Top Gear (2002) s18e02 Episode Script

Top Gear Goes to China

Tonight, * skid.
Richard * tyres And James get kicked in the face.
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 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.
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 B52 bomber had flown past.
It was time to me to lead the grid of 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.
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 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.
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! 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 ' 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.
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, "Hell, I'll go pay to watch that.
" 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.
"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.
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? 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.
" 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.
God! It's the elephant car.
It is.
I'm so 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 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 car.
Of course, with this you get the magnificent jackhammer 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.
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.
BMW M3.
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! 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.
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.
Anyway 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? 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.
It's magnificent.
Here.
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 X/19 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," "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, "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? Me too, yeah! 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.
Yes, very cut.
And there we are, across the line.
What do you reckon? 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 Two One.
Fastest ever! Fastest ever! That's not bad.
I just knew when I started Are you serious? Absolutely serious.
You were apparently running at who, by the way, has just hung himself, and then on the last lap, popped in at 1.
42.
1.
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 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 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.
Right.
You see one yet God! James! '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.
' That's reverse.
That's gone into nought, fifth, second.
First, that was it.
Fourth.
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 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.
If I'd shown this to you and asked you when it was built, when would you have said? older than me.
Yeah.
Poor quality! Come on, redeeming feature, James.
There must be a redeeming feature.
It's character-building.
- No, because I mean this - 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.
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.
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 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.
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.