Tip: an English breakfast before hot laps around the track with Chris Harris is a stupid thing to do.
Here's what can be said about the UK: it rains. A lot. And during my time there last week a serious storm was blowing through, complete with heavy winds and downpours, resulting in some downed trees and slippery asphalt. Needless to say, I was slightly concerned that laps around the Top Gear test track would be deemed unsafe. Fortunately, the sun made an appearance and I was handed a helmet and instructed to sit shot gun (on the wrong side; it's the UK, remember) in a 503-hp Mercedes-AMG C63 S with Chris Harris behind the wheel.
Prayers to the ancient Egyptian sun god Ra clearly didn't go unanswered. Top Gear invited us for an exclusive sneak peak of the new season, the 24th to be exact, and for some face time with Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid as the trio begin their era hosting the world's most popular car show. Aside from the hot laps with Harris, I, along with a small handful of other auto scribes, were shown a few clips of the season opener: a road trip the three took across Kazakhstan, driving what many consider to be absolute shit boxes, of course. Their first big adventure ends with a live space-bound rocket launch in the middle of the night. Cool.
That's only the start of the seven-episode season, which also includes tackling old-school motorsport in Cuba, a road trip through America's Wild West in convertible supercars, and even some nutso effort to convert an ugly South Korean van into a Monaco-rivaling luxury yacht. And, of course, the guys will review the hottest new cars on the planet. Think Ferrari FXX K, Aston Martin DB11, Bugatti Chiron, and the new Ford GT. Not exactly lightweights. Also be on the lookout for something oh so very Russian: an eight-wheeled, all-terrain SUV monstrosity (what LeBlanc's driving when he encounters naked people). It's Top Gear, after all. I also sat down with each host for some one-on-one chat time.
We talked cars, what Top Gear means to them, and their unique contributions to the show. Their rapport is real and they're genuinely having a blast. Nothing seemed fake. Plenty of ball busting jokes. I'll bring you those details soon, as well as Go Pro footage of Chris Harris and I taking serious advantage of that Mercedes, but let me end today's reading with this: Top Gear couldn't be in better hands. From the clips I saw and conversations I had with the guys, to the redesigned set (a Ferrari Testarossa, Lamborghini Countach and Lotus Esprit Turbo are parked on the walls), I'm totally confident this reborn Top Gear will make you giddy with delight. We're all in for some good times. The new season of Top Gear premieres in the US on March 12 at 8/7c on BBC America.