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Welcome Top Gear Live is the loudest, fastest, brashest show on wheels. If you’re looking for a luggage rack for your caravan, you’re in the wrong place.
Camera, lights and action A visual taster of what’s in store. See how we’re bringing the world’s most watched TV show to life.
show times What’s happening when. Make sure you don’t miss a moment of the action.
star in a reasonably priced car A host of hand-picked celebs do battle in the mighty (yet reasonably priced) Kia C’eed
show map There’s masses for the whole family to see and do at Top Gear Live. Find out what’s on and where.
deadly 720 Top Gear goes after a new world record in a death-defying double loop-the-loop
Hot hatch grudge match Ford, Renault, Vauxhall and Volkswagen battle it out to be crowned king of the hot hatches
aston martin one77 Aston Martin’s new £1.2m hypercar is put through its paces in a desert test-drive
japspeed drifters If you see smoke - don’t panic; burning rubber is the name of the game in this power-slide extravaganza
supercar paddock Some of the worldâ€™s rarest, fastest, most expensive automobiles together in one place
star driver We meet speed demon and pro driving veteran Niki Faulkner to see what it takes to be a Top Gear star driver
a day at the mascar races They might be small, but reaching speeds of 140mph. MASCAR is an extreme motorsport not to be missed.
ferrari f12 berlinetta The fastest Ferrari ever made on the banked circuit at Monza? Itâ€™s the stuff Tifosi dreams are made of...
top gear live exhibition
Editor / Matthew Carter Contributing Editor / Gemma Taylor Head of Design / Hiren Chandarana lead Designer / Ashley Lewis Project ManAger / Sam Biss production ManAger / Fiona Fenwick production assistant / Hugo Wheatley ADVERTISING MANAGER / Zainab Talati finance director / Elton Hopkins Managing Director / Eren Ellwood
Published for Top Gear Live by
T: +44 (0)20 7987 4320 rwmg.co.uk Reproduction without prior permission is strictly prohibited. All details correct at time of going to press and may be subject to change.
n o t R iC k s , j us t g e n u i n e o f f e R s.
the Civic 1.8 ti limited edition, bursting with added extras.
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Fuel consumption for the Civic 1.8 i-VTEC Ti Manual in mpg (l/100km): Ur ban Cycle 38.7 (7.3), E x tr a Ur ban 57.6 (4.9), Combined 48.7 (5.8). CO 2 emissions 137g /k m. model shown: Civic 1.8 i-VTEC Ti Manual in Alabaster Silver at £17,495. terms and Conditions: New retail Civic Ti registrations from 19 September 2012 to 31 December 2012. Subject to model and colour availability. Offers applicable at participating dealers and are at the promoter’s absolute discretion. Honda aspirations (pCp): Example shown based on annual mileage of 10,000. Excess mileage charge: 5p per mile. You do not have to pay the Final Payment if you return the car at the end of the agreement and you have paid all other amounts due, the vehicle is in good condition and has been serviced in accordance with the Honda service book and the maximum annual mileage of 10,000 has not been exceeded. Indemnities may be required in certain circumstances. Finance is only available to persons aged 18 or over, subject to status. All figures are correct at time of publication but may be subject to change. Credit provided by Honda Finance Europe Plc. 470 London Road, Slough, Berkshire SL3 8QY.
TOP GEAR LIVE 2012 We’re back, BIGGER , bolder and badder than ever!
o you like watching Top Gear on your 50-inch flatscreen TV and listening to its V8 (and V10 and V12) soundtrack through a pumped up surround sound system? Well, prepare to be amazed. Top Gear Live is too big to be captured on a TV screen. It’s larger and louder than life and this year goes beyond the boundaries we’ve set before. This is going to be the best yet. Since Top Gear Live started in 2008, it has entertained more than 1.5 million visitors in 18 different cities all over the globe. Now we’re back at the NEC and, as ever, Clarkson, Hammond, May and The Stig will be on hand to amuse and amaze. With accurate recreations of the Top Gear studio and Cool Wall, Top Gear Live brings the TV show alive. All the familiar features are here, from the dodgy leather seats to the engine coffee table. There’s a special display of some of the, er, unusual challenge cars we’ve featured over the years. They’re usually on display at the National Motor Museum down at Beaulieu, but we’ve nicked them back for Top Gear Live. Naturally we’ve got supercars, everything from track specials such as the Ariel Atom and BAC Mono, to some genuine mouth-wateringly rare beasts such as the Bugatti Veyron, Gumpert Apollo, Aston Zagato, Koenigsegg CX and the Shelby Ultimate Aero. When was the last time you saw one
Top Gear Live 2012 • 11
of those in captivity, let alone in the flesh? Together, they must be worth, ooh, at least £2,000 (that’s what we’ve told our insurers to keep the premium down, so please don’t try to steal one. Thanks). There’s plenty of other new metal to look at and masses of live action. As usual, the action will encompass the Arena and the Top Gear Live track, where our team of daredevil drivers will perform incredible stunts… including a new twist on the Deadly 720, a gravity-defying double loop-the-loop. We’ve got some evocative World Rally Champion machinery from the 1990s – Subaru Imprezas, Lancia Integrales, Mitsubishi Evos and so on – and a series of spectacular grudge matches with, for example, top-class drifters fighting for honours. We’ve even borrowed an idea from the Olympics. Remember the omnium races in the velodrome? That was where the bike at the back was eliminated after each lap… a sort of mechanised musical chairs. Well we’re doing the same thing with NASCAR-style racers And there will be celebrities wherever you look. Jeremy, Richard and James will, of course, be joined by racer Tiff Needell and The Stig (or Tig and The Stiff as someone called them) as well as famous faces from Star in a Reasonably Priced Car all hoping to be the fastest driver around the track. What’s guaranteed is action, laughs, cockups and cacophony. And we apologise that when you get back to your 50-inch flatscreen it won’t seem quite as dynamic as it does today.
TOP GEAR LIVE
would like to thank… Top Gear Magazine The UK’s top-selling car magazine is packed with the hottest reviews, world-firsts, road tests and motoring essentials. It’s an incredible mix of in-depth information combined with the wit of Clarkson, Hammond and May. TOPGEAR.com With over five million visitors every month, TopGear.com is the digital home for all things Top Gear. Every day we bring you the best car news, first drives, games, videos, exclusive behind-the-scenes access and all the latest from the three presenters. twitter: twitter.com/BBC_TopGear Facebook: www.facebook.com/topgear Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheStig Beaulieu At Beaulieu, discover the many delights of this world-famous motor museum. Containing over 250 vehicles, it houses exhibitions such as Bond in Motion, displaying 50 James Bond vehicles and the World of Top Gear. Visit historic Palace House, Beaulieu Abbey and its beautiful gardens. Rides include the high-level Monorail and Veteran Bus. Website : www.beaulieu.co.uk Facebook: www.facebook.com/beaulieu.co.uk London Motor Museum Being the only motor museum in London with a collection of the rarest cars in the world, the London Motor Museum is an ideal attraction for families, petrolheads and everything in between. The museum houses cars such as the Batmobile, ‘67 Gt 500 and Gumpert Apollo to name but a few. The museum is only a stones throw away from Heathrow airport and 12 minutes from Paddington Station. Website: www.londonmotormuseum.co.uk Facebook: www.facebook.com/lmmfans ABSOLUTE RADIO This national radio station for fans of real music, comedy and football is wrapped up with lashings of personality and mischief from DJs such as Christian O’Connell, Frank Skinner, Dave Gorman, Geoff Lloyd, Ronnie Wood and Ian Wright, who say what they think and tell it like it is. For more information log on to www.absoluteradio.co.uk or tune in on 105.8FM in London and the South East, nationally on DAB, or 1215AM as well as mobile apps and digital TV. BRSCC With over 50 race meetings and 25 championships run by the BRSCC annually, the club plays a leading role in British motorsport, organising domestic meetings and FIA sanctioned international events. twitter: twitter.com/BrsccHQ Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/BRSCC/137872516304232
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Fuel consumption figures for the Jazz 1.4 i-VTEC Si Manual in mpg (l/100km): Ur ban 42.2 (6.7), E x tr a Ur ban 57.7 (4.9), Combined 50.4 (5.6). CO 2 emissions: 129g /k m. Model shown: Jazz 1.4 i-VTEC Si Manual in White Orchid Pearl at £15,000. Terms and Conditions: New retail Jazz Si registrations from 19 September 2012 to 31 December 2012. Subject to model and colour availability. Offers applicable at participating dealers and are at the promoter’s absolute discretion. Honda Aspirations (PCP): *£159 per month example shown based on Jazz 1.4 Si Manual with 3 years’ 0% APR with 27% deposit. Annual mileage of 10,000. Excess mileage charge 3p per mile. You do not have to pay the Final Payment if you return the car at the end of the agreement and you have paid all other amounts due, the vehicle is in good condition and has been serviced in accordance with the Honda service book and the maximum annual mileage of 10,000 has not been exceeded. Indemnities may be required in certain circumstances. Finance is only available to persons aged 18 or over, subject to status. All figures are correct at time of publication but may be subject to change. Credit provided by Honda Finance Europe Plc. 470 London Road, Slough, Berkshire SL3 8QY.
14 • Top Gear Live 2012
what’s on at Top Gear Live 2012
he biggest thing about Top Gear Live is - you’ve guessed it - the track and live arena show. This year, the live action is so extreme that we can barely contain it all. Presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and The Stig will be on hand to provide the usual razor sharp banter and organised chaos, while celebrities from TV stars to Olympic champions, including Johnny Vaughan and Max Whitlock, will be putting their fears aside to try and outdo one another in a Kia. Plus see world records set in our ground-breaking double loop-the-loop, and find out once and for all who will be crowned king of the hatchbacks. As if that weren’t enough, the wheel-to-wheel action of MASCAR will be sure to get your adrenaline pumping, and the Japspeed drifters will be hot on their heels to keep your pulses racing. So buckle up and get your cameras out, because you won’t want to miss a moment.* *Live show content may be subject to change 14 show times
Thursday 25 october
16 â€˘ Top Gear Live 2012
Show opens Live performance Live performance
Show opens Live performance Live performance
Forza Horizon Live performance #EscapeTheGrid race ends at Top Gear Live 7.00pm Stand: 1230 Exhibition closes
16 show times
Show opens Live performance Live performance Exhibition closes
LISTEN ON 105.8FM, 1215AM, ON YOUR MOBILE, DIGITAL AND ONLINE.
Top Gear Live 2012 • 19
Top Gear Live 2012 • 21
C A M E R A , L IG H
A N D AC T ION !
You’ve seen the TV programme, you’ve read the now’s the time magazine… but for you to witnes s Top Gear as it co prepared for an mes alive. Be assault on all of your senses: may hem awaits!
You are about to behold the orga cacophony, the nised chaos, th sheer creative e carnage that is Live. And you m Top Gear ight think all th e arguing, the sh burn-outs and outing, the the mishaps are performed just viewing pleasur for your e. But you’d be wrong. Please re that Top Gear is member in the Guinness Book Of Record world’s most wi s as the dely watched fa ctual TV progra Prepare to be ed mme. ucated as well as entertained!
Clarkson, May and Hammond
Those of a certain age will remember a popular beat combo from the late 1960s called Cream. Clapton, Bruce and Baker were known as the ultimate power trio… but Cream is history. Today’s ultimate power trio is Clarkson, May and Hammond. Amazingly it’s been ten years since Top Gear started in its current format. Ten years of fun and madness, of unbelievable stunts and exceptional television entertainment. Thanks guys.
If you want to see lots of supercars together in the same place, that usually means you’d need to go to an exotic, far-off, place like Monte Carlo or Dubai. Not this week. Top Gear Live has pulled out all the stops to ensure some of the world’s rarest, fastest and most expensive cars are all here at the NEC. Bugatti Veyron? Check. Gumpert Apollo? Check. Koenigsiginssegiesgsegg? Cheeeeeeck.
Top Gear Live 2012 • 23
Who is The Stig? We don’t know much about him, but according to the Top Gear website he was born on 3 January 1969 and that his native tongue is martian. Inside that white suit perhaps he’s really a little green space invader, and when he goes back home he’ll be able to take the Mars Rover on some hot laps of the red planet. In the meantime, he’s here on earth to put some of our most potent machinery to the test..
SEE THE STIG
In the history of TV stage sets, it’s far from the most lavish or indeed expensive… but it is one of the best known. A well padded if slightly tired leather bench seat from the back of an old British classic is the perch for Hammond and May while Jeremy’s in the driving seat. Between them sits a piece of glass on top of an engine block that serves as a coffee table. Just your average bit of Top Gear motoring ingenuity.
24 • Top Gear Live 2012
You’re a petrolhead. You’d love a two-seater, something quick like a Porsche or the new Jaguar F-type. But you’ve got a family, kids drifting and all that that entails. The good news is There are a few things that you can still have your motoring fun you might not know about thanks to the current crop of mightily Shane Lynch. At the age effective hot hatchbacks. But which of 14 he was the Portuguese is the best? A Top Gear Live BMX champion. He almost won grudge match will give you the 2003 British GT Championship. the answer: watch as Ford, In 2006, he appeared as Prince Renault, Vauxhall and Charming in Cinderella at the Tameside Volkswagen prepare Hippodrome. In 1999, his band Boyzone to do battle. was knocked off the top spot in the charts by B*Witched… featuring his twin sisters Keavy and Edele. And, today, he’s no mean drifter.
deadly 720 Sometimes, Top Gear Live
surprises itself by getting something right. That happened in South Africa earlier this year when the team’s incredibly talented driving team pulled off a stunt that got them into the Guinness Book of World Records. It was called the Deadly 720 and saw a buggy defying gravity by doing not one, but two loop-the-loops in quick succession. We’re doing it again here at the NEC. Only not with a buggy.
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Top Gear Live 2012 • 27
P U T SH U E V I R &D M
eet the celebrities who will be parking their microphones and picking up a helmet to battle it out in the mighty… er....Kia C’eed. Nothing gets famous people more competitive, ruthless and red in the face than racing each other in a reasonably priced car. Throughout Top Gear Live, a succession of TV, movie and sports stars will strap themselves into the Top Gear Kia Cee’d and race around the track, hoping to top the leaderboard. Just like the TV show, they’ll have advice from The Stig… but unlike the TV show, the weather won’t intervene. With identical racing conditions, by the end of Top Gear Live, we will know which of these stars could give up their day job to be the next Lewis Hamilton. Who’s your money on?
Anthony Joshua More accustomed to dealing with uppercuts than under steer, gold medal-winning Anthony Joshua is the London 2012 Olympic super-heavyweight boxing champion. Victorious at London 2012 and now number one in the world, Joshua has secured his reputation in the ring, but he show the same speed and agility on the track? The sprightly 22-year-old came to boxing comparatively late in life, starting when he was 18, and has already achieved plenty in a short career. He has put in dramatic performances in front of hostile crowds in
Azerbaijan as well as held up under the pressure of boxing on his home turf. A naturally gifted sportsman, helped no doubt by his impressive six foot six inches stature, boxing is not the only sport he has turned his hand to. He regularly ran the 100m sprint in less than 11 seconds as a teenager, making him a bit of an all-rounder, so it will be interesting to see if he’s as naturally gifted behind the wheel. Anthony turned down some pretty lucrative offers to turn pro, choosing instead to keep his amateur status, saying that he competes for medals not for money. Time will tell whether this desire to always clinch the gold medal position will lead him to victory on the track.
Johnny Vaughan Notorious radio presenter Johnny Vaughan has been blasting out
of thousands of car windows for the last eight years. Always armed with a quick-witted response, Johnny is used to the pressures of live entertainment. But how will he cope with the pressures of the track? Only time will tell whether the roar of the crowd and the confines of the car will make or break Johnny, who is a bit of selfprofessed petrol head. Although we’re confident that he won’t be replacing The Stig any time soon, he will definitely give the other stars a run for their money. He presented Car of the Year 2008 on Dave and has owned a fair few supercars of his own, the lucky devil. However, no matter how well he does in the arena, we doubt The Stig will have too many kind words to say about him. This is due to an infamous incident some of you might remember, when he broke Top Gear’s beloved Reasonably Priced Car during a particularly enthusiastic appearance. Racing with ex Big Breakfast co-host Denise Van Outen, they scored a lap time of
Top Gear Live 2012 • 29 MARK FOSTER
1:53.4, which Clarkson moved up to 1:53.2 because there were two people in the car, generosity we can promise won’t be repeated here. This time Johnny is hoping to complete his lap without leaving a trail of wreckage left behind him. Stand well back.
Johnny Vegas Stand-up comedy legend Johnny Vegas was probably the first Top Gear star guest not to have a driving licence – and possibly the first who has ever wanted to be a priest. Nevertheless, in spite of his lack of driving expertise he managed to navigate the Reasonably Priced Car around our track with far fewer bumps and bruises than some. Well known for his angry rants, surreal style of comedy, portly figure and high husky voice, his performances on stage have heralded many prizes following his enormous boom of success
in the 90s. These days, he is less likely to be found sinking a considerable number of pints while on stage, and more likely to be seen dispensing his occasionally dubious pearls of wisdom on popular panel shows such as QI and 8 out of 10 Cats. His latest exploits have seen him join the cast of the upcoming BBC adaptation of David Walliam’s children’s novel Mr Stink, where he plays the role of the dad of 12-year-old Chloe, who hides a tramp in her garden shed. In addition to his winning performances on the small screen, let’s see if he can come up with a top quality performance on the track.
Mark Foster Former Olympic swimmer Mark Foster has won 47 international medals, making him one of Britain’s most successful short course swimmers ever. His top level performances, coupled with his habit of repeatedly
beating athletes half his age, led to him being called a genetic freak, which to be honest is hardly the most offensive insult we’ve heard. At six foot six inches, the average height of a sprint swimmer, Mark has the perfect physique for the sport and has described his muscles as ‘fast-twitch fibres’. But does he have the body and mind to outperform competitors when he is taken out of the water and put on the race track? Although he is no longer a swimmer, Mark kept his competitive streak alive in the sixth series of Strictly Come Dancing. The sequins, glitter and fake tan were quite a departure from the swimming pool, a transition that didn’t seem to faze Mark. In fact some would argue that he took to the glamorous atmosphere rather well. Trained by professional dancer Hayley Holt, he won week five with a show-stopping Samba to the Spice Girls’ ‘Spice Up Your Life’. Could driving be the next talent to add to his impressively extensive list?
30 • Top Gear Live 2012
Max Whitlock At only 19-years-old Max Whitlock is already a gymnastic Olympic medal winner. Training a minimum of seven hours a day, five days a week, it’s little surprise this teenager scored a massive 15.600 on the pommel horse, which landed him a bronze in the event at London 2012. Max is keen to try and upgrade his bronze in Rio, but before he does so, he’s going to have to prove his worth in a reasonably priced car. Citing a Lamborghini Murciélago as his dream car, Max is clearly not one to set his sights low, which seems to have worked out pretty well for him so far. Having passed his driving test with flying colours on his first attempt two years ago, it will be interesting to see if youth will win over experience. Fingers crossed this gymnast will turn out to be a bit of a boy racer, and triumph over his more practiced
rivals. Max is understandably excited about meeting his heroes Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and The Stig at Top Gear Live. “It’s going to be an amazing experience,” he said. Hopefully he will be able to contain his excitement, and perform with the same precision and cool headedness that he showed during his outstanding Olympic performance.
PAUL HOLLYWOOD As a witty and occasionally acerbic judge on BBC2’s award-winning The Great British Bake off, Paul is a formidable food critic who knows a thing or two about baking. As head baker of some of the most exclusive hotels in the country, including The Dorchester and Chester Grosvenor, Paul is no stranger to stress. He also runs his own artisan bakery business with products stocked in top stores all over the country. The almond and Roquefort sourdough bread that Paul
created is said to be the most expensive it Britain, retailing at £15 per loaf, and described by the man himself as the ‘Rolls Royce of loaves’ - showing that Paul is a man who likes being at the top of his game. He clearly knows the difference between macaroon and a millefeuille, but does he know anything about driving? When quizzed about appearing on Top Gear Live, he said, “I’ve always looked forward to Top Gear - my son and I are totally hooked, so I’m extremely excited. Also, as a fellow Aston fan, I’m very excited about meeting the legend that is Jeremy!” But will his enthusiasm be enough to replicate his culinary success on the track? Let’s find out!
Plus look out for more celebrity special guests
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Top Gear Live 2012 â€˘ 33
Top Gear Live goes looking for another world record
t was one of those moments when 17,000 people all held their breath at the same time. Earlier this year, the Top Gear Live Stunt Team claimed their place in the Guinness World Record books in front of a sell-out crowd in Durban, South Africa, to become the first in the world to complete a spectacular double loop-the-loop on four wheels. Dubbed the Deadly 720, the huge double loop is a life-sized version of the toy car tracks you used to have as a kid. But this was no game. As one of the most technically challenging stunts ever performed by the Top Gear Live team, some very careful calculations had to be made if the driver of the specially prepared buggy was to successfully defy gravity not once, but twice. With no room for error, the buggy had to enter each loop at between 24mph and 26mph. Too slow and it might have fallen from the top of the loop. Too fast and there was a real chance the G-forces might
The De adly 720
at Top G
have caused the driver to black out. Importantly, the buggy had to leave the first loop at just the right speed to enter the second. For that reason the buggy had hand controls, as the extreme G-forces would have caused the driver to bury a conventional throttle into the floor, resulting in way too much speed. The stunt was tried three times in practice. And three times it failed. But when it really mattered, in front of the Top Gear Live crowd, the team pulled it off. Don’t worry, during the practice runs a remote controlled buggy was used, just in case. Indeed, when attempting the first single loop record, two remote controlled buggies were destroyed when the suspension bottomed out as the buggy hit the loop. The resulting loss of speed caused the buggies to fall to the ground. “It was quite remarkable,” said Jeremy Clarkson. “I’m just glad no-one asked me to do it.” Here at Birmingham’s NEC, the team is going to try it again. The same loops have been set up – giant steel rings just eight metres apart – but this
Top Gear Live 2012 • 35
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Top Gear Live 2012 • 37
time there’s another twist. The Top Gear Live motto could well be, ‘Been there, done that… now let’s try something even more audacious’. So, after becoming the first team in the world to complete a single loop indoors and the first team to do the double on four wheels, the plan for the NEC is to become the first people in the world to do the double on two wheels. Our weapon of choice is well known in motocross circles. It’s the very orange KTM 250 SX-F, the bike which has won the last five MX2 World Championship titles on the trot. For the new season, it’s powered by a completely new single cylinder 250cc engine while the chassis
has even greater reserves against bottoming out… a potential problem when bike and rider hit the vertical element of our loops. Mind you, as anyone who’s seen top class motocross in action will know, the bikes spend more time in mid air than in contact with terra firma, so the Top Gear Live stunt team will need to make sure it stays glued to the loop at all times. Dangerous? You bet… after all, there are no seat belts or safety harnesses to keep man and machine together when upside down at the top of the loops. Get ready to hold your breath. Again.
38 • Top Gear Live 2012
M 250 ning KT ship-win
a few facts and figures • Each loop is eight metres tall and comprises 16 tons of steel • Unfurled, the length of the track would be 58 metres • 28 tons of ballast weight is used to ensure the loops do not move during the stunt • It takes less than a second to go vertical once the loop has been entered • The YouTube video of the South African Deadly 720 (http://www. topgear.com/uk/car-news/top-gear-live-world-record-doubleloop-2012-6-15) has already had more than 2 million hits
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Top Gear Liveâ€™s Matthew Carter previews the hot hatches on display in our live action grudge match
Top Gear Live 2012 • 41
appiness is a warm gun’ sung The Beatles all those years ago. They were wrong. Happiness is a hot hatch. And the choice has never been greater. A hot hatch is the answer to many a petrolhead’s dreams: there’s the element of practicality needed to ferry a young family around, but this is more than matched by a sharper chassis and power levels that were considered sufficient for a Ferrari not so many years ago – the 308 GTB from the 1980s had 255 bhp and we all thought ‘wow’. One of the most important jobs of the hot hatch is its ‘halo’ role. Produce a performance that everyone wants and even the most cooking diesel version will be blessed by association. And that’s why car makers go racing and rallying. We all know that the Renault engine in the back of a Red Bull F1 racer has got precious little to do with the French company’s road cars but the association is huge. Same with Citroen’s DS3 WBRC (that world beating rally car). Dodge your Clio or C1 in and out of traffic around the Place de l’Etoile in Paris and you could be Sebastien Vettel or Loeb. Almost. Little wonder then that almost every car maker has a hot hatch in its line-up, but which is best? Top Gear Live is the place to find out. We’re staging a live grudge match on our track, pitting them against one another. Oh, and getting The Stig to do the thrash… er, driving. So we’ve rounded the top names in the game for your viewing pleasure. In alphabetical order they are the Ford Focus ST, Renault Megane RS, Vauxhall Astra VXR and, the grand-daddy of them all, the Volkswagen Golf GTi. And at the same time as finding out which comes top of the grudge match, we can have a little national rivalry going on at the same time. Yes, France (Renault) takes on Germany, er, Germany and Germany. While the Vauxhall and Ford might have British and American names such as the VW they have been designed and produced in the Fatherland. On paper, they are all very similar. They all have front wheel drive and are all powered by turbocharged 2.0-litre four cylinder engines. Power outputs vary between 232bhp (Golf) to 276 bhp (Astra) and by the time you’ve ticked a few options boxes, all are around the £30k mark.
Actually that’s not quite true as the Ford is something of a bargain with a £22k base price tag which means that even if you opt for every possible extra, you’ll struggle to pay more than £28,000, while the other three jump the £30,000 barrier with some ease. On the road they are remarkably evenly matched. There might be nearly 45bhp between the least and most powerful but in the squirt from roundabout to roundabout or the B-road overtake they all do the job exceptionally well. They all have their own characters and quirks. The Astra’s big turbo generates a little more lag than the others… but the car is quick. Despite its comparatively low power output, the Golf’s super slick gear-shift means it is wonderfully involving. But then so is the race track raw Megane which feels lighter than the Vauxhall and Volkswagen, er, because it is. And the Ford? So well sorted, so easy to drive and yet so responsive that you can forgive the touch of torque steer from the front end when you give it some welly. All four are fun, even the rather grownup Volkswagen, and all four have enough to differentiate them from the 1.2-litre diesel versions: fancy exhausts, drilled pedals, body kits, fancy wheels, sports seats and spoilers. If you want serious practicality you’ll need to go for the Ford or Volkswagen that are both available with five doors (in fact, the Ford is only available as a five door or an estate), but if you prefer coupé lines it’ll be the Vauxhall or Renault. You could make a good argument for any one of the quartet and whichever you chose will sit proudly on the drive and annoy the neighbours. But let’s not talk compromise here. Which is the best of the best? There’s only one way to find out, so sit back and watch with awe as our star drivers thrash each one to within an inch of its life. Oh yes, this is a true grudge match… and there can be only one winner. So does it begin with an F, and R or a V? And if you can’t afford £30K? We’ve thought of that and have also brought along two tiddlers to join in the live grudge match action: the remarkable Skoda Fabia vRS, a 1.4-litre 180 bhp pocket rocket that costs less than £17,000 and one of our favourites, the limited edition Citroën DS3 Racing.
tHIS IS A TRUE GRUDGE MATCH AND THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE WINNER
Top Gear Live 2012 • 43
Ford Focus ST
4 cylinder 2.0-litre turbo
250 lb ft
RenaultSportMegane 265 Cup
4 cylinder 2.0-litre turbo
265 lb ft
Vauxhall Astra VXR
4 cylinder 2.0-litre turbo
295 lb ft
Volkswagen Golf GTi
4 cylinder 2.0-litre turbo
221 lb ft
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The art of travel I Style and performance are two things that work together perfectly and Vredestein’s Ultrac Vorti range of tyres is a great example of how t’s a simple truth that you don’t see many ugly supercars. As a rule, something that is designed to perform to the maximum is just as likely to be very easy on the eye, too. The Ferrari California is a great example but this is a maxim that applies to a lot of design. Like an Apple Mac computer, a Rolex watch or Bianchi racing bike. All could be considered to be design classics, combining a unique
aesthetic beauty with real design and performance purpose. It’s a concept that Vredestein have embraced in the design of the latest Ultrac Vorti tyre. Developed to handle speeds in excess of 180mph (Ultrac Vorti is (Y)300kph+ rated), this is a tyre that is regularly specified by owners of cars such as the California, AMG Mercedes-Benz or models from the Aston Martin range, for example. Performance is of crucial importance but in this
market, so is the way a tyre looks and Ultrac Vorti has all the style to match its dynamic capabilities But nothing has been left to chance in this regard. Since 1997, the legendary Italian designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro, has worked alongside Vredestein to help create a ultra-high performance tyre that also stand out from the crowd. Wherever you look on an Ultrac Vorti tyre, the evidence of this attention to detail is apparent. Every groove and channel of the tread pattern is
there to serve a very real performance purpose, but these vital design details just look so good. A great example of how Giugiaro has managed to blend style and function can be seen in the grooves that carry round into the tyre sidewall. This is a unique characteristic that improves water dispersion in wet conditions but manages to look terrific, too. Ultrac Vorti – real works of art, you could say, but art that’s meant to be used to the maximum, too!
Aston Martin One-77
Ghost rider Aston said no journalist would drive its ÂŁ1.2 million hypercar. Problem is, someone forgot to tell TopGear... Wor d s : TOM FOR D Photo g r a Ph y: j usTi n leighTOn
Rear suspension features adjustable racing-car-style spool valves One-77 measures 1,999.5mm wide excluding mirrors. Be very careful
Aston Martin One-77
here’s probably something profound to say here, but I can’t for the life of me think what it is. There’s an empty road stretching out in front to some unseen event horizon, arrowstraight and unflinching, a thick black stripe slicked through the view and shimmery-indistinct in the distance. The desert frames it, bare and indifferent, fretted shallow and sinuous by a coarse wind that tastes of dust and ancient things, but the metaphor remains slippery and indistinct. So I do what I must, push hard on the throttle of this Aston Martin One-77 and bury lack of revelation in an avalanche of V12 noise and fury. A second later, I’m not so short of inspiration. I’m hanging on for dear life. Up until about an hour ago, despite having flown to Dubai in the company of editor-in-chief Charlie Turner and photographer Justin Leighton, nobody was entirely convinced this was going to happen. Of course, in theory, anyone can drive the Aston Martin One-77 supercar. The only stumbling block being that you’d have to buy one first, and the list price for entry to the 77-strong club comes in around a notinsubstantial 1.2-million quid, depending on exchange rates. Which neatly purges the option for all but the platinum rich, or the obscenely well-connected. Usually, TopGear gets to sidestep the necessary requirements, despite not being wealthy or the right kind of popular, but not this time. Aston Martin decreed that no journalist would drive a One-77 in any official capacity, the experience being for owners only, an exclusive adventure unsullied by description in the popular press, lest potential clients be ‘discouraged’ from purchase. And yet, with all One-77s sold, Aston still wouldn’t let anyone without an Amex Black bottomless credit rating get anywhere near it. Which to TopGear is provocation and pure challenge. Thus, after a year of negotiation, extravagant pitches, slightly iffy plans and false dawns, we finally find ourselves on the Arabian Peninsula in the company of a man called Abdulla Al Ketbi, owner of ultra-high-end dealership Al Ain Class
Motors, with a white One-77 that he has purchased so that we can drive it. And, yes, you did read that right. Mr Al Ketbi had pledged to editor-in-chief Turner that we could drive his previous One-77 some months ago, but promptly had an offer he couldn’t refuse for the car. In order to satisfy honour, he subsequently went out and bought another one – at well over a million quid – so that TopGear could have a go. Mr Al Ketbi, it seems, takes his promises very seriously indeed. Interesting, then, that the first time I drive the nearmythical One-77 is to back it gingerly off an uncovered low-loader into a dusty side road in the desert outside Dubai. But, hey, I’ll take what I can get. Push the glass and aluminium lozenge of a key (Aston calls it an ECU, or Emotional Control Unit, but such pretension escapes me) into the dash slot, pause, and hear the fuel pumps prime with a whirr. Next comes the high-pitched grunt of the starter motor, and then a click and metallic bark of V12 finally getting some air into its robot lungs. It sounds fast and vital, loud on start-up before settling back into that kind of slightly raspy, businesslike burr that you get from racing engines. But it’s also uncanny in its smoothness and closeness, the exhaust running as it does through the sill by your hips instead of underneath the car. Hit the R button on the dashtop, and reverse with extreme caution, aware that several people – including the owner Mr Al Ketbi – are watching intently. Probably because very few people have actually seen a One-77 out in the wild. Unfortunately, I can’t drive it properly just yet, because photos have to be taken, lest this whole endeavour become a featureless novella. So I pop the door and step out to take a closer look. Which proves to be a mistake. The issue, for those of you unfamiliar with Dubai in July, is the weather. It’s roughly one o’clock in the afternoon, and the sun isn’t so much shining as jackhammering out of the sky like a dirty orange laser. Step from the ubiquitous icy aircon of any car or building, and it hits with weight and severity. The atmosphere trying to beat you to death with a hot felt mallet. It’s humid, too, filling your lungs with cotton wool and making it hard to commit to any sort of open-air industry. We haven’t even really started, and Justin already looks part-roasted. He is
Aston Martin One-77
Feels more like a monster GT than a hypercar – very comfy in here
SPEC S Price: £1.2 million (depending on local taxes/exchange rates) engine: 7312cc V12, front-mid-mounted, six-speed automated manual gearbox, RWD, 750bhp, 553lb ft, 0–62mph in under 3.7 seconds, 220+mph top speed, 572g/km of CO2 Weight: 1630kg
wearing a large hat, a green cravat and some sort of closefitting long-sleeved black undershirt that he insists will wick sweat away from his body. Charlie and I, skin puckering and crispy in T-shirts and shorts, are convinced he is going to die. No time to waste, though – now we have a One-77, we shall have a story, even if we have to parboil friends to get it. Luckily, this most extreme of Astons isn’t short of angles, or detail. The internal brief was to create an Aston Martin that pushed the boundaries of what the public knows of the brand, to ‘create a car closer to art than the automobile’, according to its designer and Aston’s director of design Marek Reichman. To create the fastest, most extreme and technically advanced Aston to date, and to poke around the edges of technology and design that might influence future models. The conceit wasn’t taken lightly. Up close, the One-77 is blatantly exotic, but strangely familiar, the Aston Martin meme threaded through something bigger and more aggressive than we’re used to, though strip the badges off, and you’d still be in no doubt as to its lineage. The bonnet is very long, the stance cab-rearward, the shoulders broad and powerful. At a hair’s breadth under two metres, excluding those sticky-out mirrors, it’s ever so slightly wider than a Bugatti Veyron, but carries its visual bulk more gracefully. The Bug has a stolid, engineered look to it, while the Aston, with its flared nostrils, wasp waist and bunched rear wheelarches looks bred. More organic. Inside, it’s again Aston familiar and yet re-proportioned, the usual visual cues allowed extremity and deeper breath. The forms are stretched and elegant, every single metal piece milled from billet. I don’t know why you can tell, but you can, part of your brain picking up subconsciously on the temperature and texture of the little metal rings and trim pieces around the huge centre console. The seats are wide, comfortable and cobra-headed, navy blue with white stitching to match the rest of the interior, the doors bare carbon, hung with door furniture that looks like a robotic dinosaur’s foot. There’s a matching piece between the two seats, and it’s easy
to spend a long time just looking at the various bits and wondering which would make the best piece of abstract art. It’s a very similar story underneath, because although there are recognisable elements in the One-77 architecture, they’ve been accelerated into exceptional areas for Aston. The underlying monocoque, for instance, may have been created with knowledge gained from AM’s aluminium VH (vertical/horizontal) platform, but is formed from carbon fibre and built in conjunction with composite specialist Multimatic of Canada. It is then clothed with handcrafted aluminium panels, making it light, strong and, presumably, a complete bugger to repair. The engine is a 7.3-litre, naturally aspirated V12, repurposed by tuning legends Cosworth, that produces 750bhp and 553 lb ft of torque, making it – despite the arrival of the Ferrari F12 (see p120) – the most powerful naturally aspirated production car engine in the world. And, yes, the engine’s basic structure is the same as the DBS’s V12, but with 80 per cent new bits and a 15 per cent weight reduction to just 260kg, the filial comparison becomes a little stretched. Quick? Well, all that unprocessed urge should be enough to power a car that weighs just 1,630kg, despite its considerable physical footprint. And it is. The results are spectacular on paper, with 0–62mph coming up in around 3.7 seconds and a top speed past 220mph. Poking around it, you can’t help feeling there’s very little visual or physical flab on the One-77. Stood here, resplendent in pearl-white paint and shockingly bright against a desert background, it looks almost projected. The strakes behind the front wheels cast stark shadows, the scallops and stretched feature lines in the bonnet like tendons in a predator’s throat as it bites. Gather up enough time to absorb this car (say, about a year), and it’s like figuring out a 3D Magic Eye mosaic. There’s always something new to pick at. For instance, there’s a line born on the rear surface of the headlight that runs down the side of the car, swoops entirely around the back over the top of the stretched C shape of the rear light bar and back
“there’s very little visual or physical flab here”
around the beltline to finally die at the opposing headlight. It feels like an indulgent bit of surfacing – as does that Frisbee of a rear light ‘cluster’ – but entirely in keeping. Appropriate excess. The proportions, too, are cracking. Low, wide and gloriously GT-ish. This is a car that makes a great visual play of not going down the usual hypercar route of having the engine in the middle. Except of course, it has. Technically, anyway. Despite those GT proportions – you sit way back near the rear axle, gazing out over a huge plain of bonnet – the One-77 is counted as a front-mid-mounted configuration. Meaning that although the engine sits ahead of the driver, the entire block sits behind the centre line of the front axle, 100mm lower than in any other Aston, and entirely within the wheelbase. So the engine is in the middle of the car – it’s just that you actually sit towards the back. The suspension is traditional double-wishbones made exotic with inboard pushrod-actuated coil springs and racing-car-spec dynamic spool valve dampers. In fact, the engineering of the One-77 seems to push its way up and through its skin – you can see the rear suspension through the back window, and the front springs and fully adjustable dampers are front and centre in the engine bay, just forward of an engine that looks good enough to be displayed on some sort of plinth. Chief engineer Chris Porritt says that AM took inspiration from the most technically advanced front-engined, rear-drive racers on the planet: DTM cars. You can see the allegories wrought in the packaging. But enough already. I’ve now considered the big Aston from every angle except directly underneath, and I really, really need to drive it. Justin is panting like a labrador having a small but important coronary event and is noticeably thinner than this morning. Charlie has been standing on a sand dune in summer footwear – essentially submerging his feet in semi-molten glass wearing only flip-flops. Change of scenery. Time to drive. In the first few miles, the only thing I can think is that the One-77 simply doesn’t feel as heavy as it looks. Like a block of titanium, the heft you expect from looking at the physical volume never actually arrives. It’s light at the
“the noise. oh, my goodness, the noise. it screams”
wheel and keen to turn – with just three turns from lock to lock – though, until you get used to the sensations, it does feel like those front wheels are some distance away. You also get a keen sense of the traction available, sitting as you do so close to the rear wheels, a good thing on tarmac rendered part-slick with windblown sand. The engine is brawny without being overbearing at low revs, and the suspension is surprisingly indulgent for a car so committed. Shift up to a more than respectable speed, watch the vestigial-looking spoiler rise up in the rear-view mirror at around 80mph, and concentration is deployed in force. Not the Aston’s fault: the roads around here may be dead straight, but endless trawls by traffic with much narrower tyres and track have left grooves in the part-molten tarmac. Not a problem for a less substantially shod vehicle, but the One-77 is running 20-inch forged alloy wheels with 335-section tyres at the rear (255-section on the front), and the ruts cause the car to buck and weave, yanking around through the wheel. In fact, the One-77 can’t physically settle unless positioned in the middle of the road, white lines sighted in the centre of the bonnet, whipping through the middle of the two pairs of bonnet-mounted louvres. Which seems appropriate somehow. And the noise. Oh, my goodness, the noise. Active bypass valves open in the stainless exhaust at around 4,000rpm, and what was a very respectable V12 bellow becomes an allout heart-piercing scream further up. A pure note, too. This is what people tell you supercars should sound like, and it makes your heart pump faster with every millisecond of your foot on that throttle. The shove is relentless, pressing you back into those seats well into generous speeds and beyond, without significant pause. Howling out of the dipping sun and reflecting the orange glow, the white One-77 looks like a supersonic ember spat from a horizon-wide bonfire. Not just a car, this. Not here. Not now. There’s a ‘but’ coming, though, and it’s a fairly big one. After a little further, I start to suspect why Aston Martin might not have wanted journalists to drive the One-77 before the allocation was safely sold out. Because the six-speed automated manual gearbox is – compared with the best in
Aston Martin One-77
These adjustable braces sit inside the rear hatch on adjustable gimbals Attention to detail is millimetric â€“ even the quilting under the bonnet
Aston Martin One-77
the sector – rubbish. This is not something I say lightly. But the rear-mid-mounted Select Shift Manual and its Auto Shift counterpart really are not in keeping with a car of this price, or pretence to the technological cutting edge. Even when you take into account the One-77’s official release date. Aston says that a double-clutch ’box wasn’t on the cards for a variety of reasons, mainly that they tend towards the expensive, big and heavy, and that, given the time frame for One-77 development, one would be impossible to engineer quickly enough. Not forgetting the issues regarding cost versus benefit for such low-volume production. But this gearbox, extrapolated and strengthened as it is from the paddle-operated version you’ll find in a regular DB9, albeit driving through a magnesiumalloy torque tube and with a carbon-fibre propeller shaft, just can’t do the rest of the One-77 justice. After just three or four gentle three-point turns, the car started pinging warning lights about an overheating clutch. It slurs between ratios with huge head-nods between ratios in virtually any gear – although especially in the lower ranges – and, compared with what we’re used to, lacks finesse or fine control. As with all of these single-clutch efforts, you can mitigate most of the effects by driving carefully, a judicious lift of the throttle and well-timed pull of the paddle helps enormously, but the slow-speed refinement is not up to scratch. It’s not as if the problems are a trade-off, either. Where other robotised
manuals exchange slow-speed clunkiness for lightning responses when revving hard, the One-77 slithers between ratios, no matter what you do. It’s better going fast, no doubt, but it’s never impressive, and always feels faintly fragile. Of course, you could say that we have an odd car, but I don’t think so. I recognise the unacceptable elements of this Aston’s behaviour, and, unfortunately, the last time I felt anything like it was on early paddle-shift Vanquishes. The first versions of that car allegedly dropped clutches every 4,000 miles. It’s a shame, because, otherwise, the rest of the One-77 is a genuine joy. The engine feels down on power, but considering the outside temperature is nudging 50°C, I’d expect a little loss of breath on a car that forgoes the easy bang-for-yourbuck that comes with forced induction. It doesn’t rev quite as hard as I thought it might, but the way it makes power is a long and liquid experience, a smooth-surfaced torrent rather than the sudden gush of a turbocharged car, and the soundtrack is worth the price of admission on its own. Joyously, I really do get to experience it. Mr Al Ketbi is inordinately relaxed and simply allows us to take the car out unaccompanied into the wild, and the desert is a fine stage for this Aston Martin V12. In fact, I get so wrapped up in the Zen-like featurelessness of the landscape that I realise with a start I haven’t really driven around many corners. Which suddenly becomes an almost all-consuming worry. Oops.
“the way it makes power is a long, liquid experience”
Aston Martin One-77 Now, it’s wise to remember that the One-77 is ordered pretty much completely bespoke in terms of set-up. Were you to have stumped up for one, you could specify left- or right-hand drive and have the suspension tailored specifically to your requirements, from street cruiser to track mauler. Our car – number 10 – feels comforting and supple, so I’m keen to find out just how well this thing can feed itself around a curve. Except there’s a distinct lack of anything but junctions or mile-long arcs for the foreseeable future. Without significant natural obstacles to steer around, road-planners in the desert obviously become unimaginatively practical. Luckily, we are with Mr Al Ketbi, for whom very little is impossible. Soon, I’m faced with a bare mile of freshly laid tarmac that winds through a series of excellent corners. Second and third gear, and I can almost forget about the gearbox, because the big Aston comes alive. It is not, however, the kind of experience you might expect, because the One-77 doesn’t necessarily act like a mid-engined car capable of this pace. It’s much more relaxed and less knife-edged, easier to understand and clearer in its messages. Turn into a corner and power through, and there’s a remarkable lack of lean but no slack. The brakes, huge carbon-ceramics all-round, stop with feel and vengeance, scrubbing speed quickly and without drama. Push a bit harder, and the nose starts to gently, almost gracefully, push wide. Do daft stuff like lift mid-corner, and the One-77 merely tucks up and tightens where a traditionally mid-engined car would give you a warning wriggle at the very least. And, of course, hit the throttle mid-corner with the traction off, and you can have oversteer on a pivot, but – being honest – I only did this once and got so terrified of crashing that I switched the traction back on and immediately retreated for a quiet moment on my own. Despite the genial appearances, this is still a 750bhp, rear-wheel-drive hypercar. One would be wise to respect that.
In what feels like bare minutes, the sun starts to freefall out of the sky, bathing the scenery in the red-gold blush of a dying day. It’s been six hours. In that time, I’ve only covered about 50 miles in the One-77, but it’s just about enough to give a flavour of what is a very complex proposition. Justin is only a third of his original size, previously skin-tight clothing now baggy, previously skin-tight skin now sagging like a bearded, albino Yoda. Charlie has gained the kind of bronze tint associated most readily with aftersun and skin grafts. And I am left kicking stones around in the desert and trying to figure out how I feel about the One-77. Is it worth over a million quid? For me, no. Not as a machine, at least. The carbon-heavy monocoque might well inform the next generation of Aston Martins, making them lighter and more efficient, and the design study for such limited production allows for more indulgence than a straight production car, but the gearbox, such a vital, involved part of the experience would drive me absolutely insane. Supercars don’t have to be fragile these days – no matter how powerful – and the One-77 feels like it might not suffer the kind of abuse I’d want to throw its way. More to the point, I’d be embarrassed stuttering through heavy traffic, which I suspect might be the absolutely worst place to drive it. But I’m not sure that’s the entirety of the point when it comes to the One-77. Because not all brilliance can be measured in tenths of seconds. More pertinent for a car like this, is that every single time I walked up to the One-77, it made me catch my breath. Every time it fired up, it roused the 12-year-old me that dreamt of cars like this and made him giggle in sheer excitement. It might not be the ultimate tool for demolishing a track, but it is an expression of what an Aston strives to be: a story of drama, art and endeavour. The story of the One-77, then, is about the journey, rather than the destination. And I’m pleased to have been along for at least part of the ride.
“each time it fired up, it roused the 12-year -old me”
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Top Gear Live 2012 â€˘ 59
The only time in motorsport when more smoke means more success
ou want cars going sideways? Check. You want the sound of engines at the limit? Check. You want tyre smoke… lots of tyre smoke? Check. You want to sound of girls screaming at a boyband superstar? Er, check. Put all that together and it can only mean one thing: the Japspeed drift boys are back in town. Yes, the stars of last year’s Top Gear Live, Team Japspeed are back to give us a master class in drifting. What exactly is drifting? Simply it’s the art of driving as fast as possible, as sideways as possible. There’s a set course to be followed and races are head-to-head (or should that be side-byside?) affairs between two cars. It’s not a contact sport, but, er, sometimes… well, with two cars running so close together it can happen. There are two main prerequisites needed for the perfect drift machine: rear-wheel drive and plenty of power. Japanese cars abound, but 3-Series BMWs and older rear-drive Ford
Escorts can be found drifting around. Team Japspeed, backed by Maxxis and Monster, is Britain’s best drift team – at the time of writing it heads the tables in the 2012 British Drift Championship – and for its drivers the Nissan Silvia S15 is the weapon of choice… a car we know better as the SX200. The cars are extensively altered with specialist equipment – custom-built exhausts, turbos, intercoolers and injectors, uprated this and modified that – much of it culled from the Japspeed catalogue of go-faster goodies for Japanese cars. Naturally there are plenty of changes made to the brakes, wheel hubs and suspension systems, too. The result is just about as spectacular as it can get. Special Maxxis drift tyres provide just the right compromise between grip and sliding ability, generating more smoke than a dry ice machine at a teen pop concert. But that’s not the only link between
Top Gear Live 2012 • 61
62 • Top Gear Live 2012 drifting and music. One of the stars of the Japspeed Team is none other than Boyzone’s Shane Lynch. Despite getting ready for the band’s 20th anniversary tour in 2013, Shane is a motorsport nut and a drifting regular. He took up the sport in 2007 and quickly became one of the stars of the Japspeed Team. Shane drives a V8-powered Silvia S15 and says: “Motorsport is on the edge… and drifting is past the edge.” Shane will be at Top Gear Live everyday except Saturday when his place will be taken by Shane O’Sullivan from Galway in Ireland. His Silvia is powered by a 450bhp 2.5-litre straight six engine… more than enough to get the car at some crazy angles. O’Sullivan recently finished third in the 2012 British Drift Championship in the Super Professional class, two places behind team-mate and championship winner Paul ‘Smokey’ Smith. After taking part in a few track days in his tuned Mitsubishi Evo 5, Paul discovered drifting in 2004 and hasn’t look back since. Sideways, yes… Paul’s usual mount is a Silvia S15, powered by a 2.5-litre Toyota engine. Seems to work, though, as he has a healthy points lead at the top of the table. The Team is looking forward to TGL, even if the Arena provides its own unique challenges. The problem is that the surface is very slippery and that, ironically, is not good for drifting… so be prepared for some seriously spectacular action.
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hen was the last time you saw a Bugatti Veyron? How about a Gumpert Apollo or a Koenigsegg? Are you even sure what an SSC Ultimate Aero looks like? And what are the chances of seeing all four together? Well, as you’re here at Top Gear Live the chances are pretty high. In fact, we’ve not only got four of the rarest, fastest, most expensive production cars in the world together in the same place at the same time, we’ve got more. Lots more The centrepiece is the London Motor Museum Supercar Paddock where the four 200mpg+ hypercars will be on display. But they are not the only supercars at the show. There will also be a host of other mouth-watering machinery on display at the NEC. Feast your eyes on breathtaking beasts such as the BAC Mono, Bentley GT Super Sports, Lamborghini Aventador, McLaren MP4/12C, and the brand new Aston Martin Vanquish in our all-new Supercar Gallery.
Gumpert Apollo… what is it? In terms of engine size and power output, the gullwing Gumpert Apollo is overshadowed by the Bugatti, SSC and Koenigsegg… but as it has been designed from the outset as a street-legal race car, its performance is more than a match. Created in Germany by former Audi man Roland Gumpert, it’s a little wonder that it has a 4.2-litre bi-turbo Audi V8 engine nestling in the back. The base version develops 650hp, but 800hp is available if you go for the full race version. But no matter which one you go for, you’ll be a member of the 200+mph club – even with ‘only’ 650hp it’ll rocket to almost 224mph. It’s yours for around £300,000.
Bugatti Veyron…. what is it? Built by those nice people behind the Polo and the Golf, the Bugatti Veyron is the ultimate Volkswagen. It’s built in Molsheim, France, home of the original Bugatti, and is powered by a mighty 8-litre W16 engine. It boasts four turbochargers and has a more than healthy 1,001 hp. That means it’s quick: the Veyron has a verified top speed of 253mph (as James May discovered back in 2006). Although it’s surprisingly easy to drive, ownership needs deep pockets. It costs £840,000 to buy while a routine service is £14,000. Four tyres will set you back £23,500… and you’ll need a set every 2,500 miles.
Top Gear Live 2012 • 67
Koenigsegg CCX… what is it? This one’s Swedish and, yes, it’s the only supercar that’s passed European pedestrian impact tests (to be fair, the rules have changed and if you produce fewer than 10,000 examples a year you no longer need to pass the tests). Created by Christian von Koenigsegg, the mid-engined CCX is powered by a unique 4.7-litre twin turbo-charged all-aluminium V8 developing just over 800hp. Top speed is over 245mph. More impressively it takes just 14 seconds to accelerate from rest to 125mph and then brake to a standstill. And the name? CC stands for Competition Coupe and the X was launched in 2006, marking the tenth anniversary of the first Koenigsegg to turn a wheel.
68 • Top Gear Live 2012
SSC Ultimate Aero… what is it?
HOLLYWOOD SUPERCARS Also on display for your viewing pleasure at Top Gear Live 2012 will be: Aston Martin Vanquish Aston Martin Zagato, Aston Martin V12 Vantage Roadster Audi R8 Spyder Bac Mono Bentley GT Super Sports BMW M3 Convertible BMW M5 Clara Petacci Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Ferrari 250 TR Pontoon Ferrari 458 Jaguar E-type Roadster Lamborghini Aventador Lamborghini Countach Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster Lamborghini Gallardo Lamborghini Jalpa Lamborghini Muira Lamborghini Murcialago McLaren MP4-12C Mercedes SLS Nissan GT-R 2012
Formally known as Shelby SuperCars, the SSC Ultimate Aero is an American mid-engined supercar, complete with butterfly doors. It is powered by a supercharged 6.34-litre Corvette V8 engine, producing, wait for it, 1,183hp… and it has neither traction control nor anti-lock brakes. Created by Jerod Shelby (no relation to the legendary Carroll Shelby) in 2007, the SSC Ultimate officially became the fastest production car in the world with a top speed of 256 mph, beating the Bugatti Veyron in the process. It held the record for nearly three years… until the Veyron Super Sport claimed the title back with a maximum of almost 268mph. When new it costs about £400,000.
London Motor Museum… what is it? Er, it’s a motor museum, what do you think? In fact it’s Europe’s only custom car museum and is home to a unique and diverse collection of more than 100 privately owned American and European classics. Star cars include the Batmobile, a Starsky and Hutch Ford Torino and a Back to the Future DeLorean as well as some of the world’s fastest supercars ever produced, some of which are displayed here at TGL. There are bikes, custom cars, muscle cars and hot-rods, too. You’ll find the museum in Nestle’s Avenue, Hayes, Middlesex and there’s more info at www.londonmotormuseum.co.uk. Better still, you can use your TGL ticket to get 50% off the entry charge next time you visit the museum.
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Top Gear Live 2012 • 71
e Pageant of Powe
Lambo jump at th
The arena show is the adrenaline pumping heart of Top Gear Live and it’s bigger, faster, and more daring than ever. So let’s meet the craziest driver behind the wheel this year, Niki Faulkner, to find out what it takes
Driving Wizards at Top Gear Live
ith two major films (The Sweeney and Rush), the London 2012 Olympic closing ceremony and starting a new stuntman company, Driving Wizards, it’s fair to say that Niki Faulkner has had a big year. And it’s about to get bigger. Doing crazy stunts and drifting around in tyre smoke - there’s no denying it, this stuff is dangerous. Do you worry about your safety? I have been in a few accidents, but they don’t spook me. If you get spooked, you’re not a racing driver. You’ll only ever come 9th or 10th place if the speed scares you. I do think that racing car drivers have something different in their wiring – they’re all a bit nutty. My parents worry, but I explain that if you’re in an accident on a normal road, it could take ages for medical help to arrive, whereas on the track and in the arena, you’re wearing top quality safety gear with an onsite ambulance.
How did you get into racing in the first place? Dad was a massive Formula 1 fan and I was actually named after the notorious F1 driver and main character of Rush, Niki Lauda. My dad didn’t ever race, but he would sit me down in front of the TV and when I started getting into track events, he helped me get to karting meetings. However, my driving skill is probably inherited from my mum. She would definitely win in a race between the two of them. You’re originally a track racer, but you’ve been doing various TV and films for eight years now. What do you find is the bigger adrenaline rush? Sitting behind the wheel is my home. I know what I’m doing and it’s a good rush. Being responsible for live choreography in front of eight million people at the Olympic closing
Top Gear Live 2012 • 73
Doubling for actors in
ceremony was a pressure like nothing else I have ever experienced. After providing drivers for the films, LOCOG originally brought me on as a consultant. This quickly escalated and before I knew it, I was choreographing, training and stage managing the entire production. We rehearsed at a replica stadium in Dagenham for three months. Most of the drivers were volunteering with their own cars and trucks and scenes such as the traffic jam sequence needed precision timing and practice to get right. How did you convince the Spice Girls to let you drive them around on top of black cabs? Posh and Baby were definitely not so keen on the idea. Geri and Mel B got really into it and Mel C’s brother is a racing driver, so there were no problems there. We started off by driving them
around slowly and gradually increased the speed so they got used to it. We definitely didn’t let volunteers drive the talent around, but a team of professionals from my company, Driving Wizards. Genuinely one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my life. What’s the secret to pulling off a complicated stunt like that? Teamwork. I’ve worked with these guys for many years now and have been racing with some of them since they were 16/17. We’re a close bunch and the more you know about each other’s driving styles, the further you can push the stunts and the closer you can get the cars, because you know how the other driver is going to react. On the set of Rush, I think director Ron Howard was quite surprised by how much we
74 • Top Gear Live 2012
QUICK FIRE ROUND So tell me
what you w
…a Pagani Zonda!
could achieve without using any special effects or clever editing. We were banging wheels and doing spins with no damage to the cars, and often driving within millimetres of each other. Do you think motorsport has lost its edge? No. Motorsport will always be exciting to watch. It’s one of the biggest industries in the UK, but the recession has changed it. The days of the 70s when James Hunt was smoking, drinking, doing drugs and turning up to track with two girls on his arm are over. If Lewis Hamilton tried that, everyone would be up in arms. Some people think it lacks personality. Räikkönen is an entertaining character, but Lewis and Jenson are a PR machine. And I think this is partly the recession. There’s so much money riding on these guys that they have to be professional. But luckily that’s not the case at Top Gear Live, so bring on the arena!
Which Top Gear presenter would you feel most comfortable being in a race car with? Er, that’s a tough question. That’s like asking what’s your favourite car. They all have different qualities. James May is a technically good driver and I know I could shout stop and he would, whereas Jeremy would just crack on. Which top gear live event are you most psyched about? Probably the Hot Hatch Grudge Match. It’s all well and good driving super cars but in front of a crowd, it’s nice to race cars that a lot of them might own. The Ford can often be a big crowd-pleaser. What would be your dream car to own? I’ve driven pretty much all of them, but I would love to own a Pagani Zonda. Racing cars aren’t allowed on normal roads and this is pretty much a GTI racing car. Where is your dream track? Monza, Italy, I love for three reasons: I won my first race there; the weather and people are always great; and racing in the middle of a national park is totally unique. You also can’t beat the home crowds of Brands Hatch and Silverstone. What is your idea of car purgatory? Driving an old Vauxhall Corsa for two days was pretty much hell. I’ve felt safer doing stunts.
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ELIMINATORS Will the last car over the line please return to the pits
ll good things come in small packages, or so the old saying goes. That’s certainly the case when it comes to MASCAR. MASCAR sounds a lot like NASCAR, the awesome American stock car racing series. And there’s a good reason for that. MASCAR stands for Miniature American Stock Car Racing and the cars are authentic 2/3rd scale replicas of the Chevrolet Monte Carlos, Dodge Chargers and Intrepids, and the Ford Taurus and Thunderbirds that take part in America’s most popular motorsport series. Introduced to the UK about five years ago, the British MASCAR scene is thriving, with a
Top Gear Live 2012 • 77
number of championships taking place up and down the country. Beneath their fibreglass bodies, all the cars are identical, with robust and complex tubular frames offering excellent safety protection for the drivers. The cars maybe small, but they pack a big punch: power comes from 1250cc Yamaha XJR motorcycle engines developing around 130bhp. In a car that weighs less than a packet of cornflakes, that means they’re quick - given a long enough straight they will top 140mph. The racing, however, takes place on tarmac oval tracks, just like the real thing. Because they are so small, up to 30 can be started at any
one time and the racing rules means that the championship leaders start at the back. “Every race is, in effect, a reverse grid race,” says MASCAR’s Steve Stanford, “so the quick guys have to battle their way through the pack. By the time the race is a few laps old, all hell usually breaks loose.” Because there’s not as much space at Top Gear Live, we can’t start 30 cars each race… so we are going to do something different. Remember the omnium cycle event at the Olympics? Well, we’ve taken one element of that – the elimination race – and applied it to the MASCAR racers.
78 • Top Gear Live 2012
By the time the race is a few laps old, all hell usually breaks loose After a set number of racing laps, the motoring equivalent of musical chairs comes into play, and the last car to cross the finish line each lap is eliminated until we have a winner. Simple, fast and nail biting. The driver line-up is top drawer, too, with leading MASCAR men like Ady Pickerill, Mark Carnwell, father and son team Lawrence and Robin Bath and Anthony Rogers all taking part, along with a couple of surprise guests. Oh and MASCAR’s leading lady will be taking part, too. Her name is Juli Sanford and she’s pretty good, having just been crowned the
Southern 450 Champion. Not quite sure how she reconciles her track speed with her day job, though…she’s a driving instructor! MASCAR is certainly a cost-effective way into motorsport. If you like what you see and fancy having a go yourself, a competitive second hand car can be bought from the States for around £8,000, while engines – which are largely unmodified to keep costs down – can be had for as little as £300. A full season’s running costs, meanwhile, are only around £1,500. Want to learn more? Then head to www.mascar.co.uk and spend a few hours on their comprehensive website.
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Ferrari F12 Berlinetta
Race horse Pay respect to the F12 Berlinetta I Wor d s : JA S ON BA R L OW
Phot o g r a Ph y: R I PLE Y & R I PLE Y
Ferrari F12 Berlinetta
opGear shoots cars better than any other magazine in the world. We either slip you behind the wheel to give you a taste of the kinetic drama generated by a fast car, or allow you to luxuriate in the flowing form of a body in a way that is most definitely ‘fizz’-inducing. But even we have struggled to capture the new Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. Honestly, you really can’t appreciate just how jaw-droppingly, drop-dead gorgeous this thing is until you see it in the flesh and run your hands over it in a borderline-inappropriate way. Its shape is complex – no doubt about that – but supremely tactile. Ferrari is the car company arguably most held to ransom by the treasures of its back catalogue, while modern legislation and the sheer firepower of contemporary performance cars mean that the beauty of, say, a 250 GT PF cabriolet or GT SWB is now an impossibility. But, with the F12, Ferrari has finally managed to reconcile modern aero with lung-squishing loveliness. The bonnet features what Ferrari calls an Aero Bridge, to hustle air across it in a way that generates downforce (123kg of it at 124mph). It’s difficult to see in the images, but the front wings actually have a gap in them that’s almost big enough to slip your hand into. The F12 also features Active Brake Cooling, which opens guide vanes to the cooling ducts, but only when things are getting hot. There are a further five outlets underneath the car, funnelling air in different directions for different purposes, all there to improve the car’s functionality. Over to Ferrari’s design director, Flavio Manzoni. “This is a car with two souls,” he says with the sort of bright-eyed, bi-xenon positivity you
“ There are no visible wings or spoilers... they are not elegant”
would expect of a man who’d just helped usher a machine like this into production. “It’s a highly technical car, but, at the same time, you have to fall in love with it. There are no visible wings or spoilers, because they are not elegant. It’s a Ferrari, so it has to be beautiful. “That said, it is a real dynamic sculpture. We worked hard with the engineers to incorporate the most innovation possible. There are original aerodynamic ideas on the F12 that were the seed for us to create something that had simply never been done before. Look at the bonnet, for example: it is completely functional. Its design increases downforce, so it looks the way it does for a reason. This is real design, not styling. But it is still sculptural. Every idea we had is strongly linked to the car’s performance. [dramatic pause] We suffer, trying to do this. But we suffer with pleasure…” The backdrop to our conversation is an artfully shot film of an F12 sweeping across a desert vista, before a jump cut to it dancing from apex to apex on some unidentified circuit. Promotional film or not, it’s pretty obvious that the F12 is one seriously well-resolved piece of work. It’s lighter, lower, faster, more rigid, and way more powerful than its 599 GTB predecessor, and visibly more wieldy. It looks as if it moves like it looks, if you get my drift. Ferrari is a real innovator, but heritage matters too, and the F12 fits squarely in the big frontengined V12 GT tradition. No forced induction here yet, then, though it’s only a matter of time. So the beating heart of this thing isn’t the fancy aero or the clever body design, it’s the 6262cc, 65deg, direct-injection 12-cylinder, similar in architecture to the FF’s, but even more powerful.
Ferrari F12 Berlinetta In fact, with approximately 730bhp on tap, it’s the most potent Ferrari road car ever, and, with a 1min 23sec lap time, now the fastest one round Fiorano, too. In other words, Ferrari has reinvented its two-seater Berlinetta – the international man of mystery’s Milan to Monaco express – so that it kicks the whatsits out of the weapons-grade Enzo supercar. That’s what 10 years of furious progress does for you. It also makes you wonder what the gibbering hell the new Enzo will be like. (We’ll find out before the year’s out.) Top speed is north of 210mph, 0–62mph takes just 3.1 seconds, and 0–124mph lasts a vaguely worrying 8.5 seconds. All of these numbers rearrange the rules in this stratospheric market sector to the point where you may want to rethink that Veyron or Porsche 918 order. If it matters, the F12 is also 30 per cent more efficient than the 599, with much-improved fuel economy and, at 350g/km, impressively low CO2 emissions. The F12’s engine has a compression
“ With 730bhp, this is the most potent Ferrari road car ever”
ratio of 13.5:1, while its control unit has a multi-spark system that allows it to work at different levels of intensity, optimising combustion and improving efficiency at lower revs. Eighty per cent of its handsome 509 torques is available from 2,500rpm, and it’ll rev out to 8,700rpm. What must that V12 sound like in third or fourth gear as it reels in the red line? Apocalyptic. Stop/start tech also features, as well as an alternator that recharges the battery when the engine doesn’t need power, and there’s a highly sophisticated new hydro-formed exhaust system that reduces back pressure and improves efficiency. Braking is by the latest iteration of Ferrari’s carbon-ceramic system (let’s hope that top-of-the-pedal sensitivity is better than it is on the FF), the magnetorheological dampers have evolved and the chassis electronics – E-diff, ESC, traction control and ABS – are fully integrated and overseen by a new control unit with F12-specific software. With carbon fibre reserved for the new Enzo, the F12’s chassis and body extend
“You have to fall in love with it” says Ferrari’s design director. If you insist...
Lightweight materials in F12 cabin contribute to a 180kg saving over the 599
The noise coming from here should be astonishing: 6.3 V12 revs to 8,700
F1-style fog light looks like a drilled pedal. Sits in centre of rear bumper
V12 so far back in the bay that the Berlinetta is actually front/ mid engined
As with F430 and FF, F12 Berlinetta’s main controls all on steering wheel
Can’t see a gearlever? Ferrari will not offer a manual on the F12
Fitted luggage makes the best use of the boot’s limited space. And it looks cool
“ The quality of the interior leather and materials is off the scale”
Ferrari F12 Berlinetta Ferrari’s aluminium prowess. Twelve different grades of the lightweight metal are used, some making their first appearance in the automotive sector, and new assembly and joining techniques have apparently been developed. The F12’s dry weight is 1,525kg, so it’s 180kg lighter than the standard 599, 80kg less even than the lean 599 GTO. As to how the car’s weight is distributed, it’s now 46.5 per cent/53.5 per cent front/rear, to be very exact indeed. The suspension is new, and the dual-shift 7spd transmission has been reworked so that it occupies less space at the rear of the car. The F12 is a tighter package overall. It’s a similar story inside. Manzoni talks about “reducing the volumes” and points to the jet-engine-inspired air vents as evidence of a reimagined HVAC. The multimedia stuff is concentrated in the main instrument display,
so that the F12’s centre console real estate is also admirably uncluttered. The quality of the interior leather and materials is off the scale. Finally, the aluminium spar that sweeps down between the seats is a nod to the days – long gone, it seems – when Ferraris had proper gearboxes, with a proper gearlever that moved across that glorious open gate… Oh well. I guess we’ll just have to make do with the F12 Berlinetta, possibly the finest, most complete Ferrari ever. We’ll know for sure when we drive it in June. PS: Ferrari people insist it’s written F12berlinetta, but that looks like a typo, so we ignored them...
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