In February 2012, the Top Gear on History hosts recorded an Autoblog podcast. Not only was it cheeky fun but gave teasers for this week’s Rut’s Show. Maybe it’s because this was the series’ twenty-fifth episodiversary and they were happy to have made it this far; but, the Top Gear producers let Rutledge Wood do whatever he wanted. As much as possible on a family-friendly, motoring show anyway. As a Speed Network personality, Rutledge travels with NASCAR and is familiar with the hoopla that goes with professional auto racing. Thus he endeavoured to live out his race car driver fantasy and compete in the SuperLite Off-Road Racing Championship. With Adam Ferrara in tow as his partner-in-crime, the boys first headed to the Glen Helen Speedway in California. At its dirt track, they were given a crash course in off-road truck racing by Ricky Johnson. The guys were decked out in fire suits and strapped in to their SuperLite trucks. These machines are designed to take a licking and keep on ticking. A better, economical option than the $0.5 million Rally car Tanner Foust drives. The presenters still displayed their trademark juvenile behaviour. They really are boys with toys.
“What the [bleep] am I doing?” – Rutledge Wood
Rutledge’s desire to be a professional race car driver like his buddies, proved to be simultaneously a really big compliment and a really bad idea. They may not have been bounding through a forest, but this man-made track was full of its own perils. As Rutledge was strapped into the seat on race day in Surprise, Arizona, the magnitude finally dawned on him. Racing cars is fun and there are great accolades for the winners. However, it’s not without great risk. Quite frankly, I don’t know how they convinced him that this was any less dangerous than what they do in NASCAR, IndyCar, X-Games or ERC. It was a surprise when Rutledge crashed, and he crashed spectacularly. Luckily, there was no permanent physical damage but it served as a warning for wannabe racers. Just because you spend time around race cars and know a lot about them, doesn’t mean you should compete. Proper race car drivers deserve every ounce of respect for what they do…even the ones who don’t win anything.
The wackiness continued, as Rutledge and Adam spent a late night working for London’s ScooterMan San Francisco’s Zingo. This is a designated driver service that provides an option to folks who are too tired or inebriated to drive. Zingo’s driver arrives on a Di Blasi Folding Motorbike and takes the wheel of the client’s car, before scooting away into the night. Rutledge figured this was the best way to drive people’s cool cars without incurring any cost. Naturally, the boys made a contest out of who could collect the most tips. With screen time for only three jobs each, the competition was on! In a city famous for its characters, we got a highly entertaining Top Gear version of Taxicab Confessions. Rutledge ended up in a Volkswagen Beetle outfitted for a zombie apocalypse, a 2009 Grand Cherokee Hemi and a Honda Civic. Adam got in the driver’s seat of a Bentley Continental Flying Spur, a beautiful 1966 Mustang and a Dodge Ram. Most of the clients had a really good time, and it was a memorable night for the hosts.
Rut and Adam’s big adventure concluded with a scientific experiment. Well, as scientific as they could get. Rutledge was sure he had come up with a sure-fire solution to range anxiety. This is when electric car owners are unsure that they’ll make it to a recharge station, before their batteries die. His solution was not so much high-tech, as it was hare-brained. At a Compton, California airport runway, Adam stood into the back of a pickup truck, with a gas-powered electrical generator and a cord duct-taped to a football (not soccer). He would throw it to Rutledge, who followed in a modified MG MGB car. It seemed pretty harmless, except for the truck’s driver. Some say he naturally faces magnetic north, and that all of his legs are hydraulic. It was The Stig, and he only knows who to drive at warp speed. It was a hilarious display of slapstick comedy for our entertainment, at poor Adam’s expense. Tanner’s contribution in this episode was limited to smarty-pants comments during the scripted studio bits. It was strange for the whole hour go by, without seeing him in a vehicle. In fact, the three only appeared together once, at the very end of the show.
“All right, Stig. Nice and easy. [tires screech…thud] Geez!” – Adam Ferrara
This week’s celebrity guest for “Big Star, Small Car” was film and television actress, Lake Bell. She is also an automotive critic for The Hollywood Reporter and self professed ‘car nut’ with a racing pedigree. Ladies have not fared well on this test track. With the exception of Arlene Tur, who blazed to the number one spot with a time that was only recently surpassed by Patrick Warburton, and then by Stephen Moyer. Unlike Michelle Rodriguez who was neither fast nor furious; and Bridget Marquardt whose time is fixed so firmly at the bottom of the Star Lap Times board that it’s occasionally disappeared. Unfortunately, Miss Bell’s dazzling interview didn’t accompany a dazzling lap. This was a disappointment, as I had hoped she’d add some much-needed oestrogen to the top half of the board. Rutledge and Adam communicated with viewers via Twitter and Facebook during the episode’s debut. Both men have been very good at following up with fans on Twitter and Facebook. Next week is the season finale’s Worst Cars.