If you've been to Top Gear Live before you'll know the form. Jeremy, Richard and James cocking about on stage with a bunch of cool cars, then a motorshow in the hall next door, right?
But this year, that’s only half the story. If you’ve been following the buildup on TG.com, you’ll know we've built our very own indoor race track with the help of Lotus Motorsport, the guys behind the Top Gear track at Dunsfold. So now, as well as the Clarkson, Hammond and May show, we all get entry to a separate 70 minute on-track extravaganza hosted by TG's old chum Tiff Needell.
For Friday’s opener we had Star in a Reasonably Priced Car live in front of our very eyes, with Olympic legend Mark Cavendish and TV presenter Ben Shepherd. Nurburgring queen Sabine Schmitz and The Stig hooned at great speed, and then we saw Formula One’s next generation, as sons of legends Freddie Hunt, Alex Brundle and Sam Brabham raced off in karts. Oh, and Lewis's brother Nic Hamilton.
The highlight had to be a mouth-watering collection of
flame-spitting Group B rally cars running against the clock. Imagine a massive
Scalextric track, except you don't have to put the cars back on when they fall
Meanwhile, over in the arena, the boys were on fine form, determined to get at least one sport included in the London Olympics. Their opening ceremony? Freestyle bike jumping, flaming rally cars and an Aston doing donuts. If you're reading this Boris, the bar has been set...
What else? We’ve also now invented 'car curling' (much better than the original), and a new version of the hurdles which involves an athlete jumping over a speeding Lamborghini. As Jeremy says: 'either you're going to witness the birth of a brilliant new sport or see a man being run over by a Lambo - either way its going to be memorable'.
Other highlights included a supercar beauty pageant and a stunt routine featuring the superb new Morgan 3-wheelers. Watching Jeremy clamber aboard is, as Hammond pointed out, like 'watching a gorilla being forced into a canoe'.
Still, as they would say in those huge posters in London’s West End, “AN ABSOLUTE TRIUMPH!”.
Head to our gallery of pics from the opening night for a taste of the action, and don’t forget TG Live continues on Saturday and Sunday at the NEC, before moving to London's Excel in two weeks' time on 24th-27th November. If you fancy it, tickets are available here.
So - any TG.commers there? Let us know what you thought in the handy space below...