Last Sunday, the second episode of Top Gear’s 17th season aired and like most of the shows these days, we were treated to some hilarious segments, a rather pointedly pointless car review, some canned and scripted studio jokes, and - for once - a surprisingly fast lap on the Kia Cee’d. Par for the course for Top Gear.
In this episode, James May will tell you things about the Aston Martin Virage that you already probably know. This is then followed by a highly-entertaining hot hatch triple threat madness along the streets of Italy that included finding a dog, an ice cube, and branch from a cedar tree.
Comedian Russ Noble also stopped by for a little chat with Jeremy - an entertaining interview by our measure - after which the former strapped on his helmet for his hot lap on board the show’s Reasonably Priced Car.
The show concludes with a sort of dream of dreams, at least as far as Jeremy Clarkson was concerned: three laps around the Monaco Grand Prix. It probably didn’t matter that the cars they were driving were the same three hot hatches they drove in Italy. At the end of the day - Clarkson especially - had a blast to finally drive their way around Monaco’s world famous street circuit.
Full details after the jump.
gallery: Aston Martin Virage
James May Dissects the Aston Martin Virage
Captain Slow had an opportunity to educate us about Aston Martin ’s new toy for the big boy, the Virage . Not content with just showing us what the car is capable of, May and the crew of Top Gear decided to run it along the two cars that the Virage slots in between: the "grown up" DB9 and the powerful and sporty DBS .
True to form, the Virage finished second in a three-car race against its DB brethren, although it didn’t necessarily blow the lid off of the DB9 the way the DBS did to both cars. Doesn’t exactly spill a vote of confidence, does it?
Unfortunately, for all of the positives of the 6.2-liter V12 Virage - it looks great, has a great interior, and it fulfills its role as the middle-of-the-pack Aston - there are still far too many bumps to give the car glowing reviews. Suffice to say, as with every other Aston Martin on its line-up, the Virage feels a lot like a sports car trapped in a luxury car’s body, although it doesn’t feel too luxurious with the substandard handling. If the British automaker wants us to believe that we’re getting the best of both worlds in one body, then they should start making a concerted effort in giving us a car that achieves their objectives.
The Stig Gets His Turn On The Virage
If there’ one man that can tame the Aston Martin Virage around the Top Gear track, it’s the show’s resident mashed potato fearing and women’s wrestling loving test driver, the Stig.
True to form, Stig manages to keep the Virage well behaved, at least for the most part. There were a few fish tails along the way, but the car’s ceramic brakes certainly did their part in keeping the lap as clean as it possibly could’ve been. In the end, the Virage posted a lap time of 1:24.4, which in true from, is half-a-second slower than the DBS’ time of 1:23.9.
The Italian Job, Top Gear Style
The main segment of the show was loads entertaining and a far cry from the scripted mess that they are in the studio. For this particular segment, each of the hosts were given the opportunity to pick their favorite hot hatchback in the market and as their personalities suggested, Clarkson opted for the boisterous Citroen DS3 Racing , Hammond went for the pint-sized Fiat Abarth 500 , and May chose the ho-hum Renault Clio Sport . The first challenge issued to the trio was to try navigating their way around the walled city of Lucca, Italy and out into the main streets. It should’ve been a painless task for a small hot hatch, but as it turned out, the streets inside the city made those little sportsters look like the Marauder from the first episode. In the end, Clarkson managed to get out of the city first just ahead of Hammond. As for May, he ended driving his Clip Sport on top of the walls of the city. Go figure.
After making their out of Lucca, the three hosts were then given a list of items they needed to have in their car on their way to the finish line, including a branch from a cedar tree, ice cubes, a photo of as many people that you can put inside the car, a CD from a service station, a bicycle, a vine, and a dog.
At this point, everything descended into straight up comedy as all three scurried around Italy looking for the items and trying to get them to fit in their car by whatever means necessary, including May’s rather ingenious, albeit ill-fated ice cube transportation device.
Hilarious segment all the way around that had us chuckling more times than we would care to count.
Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car
Comedian Ross Noble took his turn piloting the Kia Cee’d for the "Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car" segment. After a few bumps along the way from his first lap around the track, the long-haired comedian/biker extraordinaire managed to get his act together for his second try, posting a blistering time of 1:43.5. This was good enough to be the second fastest celebrity on the Kia Cee’d .
Hot Hatches Parade Around Monaco
After their scavenger hunt in Tuscany, the three hosts then traveled to the jewel of the Mediterranean, Monte Carlo, to run their hot hatches around the Monaco Grand Prix. The sheer thrill of running around the street circuit of Monaco clearly had Jeremy Clarkson excited. Unfortunately, his two colleagues wanted to socialize with the locals more than they wanted to get to know the race track, professing ignorance along the way by referring to F1 driver Timo Glock as "Tim O’Glock".
Before setting up for their lap times, the three had to get acquainted with the track so they had a few people that were familiar with the lay-out riding shotgun to give them some tips on how to conquer the street circuit. Joining Clarkson was F1 head honcho Bernie Ecclestone. Hammond, meanwhile, had Red Bull team boss Christian Horner by his side while May was accompanied by former Renault boss Flavio Briatore who seemed far more interested in praying to Jesus Christ than he did tutoring Captain Slow.
The race ended up following the same order that we’ve come to know over the years. Clarkson zoomed ahead of the rest while Hammond tried valiantly to catch up. As for May, he seemed to enjoy the lap around the track more than he did actually posting the fastest lap.
Tallying up the point totals from the Hot Hatch Challenge, Clarkson racked up the most points with 38 after scoring 10 in the Lucca Escape, five in the Scavenger Hunt, 13 for the number of people inside the car, and 10 for posting the fastest lap time in Monaco. May finished second with 17 points while Hammond was pretty much disqualified from just about every challenge.
Check back with us next week as we move on to Episode 3 of Top Gear’s 17th season!