches, I have a few because I've won them in races and I have bought a couple.

But I have a Rolex Sea-dweller which was a gift from my father before he passed away, and I've had it for about 20 years and I'm very fond of it. I don't care about its value, it's not a very valuable watch. It's special, and it's been run over twice by a car and survived!

10. People that think he is a sell-out (by leaving YouTube to Top Gear)...Well selling out suggests you're being paid loads of money and you can ask them (points to TG team) they're not paying me much money.

It's difficult isn't it? On the one hand I love making those films (YouTube), that's what I'll always feel comfortable doing. That will never change.

But, we as individuals have to find new challenges, and when they are offered to us we need to decide to accept them or to stay where we are in our comfort zone. I've been doing that for a while and I think myself and Neil (Carey), (director, cameraman) have proved that we can make a concise YouTube film for not too much money and hit the right audience with hits and beat most other people with our numbers. 

So we've kind of ticked that box, doesn't mean we can't get better at it, everyone can get better. But when this challenge came along, I thought I have to give it a go. And I think that the people who say we've sold out when they look at the variety of content and the delivery methods that we're going to be involved in by the end of the year will change their opinion.

I'm not vacating that space, that's my space, I want to get back there and boss it. I've just been away from it for a bit."

*Catch the new season of Top Gear on BBC First from 1 June.

Watch: LaFerrari v Porsche 918 v McLaren P1 at Portimao


Read more on:    bbc  |  top gear  |  chris harris  |  sean parker  |  the stig  |  kyalami

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