Top Gear (2002–…): Season 18, Episode 2 - Episode #18.2 - full transcript

Richard travels to Texas to learn about NASCAR racing, where he interviews several and rides with a NASCAR racing driver. Jeremy reviews the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster. Jeremy and James travel to Beijing, China to look at their expanding copy-car-industry. The Star in Reasonably Priced Car is Matt LeBlanc.

Tonight, I do a skid.

Richard steals some tyres.

And James get
kicked in the face.

Sync and corrections by APOLLO

Hello, hello, thank you,
thank you everybody.

Now, let's get one thing
straight, from the start...

Formula 1 is better than NASCAR.


It just is.

If you compare them, to
musical instruments,

F1 is a Stradivarius violin,
NASCAR is banging a saucepan

with a wooden spoon.

Now, we all agree on that
in the civilised world.

Well, when I say we all agree,

we all agree apart from Richard
J Cheeseburger Hammond III.

I'm not alone in believing
in the supremacy of NASCAR.

It's currently the most popular
spectator sport in America.

And there are many reasons why
it hits the spot with the fans.

The first is to do with its roots.

Unlike Formula 1, which began as
a pastime for wealthy playboys

and aristocrats, NASCAR has very
humble, blue-collar origins.

NASCAR has its roots back in the 1940s,

when the Moonshine runners,
basically naughty hicks,

smuggling illegal booze
across county lines,

would modify their cars
to out run the cops.

One thing sort of led to another,
and before you knew it,

they were holding informal
race meetings in the evenings,

on impromptu racetracks that they
kicked into the dirt in fields.

The cars the Moonshine runners
favoured were ones like this,

a respectable looking
1941 Ford Business Coupe,

which wouldn't raise the
suspicions of a passing policeman.

Clearly, the man in such a car as this,

is a man going about his business,
why would the cops disturb him?

Underneath though is a
highly-tuned engine,

beefed up suspension, and
inside, a special hideaway

for the illegal booze.

Moonshine runners used this actual car.

It smuggled hooky booze
across county lines,

and then went on to race in
NASCAR, it's the real deal!

As the decades passed, the sport grew.

'One critical time when trouble
could be mighty contagious.'

But that love of living
outside the law remained.

In the early 1950s, for example,
roll cages were mandatory

in NASCAR racing, but
the drivers thought,

well, the added weight was a
bit wussy, having a roll cage,

so they just fitted them with things...
that looked like roll cages,

made out of off cuts of wood, say.

Another reason I prefer this sport,

apart from its rebellious streak,
is that next to the spaceships

you get F1, NASCAR machines
are beautifully simple.

As was explained to me on
race day at Texas Speedway.

This is making 800 horsepower?

Closer to 900, yeah.

900 horsepower. 900 horsepower.

And no electronic aids on this?
No. It literally carburetted.

NASCAR wants the drivers to
separate themselves on the track,

so, for myself, without having data,

I have to explain all the
sensations I feel in the car.

Talk about spring changes, shot
changes, geometry changes.

So, they're not downloading
it off a laptop?

We don't even have a
fuel sensor in the car.

And these little things,
these are the ones...

It's just to create some drag
when the car spins around...

That's not going to stop you flipping!

They've proven in the
wind tunnel that it does.

Now, what really helps is this.
These deploy.

When there's a low-pressure
area on the top, these deploy,

and help set the car down.

That stops you. Two on top.
You have these here, as well.

Hey, that's high-tech, that's like
a-Land Rover's air vents at the front.

It's not mega high-tech.

If you're a Formula 1 fan,
and a NASCAR cynic,

I think I know exactly what you'd
be... saying if you were here.

This looks, well, easy.

You just keep your foot
down, keep turning left,

and that's kind of it, really.

Whereas in Formula 1, there's
corners and stuff to remember.

It's tricky.

So, do these drivers,

who can earn up to £15 million a year

have an easier time of
it than F1 drivers?

Well, let's ask a man who's
raced in both sports.

To drive? I would say there's nothing
drives like a Formula 1 car,

but these are more unpredictable.

They slide around a lot,
they have no breaks.

I mean, when I tell you NO breaks,
because the car's so heavy

and the brakes are so tiny.

I've got to say, ovals, I
think, are more challenging,

and it's because the corner
starts way over there,

and ends way over there.

And is the car moving?

The car's moving all the
time, it's never settled.

And then, you take the cars all
around you, the turbulent air.

If they are on the outside of
you, it's pulling you around,

if they're in front of you,
you just don't have the grip.

That's when the entertainment
value... goes up tremendously,

because you're averaging
over 190 miles an hour,

with that many cars inches
away from one another,

and we'll be three or four
wide through these corners.

You go to Silverstone, you sit in
a... stand on and you go, "meooooo."

You wait one half minutes.
See if the order has changed. Yes.

But, most likely, it won't.

They used to give awards because,
oh, the overtaker of the year,

you passed three people in
the whole freaking year.

So, lots of close racing in
cars that are tricky to drive,

which means, as a bonus,
you get lots of these.

It's a contact sport, put it that way.

A lot of times, the contact that's
made is either out of frustration,

the guy wants to get another
guy out of the way.

You can't just ram him
because you can't overtake!

If you have bumpers, you do!

And when there is a coming together,

NASCAR drivers don't bother
settling... with a stewards' enquiry.

Let's see if they'll fight?
Harvick's really mad at Montoya.

Have got a fight breaking out?
Here it comes.

He's slowing back here, and we're
going to have a little talk.

This, too, is a bonus
for the hard-core fans,

who are not often mistaken
for Harvard professors.

Yeah! Yeah!

On race weekends, their main
diet is beer and red meat.

What if you were spotted eating a salad.
Eating salad?

And they get a lot more
access than F1 fans.

These are actual fans
being driven around!

These are fans who have lined up,

that have paid to go around the
track with a professional,

or some kind of driver.

Can you imagine that in F1?
If you can do this, I'm coming tomorrow.

They're in a pack of cars,
they're not even on their own.

Look at this, these are
just spectators, you or me.

I didn't see how I might get the
same chance to drive on that oval,

but then I was told to report
to the drivers' briefing,

where I was in for a surprise.

From the United States Air Force,

four-star general, General Mark A
Wells III and his wife Betty Welsh.


From Top Gear UK, today's
honorary pace car driver,

from Birmingham England,
Richard Hammond.


Race time arrived.

After the national anthem had finished,

the man with the jetpack had landed...
and the B...52 bomber had flown past.

It was time to me to lead the grid of
43 cars out on the formation lap.

They are still coming,
there's millions of them.


Don't stall, Hammond, don't mess it up.

Behind me, 39,000 horsepower
was itching to get going.

I daren't look in the mirror, it's
like being attacked by Tigers.

Woah-ho-ho! Oh, come on.

'Slip road is clear.

'Green flag.'

We started that! We did that.

And my treats weren't over,
because I would be spending

the actual race helping
one of the teams,

who gave me a very important job.

Yeah, I'm with the team.
Coming through, oh, yeah.

Now, I will admit the one
problem with NASCAR races

is that they're over 500 laps long,

so at this point there is
only one thing we can do...

♪ We're gonna need a montage Montage

♪ Oh, it takes a montage Montage

♪ Show a lot of things Happening at once

♪ Remind everyone of what's going on

♪ That's called a montage Montage

♪ Oh, we want montage Montage

♪ Always fade out in a montage

♪ If you fade out... ♪

That did the trick, and 530 laps
later, we had ourselves a winner.

Three hours and 20 minutes
of racing just flew by,

there's a man over there who won,
he's now firing six guns in the air,

wearing his new Stetson.
And he's delighted.

Now the whole circus moves on to the
next place, to do it all again,

and there's a big argument
here to say this is proof

F1 is po-faced, it could
learn a lot from this.

The next morning, at a
deserted Texas Speedway,

there was one final treat in store.

This. Plus a driving lesson
from NASCAR royalty Kyle Petty.

It doesn't feel like anything
else I've ever driven, I mean,

this thing does not want
to go in a straight line.

The car only wants to turn left,
it doesn't want to go straight.

Hit the grass, you've got
to run through the grass,

it's like mowing the yard, you
have to hit the grass. Hard.


Yeah, all the way down. I am so scared!

More gas, more gas, more gas, more gas.

Oh, dear Lord!

Put her next to the wall little bit.
I am next to the wall!

'Eventually, Kyle let
me go out on my own.'

Letting it find grip.
Trying not to fight it too much.

It's not just a big loop, it's
complex, it's three-dimensional,

and I'm wrestling my way around
it in a huge shouting dragon.

I'm going to roll out of this
corner... onto the straight now,

here I go, getting on the gas! Haha!

Oh my God!

I'm in an explosion again!


Where's it finding the grip?

Most of my lungs are on the
same side, that's not normal.

'And then, just to add
to my problems... '

Oh, no, that's not what I
wanted to see in the mirror,

that's too authentic.

I don't need that!



Unbelievable. It was brilliant!

I loved it. It was...

It's really good.

All right, OK, let's get this over with.

Come on then, Mr F1 Fan, I'm braced
and ready for your comments. Go.

I agree with you. Eh?
I do agree with you.

The Americans are very bad at some
things, they can't say aluminium,

and they can't win a
war without our help,

but they are very good
at making dreary sports

very exciting to watch.

Let's just take, for an
example, rounders. Right?

That's played by small
children here, over there,

it's Babe Ruth, and a religion.

Then you've got netball which
here is schoolgirls standing,

so you can only move one foot, and
there's four parents watching,

and over there it's, what is it?
Harlem Globetrotters.

They are quite easily amused.

Unbelievably easily
amused, and that's why

they're able to make
NASCAR exciting.

It's just some good ol' boys going
round in a circle. And they go,

"Oh, hell, I'll go pay to watch that."

250,000 people turn up to watch it.
Because it is a good sport.

I mean Hammond you would say that,
because you're an American.

Wait a minute, I'm not.

You've got a Stetson, cowboy boots,
chaps, a Harley-Davidson, a Mustang,

you like to get a beer and you
put cheese on everything.

I don't! I'm not American.

You have made a living out
of being... an American.

Your Saturday night programme is

a fat man falling off some foam rubber.

"Oh, right, hey, we'll watch that!"

Then they turn up in their millions.



I'm not an American.

Look, Hammond, I wish the
Americans... ran a decent sport,

if they got Formula 1, it would be
fantastic, because they would say,

"Let's have sprinklers
coming on at random points

"during the race," and
that would be fantastic.

There would be no more
stewards' enquiries,

and there will be no more of this,

"You've got a ten second drive-by
penalty," which ruins the race.

They would say, "Hamilton and
Masa... you don't get on,

after the race, in your boxes,

"on the winner's podium, slug it out."

Yeah. I'd watch that,
would you watch that?

I'd watch that. It would be brilliant.
I would watch that.

Anyway, we must do the news.

We are starting with the
Institute of Advanced Motorists,

you know the ones.

Oh, yeah, them.

They are the ones who...

They say that you mustn't cross
hands on the steering wheel.

You've got to shuffle it, like that.

Never drive one-handed,
they don't like that.

They prefer that.

Is anyone here in The Institute
of Advanced Motorists?

Like you are going to confess it now.

You are! So you are in the Institute?

So, you do this?

Did you drive down...
here today like this?

You're a passenger?
Oh, you can knock yourself out, then.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists...
has launched a new thing called,

Drive And Survive.

What, rather than Drive And Die?

That would never work.
Drive And Survive, OK?

The idea is, what they've got is,

every week they're
offering motoring tips.

Yes, so this week it's parking.

I'll give you a couple of examples
they've come up with, right?

"Park on the left-hand side
of the road if possible,

"and always at night."

Eh? What happens if you
arrive at lunch time?

I parked here this morning.
You didn't! I did. You idiot!

Park always at night.
Another one, right?

This is one I really can't get.

"When parking, open your
window in car parks,

"and turn off your stereo.
You can often hear something,

"before you can see it."

What, a lamppost? Lampposts actually
make a very soft cooing sound.

Do they?

I once heard a squelching
sound, and then a pop,

but that was the neighbour's cat!

Can we move on? Yes.

I have some news, there is a new
Dodge Viper being announced,

and apparently it's going to employ
Fiat technology on it, which is...

They mean is there's a new one,
and it won't work properly.

They haven't said that.

I suspect that Dodge
are a little worried

about the styling they have chosen,

because this is the
photograph they have sent.

Doesn't tell you much, does it?

Doesn't tell you a lot. Maybe it's shy?

Hey, now, you know sometimes
you meet someone who has

a growth on their face, and it's
actually bigger than their face?

Have you ever seen that?

No, I mean... one of those
really ugly things.

No, this is just a face, I'm talking
about a growth. That's your face?

I bring this up, because
there's a company in Japan

whose obviously used this growth thing

as an inspiration for their
new Prius campervan.

Here it is. Oh, God!

It's the elephant car. It is.

pleased to meet you.

I hope nobody knocks my trailer over.
It's a monster.

You've got a double bed in the
and another one in that growth.

That is not a car that you
could talk to at a party,

unless you are looking
at something else.

I've got news from Renault,

they've got a new car, I've
got a picture of it here,

it's called the Influenza. Is it?
It isn't called the Influenza.

Well, it's something a bit like that.

It's electric, as you can, because
there it is plugged in, recharging.

I was wondering, when in the future,
when we're all driving electric cars,

the cities are full of
these charging points,

won't ten-year-old boys go
around unplugging cars?

That's what we would have
done when I was ten.

Do you have to be ten, why wouldn't...
you do that aged, I don't know, 52?

Well, quite.
You would know though... wouldn't you?

If you saw somebody parked, you
would just go... You would.

I wouldn't. Why would you do that?

Remember the early Fiat Panda, the
boxy one that Giugiaro designed,

whenever I walk past one of
those with a group of friends,

we always picked it up
and turned it around.

You could just...

I was going that way,
how is that happened?

In the same way as it's always great fun

to lock someone else's bicycle
up with your bicycle lock.

You're just a yobbo!

Come on, Hammond, you
must have done that?

Or throw a brick through their
window, or set fire to their shop.

If you go to Halfords, you buy a whole
load of really cheap bicycle locks.

The combination ones... Then go along
the street, locking people's bikes up.

Why would you do that?
Because it's funny!

No, it is, because you do it,

and I did this with Robert
Cook on York station, in 1978,

if it was your bicycle,
you'll know it was us.

You lock it, hide behind some bins,
Wait for them to come back.

They take their lock off,
"Yes, my bicycle's good,"

and they go off and go,

"I didn't put that on there.
"People are watching, getting ideas...

Don't do this, ten-year-olds and
52-year-olds, we're not condoning this.

52-year-old children.

Or indeed unplugging
peoples' electric cars,

because when they come back and find
the range says two, it's not funny.

It is funny.
We're not saying you should do that.

No, you shouldn't.

Were just saying you can do that.

Last week we revealed that the
police were claiming that

driving under the influence
of a cold remedy

is the same as driving under
the influence of cocaine.

Now, I drove down here,

because I got a cold that
I haven't... mentioned,

I drove down here this morning
having taken some Day Nurse,

and I arrived without incident.

Did it make you very boring, and
overly confident at parties?

No, I'm always that, I was that anyway.

So, I'm just letting you know that Day
Nurse and driving are OK. I made it.

Yeah, on that subject actually
last week, you agreed,

in fact you challenged James
to do a lap of a track,

you would be sewing on a button
at the same time as driving,

he would be in a sleeping bag.

Yes, and you would be
giving yourself pleasure.

Those are the rules, so are we going...
to have our race? We did promise.

I've forgotten my sleeping bag, sir,
I've been practising all week.

I promise we will do our sleeping
bag, sewing a button on,

and Hammond race before
the end of the series.

Moving on, Mercedes SLS,

James and Richard will tell you
that it's too big and too stupid.

It is. It is. No, it isn't.

It is a SUPERB car, and
as far as I'm concerned,

there is only one thing wrong with it...

its doors.

That two things!
Well, it is, it's too doors.

Thank you, Hammond.

You might imagine, as you drive along

that people will think the
gullwing doors hark back

to the magnificent 300 SL from 1954,

but I suspect they won't
think anything of the sort.

What they will think, as you
pull up and get out is,

"What a massive show off,"
and there's another problem

with gullwing doors as well
because if you roll the car,

how do you open them to get out?

You're trapped in there, soaked
in petrol, burning, screaming.

Now, to prevent that from happening,
Mercedes has fitted the hinges

with explosive bolts that
are designed to fire

if the car goes upside down.

So, these doors then,
what they are are heavy,

unnecessary, embarrassing bombs.

Now however there is a solution.

The SLS Roadster, a car which
offers all of the coupe's thrills,

without leaving you purple-faced
with embarrassment,

every time you get out of it.

That is my idea of the perfect car.

But it is quite difficult
to explain why.

First of all, it costs as near as
makes no difference, £200,000.

Which means it's in the same sort
of price bracket as a Rolls-Royce.

And with a Rolls-Royce you get more...


Of course, with this you get
the magnificent jackhammer

50 cal, AMG soundtrack.


But if that's all you want, why
not buy a much cheaper C-Class?

This four-door saloon makes
exactly... the same sort of racket.


For around a quarter of the price.

Of course, you may say, "A-ha, I
like being exposed to the elements."

I understand that, but I'll
let you into a little secret,

once you're doing 70 miles
an hour in a convertible,

all you really notice is the
wind rushing through your hair,

nothing about the car at all, the
wind is an all-consuming thing.

So, 70 miles an hour
feels exactly the same

whether you're in this,
or this, or this.

Let me put it this way, when
you're... being attacked by a lion,

it doesn't really matter whether
you're in a bungalow or a mansion.

Being attacked by a
lion is the main thing.

Of course, at this point you may say,

"Yes, but I want a big V8
rear drive sports car."

So, what's wrong with this?
The big V8 rear drive Jaguar XKR.

It's very similar to the
Mercedes, except that to my eye,

it looks even better, and is
less than half the price.

Of course, you may think
the SLS is more technical,

more spectacular, and
that's true, it is.

The engine is a masterpiece.

The seven speed, double clutch gearbox

is mounted at the back for
better weight distribution.

It's light. The prop shaft
is made from carbon fibre

and only weighs four kilograms.

And all the little changes they've made

to the suspension on the
convertible are so successful

they're applying them
to the coupe as well.

However don't be fooled
into thinking this is

some kind of track-munching
driver's car...


because, it isn't. Argh!

Woah! God, strewth.

It doesn't grip, steer, stop,

or turn anything like
as well as a Ferrari.

Or an Aston Martin DBS, or even a BMW.



You know what this is like,
an old American muscle car.

A Dodge Charger with a
three-pointed star on the nose.

You could almost call it crude.

So, there are many, many reasons
why you would not buy an SLS,

but there's one why you would,

because it is fantastic.

Cars these days are
also safe, and refined,

and they're all built in
wheat-free multi-ethnic factories,

with one eye on Johnny polar
bear, but this just isn't.

It's just a gigantic,
two-fingered noisy salute

to the whole concept of
sustainable eco-ism.

It's as in tune with the times
as a blaze at an oil refinery,

and I love that.

I also love the idiotically long bonnet,

and the 571 horsepowers
that live beneath it.

I love the speed of the roof, too.

You really can get it up or down at...
a set of lights. I love its doors.

I love its windscreen wipers.

I love the dust caps on the tyre valves.

I love the men who made
it, I love Germany.

I want to move there, and
have cold meat for breakfast,

and wear shorts.

I also love the way that in here,
it just feels like a Mercedes,

apart from that, obviously.

And that, and that, and that.

I mean, apart from the launch control

and all those buttons
there it feels normal.

There's no sense that you're in a
swivel-eyed destroyer of worlds.

There are many cars on the market today

for people who want to be sensible.

The SLS is rare because
it's for people who don't.


I like it, that's just...
You love this thing, don't you?

It's such a perfect car. It is perfect.

I can see why you love it,
looking at you with it.

Think about it.
It's loud, old-fashioned, not sensible,

it's got a hole in the top,
it's you, with a tax disc.

That's what it is. Yes, it is.

And now, we must find out how
fast it goes round our track,

and that means handing it over
to our tame racing driver.

Some say that he's the
only man in Britain

who knows what B&Q stands for.

And that he can't give his
million-pound bonus back

because he's already spent it...

on French breast implants.

All we know is... he's called The Stig.

And he's off. Nice, clean
start on this crisp, dry day.

That is pure engine sound
you're hearing, by the way.

No active exhaust valve
nonsense in the SLS.

First corner.

He's getting a bit sideways on
the way out, but he's through!

MUSIC: Theme tune from "The Archers"

Sorry, I should explain,

the Stig has become a massive
Archers fan recently.

He keeps it tidy through
Chicago down to Hammerhead.

This is a car that needs
very precise driving.

Too violent with the
steering, throttle or brakes

and it will bite you.

Look at that. Beautifully done.

'I'll be as quick as I can.

'I can help, if that'll
speed things up.'

Rural drivel there.
Up the gears to Follow-Through

like all flappy-pedal boxers.

Not so good in town, but
it works brilliantly here.

OK, he's passed the tyres.

Roadster is 40 kilos heavier than
the Coupe, so will it be slower?

We'll never know, because the
Coupe has never been round here.

That's Gambon done and across the line!

It did it...

It did it...

No. Higher than that.

1.19.6, so it's there,

between the Lamborghini Gallardo
and a Ferrari Scuderia.

Not bad, but it's hardly
in the medals, is it?

What this is, it's like
Robert Downey Jnr.

He's never won an Oscar,
but he's still brilliant.

I've got no idea what that means.

Yes, well, you work it out,

because it is time to put a star
in our reasonably-priced car.

Is it Robert Downey Junior? No.
But he is an American, like you.

I'm not.

Ladies and gentlemen, please
welcome Matt Le Blanc!


Have a seat. He's here!

That's a good welcome.

Now, first of all,

hearty congratulations
on your Golden Globe.

Last week, wasn't it?

Last week or the week before,
I don't know, I had to fly...

I came back here after Christmas...

Is it easier to win an award or lose one

in terms of getting your face right?
I'm never quite sure.

If you win, you've got to
look proud, but not smug,

and that's a tricky thing to do.

I've got a lot of practice
at the losing face.

The losing face? Yes.

The camera sits at your
table and stays on you

and the guy's halfway through his speech

and they still have a
camera on you... so you...


He deserved it, yeah.

We lost spectacularly last week to
a programme called This Morning.

You know this? No. It's a programme...

Fix! Fix!

Well, no, it's a programme where men
put their fingers in other men.


They did! And as a result of that,
we were blown out of the water.

The viewing public likes that more.
So well done, This Morning.

You won your Golden Globe for Episodes.

I don't know if anybody
here has seen Episodes.

I think it is just brilliant.

Thank you.
You've just done the second series,

which is why you're here.
We finished a few days ago.

Talk us through the plot.

Because of those of you
who have not seen yet

OK, it's a show about a fictitious
show that starts in the UK

and it's bought by the American networks
to be revamped and remade in the States.

They promise them the
world and one by one,

every promise is broken, including
the fact that they keep

their lead actor played by Richard
Griffiths and they tell him,

"No, can't have him.
You're going to hire a Matt Le Blanc."

So I play this weird,
bizarre version of myself.

Of course, Episodes has not
yet become the huge hit.

What you're best known for is...
Well, I tell you what,

let's show you a clip of you
in your best role. Here it is.

This is Bob Seger, obviously.
Night Moves.

This was the video shot in 1994,
and if we look very carefully,

here's the heroine and... whoa!
Wait a minute! Who is that?!

That was '94.
Friends had already started in '94,

so you were moonlighting
in Seger videos.

A friend of mine directed
that and he called me

and said, "Hey, I'm doing a video
for Bob Seger for Night Moves.

"Do you want to be the hero guy?
" And I said, "Sure, yeah."

So I go down there and they get in
the little trailer to get ready,

we're at this drive-in theatre,
and someone knocks on the door

and says, "Bob Seger would like
to see you in his motor home."

So I go over and I go into the motor
home and he starts talking me through

what it was like when he was
young and going to the drive-in

and trying to pick up girls and he
breaks out a bottle of tequila.

Next thing I know, we down
a whole bottle of tequila,

Bob Seger and I, and then
they knock on the door,

"Ready for you on set!
" So I'm drunk in the whole video.

And it wasn't just that.

You were also in a Tom Petty video.

Drunk in that one too.

Drunk today? Hmm, yeah. A little bit.

Now, cars. I know you are
what we call a petrol head,

I think you call a gear head.
We know this...

I've got an inkling of it,

because when I was watching Episodes,

we've got a clip here which
gives us a bit of an insight.

Let's just run this.

Tell me that's not yours! You like?


I read there was only three
in the whole world. Yes.

Me, the Sultan of Brunei
and some drug guy.

Oh, it's magnificent.


And that's while I was never picked.
Really? Go for it!

I am SO happy.




Get a room! Can I?

I wish I knew how to drive.

That's an Alfa 8C convertible.
That's a very rare car.

You end up in an XK
in that first series.

Right. That was a funny story
about that car because

when they agree to let us use it in
the show, it hadn't been sold yet.

By the time we needed it,
someone had bought it,

so it showed up with its own
security team and everything else.

I got to drive it maybe five feet.
YOU did? Yeah.

Steve drove it further than I did.

This year, it's Ron Dennis's
personal Mercedes SLR he loaned us.

What was that like?
I didn't get to drive that one either!

You're the only one crazy enough to let
me behind the wheel, apparently.

Now, your car history is chequered,
Isn't it? At best, yes.

You had an Audi 5000,
which we'd call 100.

That was the one that had the
unintended acceleration stories.

Yeah, not the one I had,
but I heard about that.

It was like a crap shoot.

And then there was a
Fiat X1/9 that came,

which is like a motorised vajazzle,
I always think, the X1/9.

Yeah, that was probably a mistake.
I bought it at a used car lot.

I was driving by and, you know, "Ooh!

"That looks like a good waste
of money right there."

You used to have a Porsche
Turbo, didn't you?

Yeah, I had a 2000 996 turbo.

As I understand it, you modified that,

cos when we buy cars in
Europe, BMWs or Porsches

or whatever they might be,
that's what they're like,

whereas in the States,

there seems to be a culture of you
buy a car and then you take it

to a shop and somebody tweaks
it and fiddles with it.

Right. Is that something you
just feel you have to do?

Well, for me, it's like, if someone who
doesn't know anything about cars

can just go down to the
store and get the same car,

that's not right.

I mean, I love cars, so I should
go a LITTLE faster, I think.

So what did you do to the Turbo?

The Turbo, I had a Gemballa
computer programme put in it

and an exhaust and TechArt suspension.

Then I took it in to have the mass
air sensor was starting to...

This is probably super-boring
for most people.

No, it's Top Gear, for once you're
allowed to talk about this.

The Tonight Show wouldn't let
me talk about any of this.

Are you a man who goes
and drives on circuits?

Occasionally, yeah,
mostly with the bikes.

I know that's a sore subject with you.
No, you can talk about bikes.

You've got three seconds.

And they're up.

So, have you ever driven
round Laguna Seca,

which is your nearest track, I guess?

Yeah, Willow Springs is probably closer,

but Laguna Seca is such a
beautiful so facility.

You know, the Corkscrew there.

The Corkscrew is a corner
that I just find impossible

to get round without crashing.

Six stories I think it drops.
It's left, right, it's six stories.

Yeah, it's not my idea of fun.
Our track is much easier.

I know you took your trip
down here quite seriously,

because you told our researcher,
you were asking about the Kia

and the roll cage, which you said,
"Ah, that'll make it more rigid."

We've never had any of this before
from a guest, somebody that keen.

That's probably the best
handling Kia there is.

Pretty nice little car.
Who here would like to see Matt's lap?

Let's have a look.

Just don't use the brake
as much, that's all.

No, you're going to
need the brakes there.

Were you OK with having a
stick-shift on your left?

Yeah, I missed a couple of
shifts here and there, but...

Well, that looks, that's the sort
of tidy corner. Sloppy at best.

We're keeping it the tidy through there.

The more boring it looks,
the faster it often is.

That's, well, very boring indeed
through there. Hammerhead.

Almost got the front wheel off
the ground there, but not quite.

That's very tight on the way out.


It was obviously boring you
to death as well out there.

Flat through there, yeah, no lifting.

Your heart is beating
once every three hours.

You're going to cut this one.
Yeah... that's very cut. Gambon, cut it.

Oh, yes, very cut.
And there we are, across the line.

What do you reckon? Um...

Well, hopefully in the
top half somewhere.

Hopefully in the top half.

Well, often when laps look
that drama-less, as it were,

they can be quite fast.

So there's the board.
Rowan Atkinson currently leading 1.42.2.

That's quick.
Yes, 1.42.2 is unbelievably quick.

Halfway would put you
with Bob Geldof, 1.48.1.

You did it, Matt Le
Blanc, in one minute...






Fastest ever!

Fastest ever! That's not bad.

I just knew when I started...
Are you serious? Absolutely serious.

You were apparently running at
1.42.2, absolutely level with Rowan,

who, by the way, has just hung himself,

and then on the last lap,
popped in at 1.42.1. Wow!

So there we are, ladies and gentlemen,

the fastest guest we've ever had.
Matt Le Blanc!

Thank you so much.

Thank you, thanks.

Now, we may be in a spot of
economic bother at the moment,

however, Rolls-Royce, Bentley and
Aston Martin are all enjoying

record sales, and all because
of demand from China.

The thing is, though, that people with
adenoids are saying in five years' time,

the Chinese are going
to stop buying our cars

and WE will start buying theirs.

In fact, if I had a pound
for everyone who said,

"Soon you will be driving a Chinese car
," I'd be able to afford a Chinese car.

To see if they have a point, Jeremy
and I decided to pop over to

Beijing and find out what
all the fuss is about.

For the last 50 years,

there have been two types
of transport in China.

If you were Chairman Mao, you had
a honky, red-flag armoured limo.

If you were not Chairman
Mao, you had one of these.

Or if you were really lucky,
you had one of these.

Even in the early '90s,
the idea that you would

own a car was complete madness,

because you'd never have
been able to afford it,

and even if you could afford it,
you weren't allowed to have one.

Now, though, things have changed.

In 1977, there were one
million cars in China.

By 2008, there were 51 million.
Now there are 85 million.

And every day that
number swells by 38,000.

Somebody buys a new car in
China every 2.3 seconds.

To keep up with demand,

China's car factories are
running at light speed.

Last year, the whole of Europe combined
produced 16.9 million vehicles.

China all on its own produced
1.3 million more than that.

And it's not just Chinese companies-
that are cashing in on the boom.

Audi is now making long-wheelbase
versions of its cars

specifically for sale in
China and nowhere else,

because in China, space in the back-
matters more than anything else.

China is now the world's
second-biggest oil consumer,

taking more barrels per day
than India and Japan combined.

By 2025, the road network
will be big enough to cover

the whole of the British Isles...

all of it, Scottish
Highlands, the lot...

20 times over.

So where did it all begin?

Well, one of the first cars ever
to be sold in China was this.

The CA6410UA.

Better known to you and I
as the Austin Maestro.

Actually, it's the
back end of a Maestro,

but the front end of a Montego, and
it's powered by a Toyota engine.

The history behind this car
though is even more complicated.

In 1998, a Chinese tobacco
company bought the tooling

for the Maestro and the Montego
so they could be made in China.

In order to make them in China,

they had to tell the authorities
that they were building buses.

This car... or I should say THESE cars,

because this is a bit
of a cut-and-shut job...

these were terrible when they
were being built in Britain,

so imagine what they like when they
were being made using worn-out tools

by a company that's the Chinese
equivalent of Player's No 6.

It's just hopeless!

Pretty soon, various bright
sparks in China started to think.

Why buy the rights to
make cars we don't want

when we can just copy
the ones we DO want?

The Chinese are very good
at this sort of thing.

I'm speaking to you from
behind a pair of fake Ray-Bans

wearing a fake Armani jacket,
carrying a fate Louis Vuitton bag,

in which we find a fake iPad

and a fake iPhone.

And if we consult my fake Omega,

we see that it's 2.35. probably.

Which means it is time to pop into
the fake Starbucks over there

for a cup of fake coffee.

It seems, then, that the expression...
"copyright infringement"

doesn't translate terribly
well into Mandarin.

All of which explains this.

It looks like a BMW X5,

but actually, it's a blatant copy called

the Shuanhuan S-CEO HBJ6474Y.

Then there's this, a
copy of the Fiat Panda.

And this, a copy of the Smart ForTwo.

And this, a copy of the Daewoo Matiz.

Did you hear about the
Lifan motorcycles?

Lifan is a Chinese company that make
copies of small Honda motorcycles,

but to make sure you don't notice,
they change the name on the tank.

To what? Hongda. H-O-N-G-D-A.

Hongda? So on that basis,
is this Mini a Minging?

It should be, yes.

Because it is the most
tragic-looking thing. It's awful.

It's like somebody's
described Mini to somebody

on the telephone.
Or sent a blurry fax.

"There we are, that's
what it looks like."

It is very cheap. How much is it?

£4,100. That is cheap.

But this Toyota Aygo over
here is only£3,500.

It's not a Aygo. That's an FO.

That's what it's called. FO.
I think that's a message to Toyota

if Toyota ever decide
to sue the fake makers.

Do these people ever get taken to court?

Yeah. BMW sued the people making
the X5 fake and they lost.

Really? Yeah.
The Chinese government said,

"No, it doesn't look like
anything like an X5."

That's funny, I thought they looked...
really similar. No, they don't.

Don't they? No. It's just me?
No, it's just you. Right. OK.

It's easy to see why they were copying

because when they tried to go it alone,
the results weren't very good.

This tripod is the XF15OZK-4,

and naturally, we
couldn't wait to try it.


You see one yet...

Oh, God!


'On the plus side, we now
knew where the engine was,

'information that came in handy
about 20 seconds later.'


Come on!

'After some local bodging, we
were back in and on our way.'


Oh, that's reverse.
That's gone into nought, fifth, second.

First, that was it.


That's going to look very
funny from the outside, that.

Now you're doing second.

'Having mastered the gearbox,
it was time to open up

'the single-cylinder
12-horsepower engine.'

The acceleration is blinding!

It's like a safety device.

You accelerate too hard, your
feet come off the pedal.

Hold on to your spine. Ah!

2004, this car was launched.

If I'd shown this to
you and asked you when

it was built, when
would you have said?

1957. I would say it was
older than me. Yeah.

Ow! Ow!

Poor quality!


Come on, redeeming feature, James.
There must be a redeeming feature.

Er... It's character-building.

No, because I mean this... BOTH: Oh, no!



I think our test drive's over.

So we moved on to look at some
more modern Chinese cars.

This is the JACJ7.

At the 6th annual Chinese
government procurement conference,

it won the highly coveted
first choice in middle class

of government procurement award.

And then there's the
Haval M2 which is...

Well, we have absolutely
no idea what it is.

Can I read you something
from the blurb? Yeah.

About the styling of the M2.
I think this absolutely sums it up.

"Body on the side of the
lion to go straight fair

"with enough of the masculine
qualities of men."

If we're honest, the M2 and
the J7 aren't much good.

So, are there any
Chinese cars which are?

Well, this is a Guangzhou Trumpchi.

And it's not made from tin
foil or bits of old Austin.

Underneath, it's an Alfa Romeo 166.
This might be all right.

I think, however, that this
Roewe 350 will be even better.

The Roewe 350 is particularly important,

because it will eventually become
an MG in Britain, the MG 5.

It will be changed slightly.

The engine will be different because

it needs to meet legislation
for emissions, and so on.

But basically, I'm driving
a car that you will

be able to buy in Britain very soon.

Essentially, then, what we have
here is an Alfa Romeo and an MG.

Those, of course, are
very sporting names,

and that's why we've come to
this very picturesque racetrack.

What we're going to do is see
which of these cars can set

the fastest lap time.
Well, WE'RE not. No, we're not.

We're going to use our
tame racing driver.

Some say he's the Stig, but he isn't.

He is the Stig's Chinese cousin.

Now, I should explain, driving
is his second favourite thing.

What's his first favourite thing?
Attacking people. He does it a lot.

He's constantly at it.
Why are you doing that?

Why don't you go and do some driving?

Do some driving. Get into the car!

Stop attacking us! Get in the car.

No, he's got to get in the car.
Get in the car.

Trumpchi. Trumpchi.
Get in the Trumpchi. No!

No, that's the director.
That's the director!

What if I start the
engine, would that do it?

Come on, come on, in you go.
They bow, don't they?

Go in. Get in. Oh, yes!

That's the worst Stig we've ever had.


Attack Stig doesn't attack
the throttle, does he?

Good-looking car, that.

It is a good-looking car,
it's growing on me.

It's got the boot shape of
the Lancia Gamma. Yeah.

And it has an Alfa engine. Does it? Yes.

But it is called a Trumpchi.
It is, but...

That is quite funny.
What are you driving these days, Jeremy?

Well, it's interesting...
underneath, it's an Alfa.

It is a Trumpchi.

Attack Stig is back, everybody!
Watch out! And across the line.

1.50, dead.

We've got to get him out of
that car and into the Roewe.

Get him in the Roewe as
quickly as possible.

Get him in the Roewe! It's interesting.

He's attacking the starter.

I thought it was a racist thing,
he just didn't like us.

He's coming towards us now. No.
You were good! 150 dead.

Eventually, Attack Stig was
corralled into James's Roewe.


That begins quickly.

How many horsepower has it got? 107.

That's a 1.5, isn't it?

How have they got so few horsepower?
I don't know.

And I don't like to sound like you,
But that's not enough power.

Because they called it
Roewe, because Roewe...

BOTH: Is how they would say Rover.

Yeah. I thought they'd say Lover.

The seconds ticked by, but
there was no sign of my Roewe.

Where has he gone? I don't know.

After we dragged Attack
Stig off the marshal...

Across the line!

We got a clean lap time for the Roewe.

Victory by one tenth of a second.

A fairly hollow victory, though, as...
we estimate that on the same track

a comparable European car would
be ten or 15 seconds faster.

So, what about safety?

Chinese crash tests are much the
same as the ones we have in Europe.

But the speeds are a bit lower.

Any injuries? None at all. Nothing?

Not a scratch. What about the car?

No damage at all. Really?
No. That's a pass.

Are you ready?


Having satisfied ourselves
that these cars

had been through all their crash tests,

we were confident that we could take
them onto the streets of Beijing.

This might not be as nice to drive,

or as fast or as safe as a European car,

but it offers everything the
Chinese motorist would want.

There's lots of space in the
back, a couple of nice gadgets,

wooden trim and enough headroom
for anyone up to five foot three.

The editor of a Chinese car
magazine told me this morning

that the Chinese like good
equipment in cars, good gadgets.

And this actually does quite well.

It has got sat-nav, incomprehensible
of course, reversing cameras,

decent audio system,
automatic air-conditioning,

audio controls on the steering wheel,

digital dashboard... pretty good.

I'd like to say that this
feels like an old Alfa Romeo,

but it doesn't really, chiefly
because of the automatic gearbox,

which was made by a man who
I think is a greengrocer.

Certainly, he has no comprehension

of what an automatic gearbox should do.

Stop changing gear! Don't do that!

It's all very well Jeremy whining
and shouting at his gearbox,

but he should try this.

This is a three-speed
automatic with overdrive.

It's quite smooth, actually,
but as a concept,

it's just a tad old-fashioned.

It is worth bearing in mind,
though, that both these cars

cost £12,000, and that in China,

a base model Audi A3 is
more than twice that.

If you bear that price
difference in mind

and ignore the gearbox,
it's really not too bad.

Rides nicely.


Most of the time. Er...

At this point, we ran out of
things... to say about our cars,

so we met up for a discussion.

So, James May, would you buy
a Roewe 350 in Britain? No.

No. No. Would you buy a Trumpchi?

Only if it was very cheap.
But look at it this way.

In just five years, China
has gone from making that,

whatever it is, to making these.

With that rate of progress,

where are they going to
be in five years' time?

That does take us back to
our original question...

in five years' time,
everybody will be driving

Chinese cars... yes,
we probably will.

We are doomed. We are doomed.
We've absolutely...

In the plums.


Sync and corrections by APOLLO