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Top Gear chats cars with Jimmy Carr
For the new issue of Top Gear magazine (out now), professional funny man and TG veteran, Jimmy Carr, took time out of his hectic punning schedule to talk car history, piloting an F1 car and, er, his unique take on vehicle safety.
We didn’t have room to squeeze the full interview into the mag, so here it is in full, uncut form below. The campaign to make Jimmy our new Minister of Transport starts here. Add your vote in the comments below…
It’s nearly ten years since you first appeared on Top Gear…
It’s one of the biggest shows in the world. It’s a global phenomenon. So you get to the track and expect those guys to be drenched in Cristal. I thought it’d make J-Lo’s backstage look like a Premier Inn. But no… it looked a bit like the sort of thing where there’d be a six-year legal campaign to get them moved on.
What were you driving back then?
A Rover 75, or as I like to refer to it, a mock-Tudor Jag. From a distance, with a squint, in a fog, you could think ‘oh, that guy’s got a Jag’. The car survived longer than the company, and my friend still has it - I gave it away. It sounds opulent that I gave a car to a friend, but actually, it was scrap.
Have things improved in the Jimmy Carr garage since then?
Oh, hugely. I have a Range Rover now - it’s as British as the royal family. Slightly grander, I might say. It’s like a stately home on wheels. And I like the gadgets, I’m a classic boy. It has air-conditioned seats - that’s what you want. I want to arrive everywhere with fresh, cool balls. That’s modern motoring at its finest.
Did you have anything between the Rover and the Rangie?
A Bentley Continental. I put 103,000 miles on it, and getting rid of it was an emotional wrench. I though the Bentley was the most comfortable car you could have, but then you drive a Range Rover and it’s different - the difference between sitting in a nice waiting room, or sitting in your own armchair at home. Bigger seats, more upright, a different view of the road, it feels more relaxing.
How clean is your licence?
I don’t think I’ve had any points since I’ve had the Range Rover. I got up to nine before that. But I would like to clarify the situation, because I do a lot of miles. I also think there should be different driving regulations after midnight. Between 1am and 5am we should say, ‘ok, it’s an autobahn now - if you need to get from Wolverhampton to London, fill your boots’.
Would there be any other laws in Carr’s Britain?
We shouldn’t have just one driving test. There should be one where you’re allowed on the road, in a car. There should be another where you’re allowed on the road, in a car, with another person and a mobile phone. And another where you’re allowed on the road, in a car, with a phone, a hot coffee and kids screaming in the back. And a super elite level where you say, honestly, I know what I’m doing, I’ll be fine… and I’m trying to eat a bagel, officer, so leave me alone.
What’s the fastest you’ve driven?
It was in a Marussia F1 car. It was an extraordinary, chance-of-a-lifetime thing. I got to do three laps and probably did 160mph, maybe 180mph on the straight, although it felt like more. The acceleration is extraordinary, but the brakes take your breath away. You think, ‘I’m going to brake’, and then it’s already happened. It’s phenomenal. We warmed up in Formula Fords but I think they’re more dangerous…
Because you have less respect for them. You throw them around a little bit. And then you get into the F1 car and realise that a moment’s lapse in concentration and it’ll be over. The smart money was on me wrecking it for everyone, but I got through it unscathed. I didn’t need a special seat because I’m the same size as a Marussia driver, so I’m waiting for a call about next season. I have the build for F1. So I’m a shoe-in for next year, aren’t I? As soon as they get a decent coffee holder…
That would make F1 more exciting…
Certainly for the first week. Then they’d hold a memorial service for me. That, Top Gear and a Downton, with a bit of Homeland to round it off - now that’s a Sunday.
What car would you buy, money-no-object?
I know Clarkson would be turning in his grave, if he was dead, which he probably should be - look at him. But the Ferrari California is an extraordinary thing. I don’t think I could buy a soft top, but a hard top that goes back… what day is that car not good for? Oh, and the Eagle Speedster. It’s the greatest car available, and the most beautiful looking. I had a go in an old E Type, but I slightly fell out of love with it. You think it’s going to move like a modern car, but it doesn’t. So it like it when the old stuff is re-engineered.
You have good taste…
It’s just car porn - stuff you look at and think, ‘it’s not going to get better than that’. People buy statues for their front garden, or maybe a water feature. I imagine they’re nicely made and cost lots of money. And they get a kick out of it, right? They must enjoy it. But if you put all of that money into the most beautiful vintage car, you could take it with you, and when you look at that on your driveway, it’d make you smile much more every day. I don’t want a Henry Moore - I want one of those.
Safety laws were different back then. Cars are safer, but uglier now…
With all the new regulations coming in, a car has to be safe if you run someone over. That seems counter-intuitive. None of that safety stuff should happen - all you need is a massive spike coming out of the steering wheel and five spikes on the front. Maybe a rotating chainsaw on the bonnet. Then you’d drive very carefully because if you hit a pedestrian it’s all over for everyone. It’s going to be messy.
So no speed limits at night, a coffee and bagel on the go, plus a rotating chainsaw on the front?
It’s very much a Mad Max view of motoring that I have…
You damaged our new Reasonably Priced car.
I was trying to be a legend. I thought, to be a legend of Sunday night television it would involve rolling the car. But you can’t roll that car because it won’t go fast enough, but you can take the wheels off.
Have you had any other crashes?
Touch wood, nothing too bad. Not since I was a teenager - I got rear ended by a police car. That’s about the smuggest you could ever be as a motorist. You get out and say, ‘alright officer, didn’t see the brake lights?’ He said sorry. I asked him for his insurance details.
How’s your mechanical knowledge? Ever changed an oil filter?
Changed one? No, I like the early ones. I like to keep it real. What are you filtering the oil for? Are you taking foam off the top? Steaming it? Why would you filter it? It seems crazy to me. I would have unfiltered, neat oil. I think the word you’re looking for is ‘petrol’. I filter my petrol through a sieve - make sure there are no bits in it.
Who makes the best cars?
I genuinely think Great Britain. There are some incredible Italian things. But from the E-Type through all the Astons and the Bentleys and Range Rovers, Britain comes up with the goods. And all of them have personality - it’s such a difficult thing to define, but there’s something anodyne about Mercs and BMWs - they’re great bits of engineering but a bit boring. The S Class Merc is nice, but I’d never buy one. I’d buy a Range Rover. And, when you’re driving around the UK - like I do lots for work -you drive past where it’s from. That’s where they built you, car. Well done.
Comedians tend to be fast around the Top Gear track. John Bishop. Ross Noble. You. What is it about you funnymen?
It’s a thing called the double-up. You’ll be booked to play two shows in the West End, but between shows you’re also booked to play in Balham, which is miles away. So you do your first gig, then you drive, park, do another set, get back in the car, drive across town, do another set. That’s why comedians are good drivers. Time’s a wastin’ my friends, there are jokes to be told. Incidentally, I went go karting with Ross Noble, and you just give up. There’s no point. He has no fear. Or a deathwish.
Good. Now, can you draw us a car please?
Oh right. That’s tricky to do over the phone. Can I get out of this? I could trace a car. Actually, I’d get the DVLA do to it…
Jimmy’s new DVD, Laughing and Joking, and tickets to his new live tour, Funny Business, are on sale now.