Saturday, September 13, 2008

Luring Great White sharks with...sausages?

WHY is it whenever someone catches a shark there's always a variety of car parts - from old tyres to numberplates - inside?

I can't imagine a great white lining up at an RTA cafeteria asking for a meal of personalised plates. Yet it's a phenomenon that's intrigued me since I saw that scene from the movie Jaws.

I figured a mix of me wrapped in sausages sitting in a Mini Moke would offer even the most fussy great white a good feed - crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle.

And although, as I was lowered into the Great Southern Ocean I was suddenly struck with the realisation this was probably the most stupid thing I'd ever done, it's one of those car stories that we needed to explore. Welcome to Top Gear Australia. If you're not familiar with the BBC motoring series Top Gear then you've probably been living west of Gulargambone in a plywood caravan. Top Gear UK has clocked more than half a billion viewers worldwide.

And now, for the first time, there is an overseas franchise, Top Gear Australia, which starts screening on SBS later this month.

Together with former Sydney boy, racing driver and BBC motorsport commentator Charlie Cox and driver trainer Steve Pizzati, I'm lucky enough to be one of Top Gear Australia's hosts - a dream from which I'm terrified I'll wake up. The three of us and a sizeable camera crew have spent the past few months driving an incredible array of cars in some of Australia's most far-flung locations.
From Kununurra in the Kimberley to the west coast of Tasmania, Charlie, Steve and I have had enormous fun finding out what various cars will - and won't - do.

Driving cars is only part of what is Top Gear. The program has been described as a show about "the failings of men". That's why women enjoy it. It confirms their suspicions blokes behave like dills when left alone.

Making an Australian version of one of the world's most successful television programs has required careful thought. But there are a few things rusted-on fans of Top Gear might like to know. They can sleep at night because Top Gear Australia is not replacing the UK version.

We'll be attempting some hare-brained challenges that you just can't do in the UK or in Europe - I should know because I spent a day sitting underwater in a Mini Moke wearing bandoliers of sausages.


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