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The Top Gear team’s highlights of 2013

  1. Ollie Marriage, Motoring Editor, Top Gear Magazine

    So, highlights of 2013. Driving the Nufenen Pass the day after it opened in an SLS Black, sheer snow walls 20 feet high on either side. Fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition and driving Moby Dick, the 845bhp 1978 Le Mans Porsche. A few weeks back, I drove the Porsche 918 Spyder and became very excited about the future, too. I’ve not long got back from the edge of the Sahara and you’ll soon be reading about that. And in a personal highlight that has diddly-squat to do with cars, I somehow blagged my way on to the Tour de France podium at the end of stage 16 and shook hands with all the riders in front of a crowd several thousand strong. That was bizarre.

    But my best memory is a sheer-joy-of-driving type highlight. We were in Northern Scotland doing the Jaguar F-Type cover story. Because it was on tight turnaround Sam Philip and I stayed up at our lochside hotel to file our stories after everyone else had started to head home. It was bliss, best place in the world to write. We met for lunch. “Can I have the keys for the V6?” I asked him. “I thought you had them”, came the reply. Oh. I made a phone call. Paul Horrell had them. Paul, who had left three hours earlier. There was much swearing, apologizing and offering to drive back. Instead, I told him to find a trustworthy hotel and leave the keys at reception.

    Then, at 5pm, when I’d filed my story I drove another F-Type (we had three…), the V6 S, the best one, from near-as-dammit the Isle of Skye, to the Ballachulish Hotel on Loch Linnhe some 80 miles away. I still reckon the A87 around Lochs Loyne and Garry is Britain’s best driving road and right there and then, with the F-Type so intoxicatingly new and exciting, beyond-stunning scenery and an exquisite road of rhythmic perfection, I found a higher plane of driving nirvana. So much so that on the way back I turned off and drove down the Old Military Road until the tarmac ran out at the Glenelg Ferry. I stopped and took this picture, then drove some more. And then some more. The 10th of April, that was a good day.

  2. Paul Horrell, Consultant Editor, Top Gear Magazine

    Can’t keep it to a single highlight because the joy of this job is its variety. Long uninterrupted blue-sky empty-road drives of the F-Type in the Western Highlands, and the AMG SLS Black across high Alpine passes, had me bursting out of my skin with joy. But really this year has been about the true revolutions, and I’ve been fascinated and privileged to get to know the engineers and follow the development of the VW XL1, Porsche 918 and BMW i cars. Driving them is immensely satisfying to the intellect, but don’t worry they’re still old-fashioned fun too. All the same things apply to the Jaguar C-X75, but I drove it after it had been put into cryogenic suspension, sadly. Oh, and when I criticised the idea of Ferrari teddy bears to Luca de Montezemolo, as I often do, he graciously responded by giving one to my five-year-old daughter. That shut me up.

  3. Sam Philip, Senior Writer, Top Gear Magazine

    It’s all about this summer’s journey from Sant’Agata to Top Gear’s Speed Week shoot-out in Clermont-Ferrard, France. Carving through Alpine foothills on a warm Italian evening in a Lamborghini Aventador Roadster, tailed by a Maserati GT Stradale.

    An hour earlier, we’d been liberated of precisely 328 Euros by a pair of overzealous traffic policemen. Amazing what empty, sweeping roads, 20 Italian cylinders and a vast amount of horsepower does to lift the spirits. Honestly, if you’re in need of a quick pick-me-up, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

    And, just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we rolled up to our hotel in the main square of Cuneo, a sleepy Italian town, to find it - entirely by accident - in the midst of its biggest annual festival. Instant celebrity. And a huge amount of free Filipino pig. Perfect.

  4. Pat Devereux, Contributing Editor, Top Gear Magazine

    Met stacks of interesting people and drove some memorable cars, but it’s the new Corvette C7 that stands out in 2013. Launched at the start of the annual Pebble Beach week of automotive fun, I had a great drive in the new car, then every one of the previous six generations. As if that wasn’t enough, I then watched several generations of racing ‘Vettes bellowing around Laguna Seca, got a first glimpse of the new C7R race car, and after that had a climb all over the original concept cars that started the whole Corvette brand. It was a properly memorable way to launch a now properly good car.

  5. Jason Barlow, Editor at Large, Top Gear Magazine

    Appropriately enough, it was the year I had a cartoon ‘light-bulb above the head’ moment. Having never really been much of a hybrid fan, never mind pure electricity as a feasible form of propulsion, in 2013 I finally plugged in. And how.

    In the space of three weeks, I went from Renault’s ridiculous but brilliant Twizy F1 to its plausible - though implausibly named - street brother, the Zoe. It’s a space-age little number, down to the descending sci-fi noise it emits as it glides to a halt.

    Then it was straight into Tesla’s Model S, which goes, handles and steers almost as convincingly as a BMW M5 or AMG E-class, but cruises with eerie refinement while obviously emitting nothing noxious at the tail-pipe. But while it’s better than expected at the trad TG dynamic stuff, oddly enough it’s less convincing in terms of its interior interfaces. Its main display brilliantly condenses all the usual switchgear functionality onto the centre console tablet, but it’s too distracting in everyday use. Still, the Model S is a genuine game-changer in a year full of the things.

    Watching a phalanx of BMW i3s move silently around the Frankfurt motor show’s enormodromes struck everyone as a clear tipping point, and the car itself is terrific. Will anyone buy an i3, though, or will we all simply admire it and BMW’s cojones?

    Internal combustion still rocks, though. Two separate weekends in the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta proved in the most spectacular fashion that nothing can touch 12 cylinders for sheer, blood-pumping sensation. In the F12, the driver’s nethers fizz like an explosion in a Coca Cola bottling facility. Almost as stimulating is Porsche’s latest 911 GT3. Argue you amongst yourselves all you want, but this is the best 911 ever.

    I met some great people in 2013, too. Amongst them were Dario Franchitti, Amy MacDonald (she’s upgraded her 458 Italia to a Speciale), AC/DC’s hilarious frontman Brian Johnson, Daniel Craig, Ron Burgundy, and Daniel Brühl. The latter is deservedly making all the awards shortlists for his portrayal of Niki Lauda in Rush, a film that was every bit as good as I’d hoped.

  6. Piers Ward, Senior Road Test Editor, Top Gear Magazine

    Beating Dan Read in a race was one highlight, especially as I was in a Ferrari F12 and he had to ride in the sleeper train from Inverness to London. But the scariest moment of the year was hitting about 100mph on the Honda Mean Mower - especially as no-one else had ever done more than 20mph on it before I went out. Very Chuck Yeager…

  7. Chris Mooney, Editor, TopGear.com

    The 2013 Geneva Motor Show was an exhausting whirlwind of new cars, interviews, sore feet, reliable wireless hunting and much coffee. The same as every year, then.

    My highlight came the day before, when a small group convened in Jabbeke, an unremarkable town even for Belgium, to celebrate the feat of a most remarkable man. 60 years ago, Norman Dewis hit 172 mph in a stripped-out Jaguar XK120 and broke the land speed record for a production car on public roads. This, remember, was in 1953. It had been modified in the can-do spirit of the day, with Norman sat on the floor on a cushion to save weight, and a Perspex bubble sealed over the cockpit for aerodynamics. After a civic reception in his honour, 92-year-old Norman spent hours regaling us all, and he had stories to spare: he was chief test driver and development engineer at Jaguar from 1952 to 1985, flew Bristol Blenheims in World War Two as tail gunner, and drove the very first E-Type overnight from London to the 1961 Geneva Motor Show on the order of Jag boss Sir William Lyons, stopping only once and averaging 68mph. He’s driven over one million miles at over 100mph in his lifetime.

    The next time I saw him he was charming my wife over dinner at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, a woman 60 years his junior. What a man, and surely there are few more deserving of a gong in the New Year’s Honours List.

  8. Rowan Horncastle, Online Content Producer, Top Gear

    The memories that continually rattle round my brain from the last year are all surreal ones.

    They include singing along to The Beatles with Horacio Pagani while chasing his lineage of work through Tuscany, finding The Stig at the hands at the controls of an A380 while airside at Heathrow in a Lamborghini, and having an hour long debate/argument with Paul Horrell and Ferrari engineers about how the 458 Speciale’s diffs work to create the witchcraft that is Side Slip Control.

    But my overall highlight has to be travelling round the world following the Peugeot 208 T16. I was present at its birth in Peugeot Sport’s factory, scaled Pikes Peak to see Seb Loeb absolutely obliterate the hill climb record, then, a few months later, witnessed Kris Meeke’s eyes widen as he gave it the absolute beans for Top Gear Magazine.

    Skunkworks cars of this breed and performance don’t come around very often. And to have seen the record books rewritten right in front of my eyes as the Flying Frenchman fired the 875bhp Pug up Pikes was a massive privilege.

    It wasn’t without its surrealism, though. As once I’d interviewed the newly-crowned King of the Peak, he took off his t-shirt, packed it into the panniers of his Honda Goldwing, pointed the bike at the horizon and rode topless into the Colorado sunset. It’s the most alpha thing I’ve ever witnessed.

  9. Vijay Pattni, Deputy Editor, TopGear.com

    It would have been a close call between meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger to talk tanks (yes, The Terminator has a tank), driving Senna’s old 190 E or heading up a six-car line of Astons (in a Vanquish) at the Lord Mayor’s parade, but I’d have to go with the sight of an old lady in a wheelchair being gently moved to the front of the queue in a small Italian town. Please bear with me.

    Driving in a massive bull-run of 350 Lambos across Italy to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary, myself and fellow TG man Rowan Horncastle were in a Lamborghini Aventador Roadster. We’d just hotfooted it through the mountains and were now crawling at 1mph through a small town, where the reception we received was unbelievable. Kids, dads, mums, pensioners, hell, even the dogs - everybody and everything was cheering and clapping and willing us on. Then Old Lady appeared, waving a Lamborghini flag and urging us to rev that massive V12 in celebration. We did. She smiled. Day = made.

  10. Matthew Jones, Senior Writer, TopGear.com

    Interviewing this man. He grew up in 1960s Los Angeles, he surfed, he smoked grass, he played guitar, he sailed to the South Seas, and he invented the dune buggy. Meeting him was like meeting California. An utterly charming bloke, completely devoid of pretence. A generous beer-giver, too.

  11. Greg Vince, Assistant Producer, Top Gear

    Not my highlight, but I suspect the crew’s highlight from the upcoming Top Gear special was when I swerved to avoid a large pothole in the road and ended up parking the camera car rather precariously in a drainage ditch. Fortunately no one was around to witness it. By which I mean everyone was around to witness it.

  12. Adam Waddell, Managing Director, Top Gear

    My Top Gear highlight of 2013 was the biggest Top Gear Live event we’ve ever staged. Fans of the show will know that Jeremy, Richard and James have been touring the world’s indoor arenas with a live show for years - typically they’ll play to around 4,000 fans per show with several performances over the course of a weekend. This year however, some bright spark had the idea of a single performance on a Saturday night in September at the national football stadium in Warsaw. This was the venue that hit the front pages in October 2012 when someone forgot to shut the roof and England’s World Cup qualifier against Poland had to be postponed due to torrential rain. Yup - it s a proper stadium rather than the arenas that we are used to and capacity for the event was set at 58,000. Clarkson tweeted that night ‘57,000 people have turned up for Top Gear Live…some poo is coming out…’.

    The boys actually sold the venue out and the show went down a storm with the Polish fans who seemingly understood every word in English perfectly - at least they certainly laughed in all the right bits. Seeing our show playing to the scale of audience that most big rock bands aspire to was really something…

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