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'Top Gear' co-host says new show can beat Jeremy Clarkson

DUNSFOLD AERODROME, England — The brand new Top Gear team unveiled the remodelled version of the show Wednesday, and there was fighting talk ahead of the season premiere this weekend.

With comparisons to Clarkson, Hammond and May’s legacy and their new show on Amazon Prime inevitable, motor racing team owner Eddie Jordan was perhaps the most bullish when asked about how the reimagined version of Top Gear stacks up.

“Of course we want to beat the other guys,” he insisted from the stage alongside Chris Evans, Chris Harris, Sabine Schmitz, Rory Reid and a typically silent Stig at the event at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, the show’s long term location.

"Yes we admire what they did, there's no question about that," he said. "The previous show was brilliant. But I think this will be a surprise for you guys. When you actually see what we did in South Africa and all the other shows I've seen, we're going to be better."

While the Top Gear trio of old have had a very successful past, “this show will be more successful to a wider audience,” he insisted. “I believe there is a better teamwork here."

On the whole, however, it looks pretty much like business as usual. The venue — host to so much blokey banter in the past — looks similar to the set we're used to, with the addition of a raised viewing platform and a video wall.

The test track, meanwhile, has a few surprises added, and the presenting line-up is bigger and more diverse, but the tweaks to the winning format seem incremental.

Two beat-up Reliant Rialtos in the studio served as reminders of the Robin Reliant abuse we've seen in Top Gears of yesteryear.

As for the big set pieces, they're all fast cars with guns on the roof, fighter jets and muddy ATVs, and a fair amount of comic asides.

Celeb guests? They still feature, and it's Gordon Ramsey and Jesse Eisenberg up first. The "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment is now called "Star in a Rallycross Car."

The BBC has thrown a lot at this new show, and its commercial arm BBC Worldwide is counting on its continued success globally.

While the first episode is showing on BBC America on Monday May 30 and BBC 2 in the UK the night before, it's also going out to 82 countries in six continents within 72 hours.

Only six episodes have been produced, and Evans told Mashable that was because the team were learning as they went along. 

"We wanted to make six really good shows," he insisted. 

He also discussed the recent filming of the studio part of the first episode, which was a fractious affair if tabloid reports of him swearing at audience members are to be believed. Everyone was "tense" during the live segment, he admitted, but insisted they were usual first night nerves for anyone who cares about their work.

One aspect of the new Top Gear that takes a few strides on from its petrolhead past, however, is the inclusion of electric cars.

Rory Reid, who is set to host the follow up show Extra Gear on BBC3 and the iPlayer with Chris Harris, named the Tesla Model X as his favourite car from filming and the hosts spent some time discussing the future for e-mobility — without a hint of contempt. Clarkson would not approve.

Evans also talked about autonomous cars, but said that none of the manufacturers wanted to give them any to test. He also questioned how popular they would ever be with fans of the show. "Fans of cars don't want them because they like driving," he said. 

Chris Harris and The Stig were offering trips round the test track in a variety of fast cars during the day, and Mashable took a ride with both in a Ford Focus RS.

A dozen loops, several chicanes and some screaming turns at speeds of over 100 mph later and we could start to see why Evans had to pull over to vomit at one point during filming for the show. It was stomach-churning stuff.

Top Gear returns to BBC 2 on Sunday night and on BBC America on Monday, May 30.

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