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2011-03-18 13:23

THE STARS: Celebrity presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May enthrall Kyalami with their signature brand of wit.

The Top Gear Festival powered by BP Ultimate started with a resounding bang on the evening of March 17, 2011 when everyone’s favourite TV stars made their appearances at Kyalami.

With Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, appearing alongside local host, 5FM’s Sasha Martinengo and his co-host, seasoned presenter and former Top Gear member, Tiff Needell, the crowds seated in heaving stands were kept enthralled throughout the hour-long show at the specially constructed arena.

LIVELY DISPLAYS

One noticeable omission from the presenter line-up, probably because he doesn’t say much anyway, was the helmeted Stig; however, the stars of the show were invariably of the four-wheeled type. There were a few two-wheelers, though – some stunt bikes and one hapless little scooter that, thanks to the antics of a monster truck, was made to meet its maker in a most dramatic way…


THE OTHER STARS: Fans are treated to a number of rare, exotic and outrageous vehicles that any petrol head would love to have in their garage.

Super cars in attendance included the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG championed by Clarkson, a Porsche 911 GT3 RS piloted by Hammond and the smoking (if you’ll excuse the pun) Ferrari 458 Italia parked by May.

As before, stunts and high jinxs were in high demand and the show’s stunt teams seemed more than happy to comply. A particularly entertaining segment was viewing the precision stunt driving antics of a couple of guys in Renault Megane RSs, although I did feel for the poor guy strapped into the special edition Clio RS 20 as the Meganes pirouetted around him. Local rally ace Gugu Zulu offered an introductory twirl in his BP-liveried VW Polo to the crowds, too.

Other lively displays included another bashing of the poor South African taxi driver – although in the show’s example, the taxis were hammered – and a car bungee performed by a rather calm-looking Martinengo.

A DATE WITH THE STIG

Leaving the venue after the stunt show, I was surrounded by several people who thought the performance was over far too soon. A real concern, though, was the pre-show congestion leading to the stunt arena and the lack of visible directional signage or maps that would have alleviated some of the frustration.

But it was all smiles ahead of the show where a charity auction was held in honour of Sparrow schools for children and youth with learning difficulties.

The lots on offer included spending lap time with former Ferrari F1 world champion, South African-born Jody Scheckter, David Coulthard, Sabine Schmitz and Sir Stirling Moss. However, those lots were not as well received as that of one elated lady who bid R50 000 to spend a few laps in the presence of the Stig.

The Top Gear Festival powered by BP Ultimate is on at Johannesburg’s Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit until March 20, 2011. Escaping the confines of the Coca-Cola Dome and Grand West’s Grand Arena, the festival is a hive of activity allowing ticket holders to stroll around the paddock and take in a number of exotic and rare automotive specimens, see racing legends go around the Kyalami track, and view drag races, drift shows and rally sprints all in one venue.
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