Andrew Frankel has been racing cars for over 20 years and testing them for nearer to 30. He is senior contributing writer to both Autocar and MotorSport magazines, sits on the Car of the Year jury and was chief car tester for the Sunday Times for 15 years. He cites driving and writing as the only disciplines for which he has any talent and therefore considers himself vocationally employed. When he is not working he lives quietly in the Wye Valley with his family, a small and unimportant accumulation of cheap old cars and some sheep.
The new series of Top Gear has started filming features. This I know because a friend of mine is doing some work on it but, either because he’s too damn professional or he just doesn’t know, there is as yet no news about who is going to be standing next to The Ginger One when it returns to the airwaves in the Spring.
One thing of which I am sure is that if the new format is to work, whichever sidekicks are employed, they need to know about cars. In fact they need to be absolutely obsessed with cars – not the image or idea of them – but actual cars. As too many TG presenters from its pre-Clarkson, Hammond and May life found out, you can’t present your way out of not being that bothered about them.
So how do the BBC’s talent scouts spot that potential, and sift the passionate from the merely plausible? Were it me, I’d devise a short quiz, put it to each candidate and if he or she were unable to complete accurately, say, 70 per cent of it, I’d show them the door. The questions would be tough, but for this job so they should be. Below are just some I might be inclined to ask and, to stop anyone nicking them, below that are the answers. Feel free to have a go yourself and let us know how you did. And you’re right, we’ll have no idea if you cheated or not.
- Which is quicker around a dry track, a Pirelli P Zero Corsa or Trofeo?
- How much downforce can a McLaren P1 generate at 150mph?
- Who was James Hunt’s co-driver in the 1976 Tour of Britain?
- How do you adjust the driver’s seat in a LaFerrari?
- Which has more power, a Porsche Macan Turbo, or a Cayenne GTS?
- Who is the boss of the Ariel Motor Company?
- With which car does the new Fiat 124 Spider share a platform?
- How did Jo Siffert famously describe his relationship with team-mate Pedro Rodriguez?
- What kind of establishment will you find in the middle of the Masta kink on the old Spa circuit?
- What engine is Mercedes-Benz using for its new GT3 AMG GT race car?
- What term does Volvo use to make its plug-in hybrid XC90 sound more exciting?
- Why does Ferrari say the 488GTB is effectively 150bhp more powerful than the 458, despite the on paper difference being just 100bhp?
- Why won’t Bentley use leather from cows, but only bulls?
- Who holds the record for the longest set of skid marks ever laid down at Goodwood?
- Name car manufacturers founded in both Wales and Scotland?
- Who overtook the most cars on the opening lap of the 1993 European Grand Prix at Donington?
- What are the names of Lamborghini and Ferrari’s most fabled test drivers?
- Who drove Steve McQueen’s Porsche 908/2 camera car at Le Mans in 1970?
- In which city is Aston Martin’s V12 engine built?
- What is the fastest ever lap time recorded at the Nurburgring Nordschleife?
- The Trofeo
- Noel Edmonds
- You don’t. It has an adjustable pedal box instead
- The Cayenne GTS
- Simon Saunders
- Mazda MX-5
- ‘Fine, except every time we get on the track the little Mexican bastard tries to kill me.’
- A chip shop
- The old normally aspirated 6.2-litre V8
- Twin engine
- Because while the 458 develops max power at a single engine speed, the 488GTB maintains it across a 2000rpm band, meaning that during all out acceleration, the 488 driver never has less than the full 660bhp, while the 458 driver has an average of 510bhp.
- Stretch marks
- John Surtees
- Gilbern and Argyll
- Rubens Barrichello
- Valentino Balboni and Dario Benuzzi
- Jonathan Williams and Herbert Linge
- 6min 11sec, by Stefan Bellof in a Porsche 956 during qualifying for the 1983 Nurburgring 1000kms
Lead photograph courtesy of BBC America