From left to right: Charlie Cox, Warren Brown and Steve Pizzati
Finally, the long wait is over. Culled from roughly 4000 applicants SBS has found three presenters and an Ocker Stig. Charlie Cox is a Sydneysider who left these shores to persue a motor racing career, before winding up as the BBC's MotoGP commentator. Readers of Sydney's Daily Telegraph will recognise Warren Brown's name from his political cartoons, as well as his contributions to that paper's motoring section. He also hosted, and was the brains behind, the ABC TV series Peking to Paris, a recreation of the famous 1907 race. Steve Pizzati is an advanced-driving instructor, race driver, freelance car journo and a photography stunt driver.
So, clearly, all three hosts have a deep passion for all things motoring. But that's not an element generally missing from hosts of Australia motoring shows, yet none of our previous home-grown attempts have come close to the popular appeal of the BBC's current incarnation of Top Gear. Much of this series' success boils down to the chemistry and, sometimes, frission between the show's hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. And that's before we even get around to the tight scripting and the show's irreverant attitude.
Even if SBS has got it completely spot on with capturing the essential bonhomie of the British original, they'll have to back it up with steaming wads of cash. The British version's stunning visuals, not to mention the over-the-top challenges and road tests, all require oodles of Pacific pesos — something that the nation's ethnic broadcaster hasn't been known for in the past.
We're afraid that, in the court of public opinion, if Top Gear Australia is anything less than "Oh my God, I'd trek 10,000km across the Simpson Desert while juggling the Rosetta Stone from hand to hand"-style good, then it will always suffer in comparison to the BBC version. And, given all the intense scrutiny surrounding it, it'll have to be a hit from the first episode. This is something the current UK version never had to achieve — the first, rather lacklustre, season of the re-formatted Top Gear featured Jason Dawe, who was subsequently dumped for the rather more charismatic James May.
That said, we wish the Antipodean version well — although we're not holding our breath — and we're sure we'll be glued to our sets when the series debuts on SBS in the wake of the station's Olympic commitments.
Let us know how you think the Aussie Top Gear will fare. Vote in the poll, and leave your comments and thoughts below.