Top Gear takes a back seat as ex-presenters get into the drivers seat

AND on that bombshell...former Top Gear presenters toured packed arenas across the world to continue earning their fortunes through motoring hi-jinks.

Controversial former Advertiser reporter Jeremy Clarkson might have temporarily brought the Top Gear brand to a grinding halt, but he and his fellow presenters showed no signs of slowing down at Sheffield Arena on Friday (5) night.

I’ll be honest, I might be the paper’s motoring editor but I turned my back on the BBC series as a go-to source of automotive knowledge some time ago.

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Approaching the live show — now branded Clarkson, Hammond and May Live due to the BBC fall-out — I wasn’t overly enthused at the prospect of more hatchback football matches, burning caravans and rolling Reliant Robins.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the show was much more entertaining than I had anticipated.

Key moments are provided by Paul Swift and his precision driving team, a group of French “Wall of Death”-style motorcycle riders who managed to ride around a 12ft metal sphere at wince-inducing proximity and a pair of burning Porsche 911s.

The star turns play their part with a drift race, a race on home-made electric vehicles and the obligatory Robin Reliant race and hatchback football match.

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While the breathtaking hired-in acts leave the audience open-mouthed, it remains the laddish camaraderie between Clarkson, Richard “The Hamster” Hammond and for Oakwood Comp pupil James “Captain Slow” May that make things tick.

An ad-lib enjoyment of what they are doing, the laughs when something doesn’t quite go as planned and the in-jokes that, by now, everyone is in on are key.

It’s obvious for even the most critical spectator that these three have developed a chemistry that will be very hard for the BBC to replace.

While they made a joke of avoiding their famous Top Gear catchphrases and any reference to their former show, all three mentioned future projects.

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Part of the show was even a ham-fisted spoof of a road test segment for a potential future venture — should the trio ever want to move into TV.

In truth, that was a little too tedious, its deliberately clunky script and tedious play-acting merely highlighting the issues which turned me off the BBC show.

At their spontaneous best, Clarkson, Hammond and May are still undeniably the kings of motoring-themed entertainment and their appeal was obvious from the packed stands at Sheffield Arena.

That it took a live show without the Top Gear branding to remind me why we all switched on to them in the first place suggests there is certainly life after the BBC.