On the penultimate episode of Top Gear USA’s 4th (or 5th) season, they paid homage to people whose daily drivers double as Weekend Race Cars. This episode is near and dear to my heart because I have friends who race their daily drivers on weekends. Since this is Top Gear there was budgetary restriction of $5,000. The car which performs best in various types of races would be the winner, and the driver would get to test the new Bowler EXR S in Scotland.
They kicked off the episode a hot lap of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Tanner Foust arrived in a 1999 Mazda Miata. (Shout out to the Miata lovers out there!) Rutledge Wood chose a 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX, get this – station wagon! A deceptively good choice because one of my aforementioned friends races his Mazda wagon on weekends, so Papa Bear was definitely going to give Foust a tough time.
Last but certainly not least was Adam Ferrara in a 1969 Baja Volkswagen Beetle. I was really excited about his choice until the horsepower conversation started. Then there was a #FixItJesus moment for him for a tyre change intended to overcome the Bug’s shortcomings. Again I say, “#MendItMessiah.’ They also found an interesting way to give Tanner Foust a disadvantage which he was not happy about…not like it made much of a difference anyway.
“Eighteen years of racing I don’t know what you’re so happy about! You almost got beat by me!” – Rutledge Wood
Their next stop was Pomona Fairplex to conquer a man-made mud bog. It was filthy fun to watch and the smack talk was excellent. There were a lot of slow motion spray shots and presenters artfully dodging muddy water that was full of mud. Hopefully it wasn’t full of anything else. Despite some discussion about finish line etiquette, the Bug was showing its class. Slowly but still showing. The mud bog was only a primer for the next race at the Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park.
“There are three things always kept in a Baja Bug: a fifth of Wild Turkey, a machete and a mullet.” – Tanner Foust
The three cars had to race each other on the course which is chock full of huge jumps. One can’t help remember Rut’s Show when his car rolled, and Tanner’s “I rolled a truck here” story, so it’s only Adam who hasn’t taken a tumble on this kind of race course. Mind you he has rolled a vehicle but just not here. Although the Miata had the most experienced driver, the Subie had the rally pedigree and All-Wheel Drive. It was one heck of a two-man race! Sorry, Adam.
“You started in June. It’s now August, so it took you about a month.” – Adam Ferrara
The last challenge at a familiar abandoned mining town (Doomsday Drive, etc.) for a soapbox race of sorts. It was pretty clever that the brake pedal was connected to the car horn. So the first man to tap the brakes lost the race. For the umpteenth time I was incredibly impressed with Rutledge’s driving skills. He gave Tanner a really hard time in this episode and you really had to wait to see who won in the end. Adam, bless his heart, didn’t bring a knife to a gunfight, but his gun didn’t have bullets. His 50hp Baja Bug just couldn’t keep up with the other guys, which is truly unfortunate.
The episode’s final segment was the tried-and-true Top Gear car video about the Bowler EXR S, a street legal 510hp monster with a supercharged 5.0 V8 engine. It prowled the Scottish streets before engaging extreme enduro legend, Graham Jarvis, in an off-road battle. Jarvis is my favourite rider from this particular discipline and honestly I never wanted to see a Top Gear guy lose a race as badly as I did this time…because of Graham Jarvis. One of the best parts of this race was not only showing off the Bowler but possibly introducing a wide international audience to extreme enduro racing, as Jarvis was like a magician on this Husaberg TE300. It’s a pity his face wasn’t seen but bike guys don’t usually get to smile for the camera on this show. (Yes, I’m a bit salty about that.)
It was a pretty conventional episode as far as Top Gear on History goes but that doesn’t mean it didn’t deliver. We got all the laughs, ridiculousness and geekiness to which we’ve become accustomed but there was a touch of danger too. At some points even I said, “That’s not safe!” and I’ve seen these dudes do dumb stuff before. If you’d like to see this episode, it’s available with the rest of the season on iTunes and Amazon. My thanks to the cast and fans for live-tweeting the episode that is one of my all-time favourite things to do online. The next episode is the season finale, Appalachian Trail.