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All roads lead to China for Top Gear

By JULIAN SHEA | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-23 07:57
Freddie Flintoff, Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinness (from left) pose in a promo photo for their second series presenting Top Gear. [Photo/BBC]

China's position as a world leader in the auto industry and engineering mean that it is inevitable that the BBC's top-rated motoring program Top Gear will visit the country soon, the show's presenters have told China Daily.

Speaking at the launch of the new series of the hugely popular program, which has a worldwide audience of 350 million viewers, presenters Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris said their never-ending search for new roads to explore and their famously adventurous driving challenges were bound to lead them to China.

"China has some amazing roads and in terms of engineering it's the most ambitious country in the world. The things they build are outrageous," said Harris.

"Also, as a petrol head, I have a good understanding of the Chinese car market. A lot of people don't realize how much of a foothold China is getting in the global car industry, especially in terms of what they're doing with electric vehicles.

"There's loads going on there. It's the biggest car market in the world and we have to reflect that. It's a new canvas for us to paint on, so we'll definitely get there."

McGuinness backed up his co-presenter's comments. "We do speak a lot about going to China, and we will, definitely," he added. "It's just about setting up the right challenge, so if anyone in China wants to suggest something, please get in touch!"

The new series, the 28th in the program's history, will be the second featuring the latest presenting lineup of motoring journalist Harris, stand-up comedian McGuinness and former England cricket star Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff.

After a rocky few years following the departure of the previous long-serving presenting team, the latest lineup and their lighthearted manner has proved to be a huge hit with viewers worldwide.

"I knew fairly early on that it was going to work," said Harris. "I was part of the process picking them (Flintoff and McGuinness) and I was over the moon, as I'm a massive cricket fan. Fred is a hero of mine, and also I'm a huge fan of Phoenix Nights (the television comedy series where McGuinness made his name) so I knew it had the potential to be brilliant.

"On our first filming day, the way the jokes started flying about, within a minute you could tell it was going to work. It was identifiably Top Gear, but with our own take on things-there's no point trying to do it like the old presenters had. We had our own chemistry and our own language."

The show features many overseas trips to take on extreme driving challenges, and in their first series together the trio traveled as far afield as Ethiopia. But the new series starts with something even more extreme than any roads they have previously encountered-Flintoff doing a bungee jump over a dam in Switzerland, in a car.

"It would be hard not to talk about his bungee jump," said Harris. "It's not something I would ever choose to do, but it makes for great television."

McGuinness added: "No matter how many times I watch it I still get a sickly feeling."

And there is no danger of Top Gear running out of challenges or material any time soon. "There's always another road, another country that has built something you didn't know about," said Harris.

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