So the first studio recording of the brand new series of Top Gear is, as television people say, ‘in the can’. Because announcing that something is ‘on the hard drive’ or ‘all on the digital tape’ doesn’t sound as romantic.
What you may not know about the TG studio is that when the programme is off air the whole set is dismantled and put into storage so that the building can be used as an aircraft hangar again.
With this in mind, the production team is always hugely relieved when they turn up for the first recording to find the indestructible Hilux back on its plinth, the stage is back in the middle of the floor and all the many lighting rigs re-hung from the ceiling. As for the Cool Wall, that’s carefully photographed in detail before being taken apart so that when it’s put back together all the cars can be reattached in exactly the places Jeremy and Richard last put them when they were having a big argument in front of it.
Thankfully, all of these things were in their rightful places yesterday and the show went without a hitch. Granted, it took the presenters one or two attempts more than normal to get the opening link just right but after that they were on fine form, as was this week’s guest, Hulk, Munich and Black Hawk Down legend Eric Bana.
You can always tell the really sound people amongst TG guests by how much they hang around after their interview. Sienna Miller did. Jay Kay did. Steve Coogan did. Stephen Fry did the first time he was on and was frightfully apologetic that he couldn’t second time round because he had a pressing engagement back in London. You get the picture.
Suffice to say that the Top Gear team thinks Bana is a bloody good bloke because he was there until the end, watching the rest of the show and then enjoying some of the aftershow Terrible Buffet in the production office.
In fact, he was still there talking diffs, carbs and the higher language of muscle cars with Hammond when most people were making their excuses and leaving. So yes, he’s a great guest and proper, proper petrolhead for what everyone hopes will be an amazing opening show.
However, The Mole has to share with you what was LITERALLY the most amazing thing about yesterday’s recording and it happened some miles from the studio, on the way home.
Sitting at a roundabout behind a Mercedes E500 and a Porsche 911 Carrera S – powerful cars both – it was hard to ignore a black Fiat Panda containing none other than TV’s James May which had drawn alongside them.
The roundabout cleared and Captain Slow made an uncharacteristically brisk leap away from the line, straight onto the knuckle whiteningly tight slip road that feeds into the A3.
The Porsche tried to pull out to get around a dithering Volkswagen ahead, the Mercedes clinging to its tail, but before either could make a move James had seized the advantage, taking the OUTSIDE LINE around all three cars and disappearing into the distance.
There can be only one conclusion. There is a keen and remarkably fast driver with a black Fiat Panda in the Guildford area and he looks a lot like James May.
Top Gear is back on TV on November 15.