You can stop crying into your beer. After a six-month hiatus, History’s Top Gear has mercifully returned with new episodes to make us laugh, smile and cry in the name of love of the automobile.
From muscle cars to rally cars, the Grand Canyon to Germany, it’s going to be one crazy summer. To prepare for this momentous occasion, BFTV scoured the country (okay, the state of California) to catch up with hosts Adam Ferrara, Tanner Foust and Rutledge Wood, and talk a little Top Gear.
Are they as upended by the split seasons as we are? “It can be a little confusing,” Rutledge laughed. “We’re very lucky to have the loyal viewers that we do. The three of us try to put a lot of effort in to make sure people know when it’s coming back and where. For me, [June 3rd]’s a great day, because that is my daughter Elsie’s birthday.” So if you’re reading this, jump on Twitter and wish her a happy birthday, would you?
You might also want to say a few prayers for the guys, because as usual, they’re doing crazy things with cars for our entertainment and their own amusement. “This season has been particularly a lot of fun, because of the cars we go to drive,” reflected Adam. “I got to drive a 700 horsepower ’68 Camaro. That’s a drag car. That was just incredible.
“I’ve never been so nervous as yesterday,” he added. “I drove Fred Astaire’s 1927 Rolls-Royce Phantom I that they let out of the Petersen [Automotive] Museum for me. That’s the most terrified I’ve ever been. It’s a piece of history.”
“I know we’ve done some cool stuff,” Tanner said. “We’ve been to the far corners of the continental United States – northeastern Maine and northwestern Washington state. But we’re doing a lot of shooting in Europe and getting on the Autobahn and the Nurburgring, doing some really cool stuff with cars that are nice cars that you normally would never see here.”
Europe being the home of the original UK edition of Top Gear, one of the most-watched programs in the world. We’ve seen UK hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May visit the US numerous times, but this will be the first time that our show is coming to their home turf. What were the expectations going into that trip?
“It’s funny because of the way that our show is airing in other countries,” Rutledge said. “It’s fascinating to see…We sort of forget that other people can see the show in other parts of the world. What you hope is that all the people that we see over there will love the show and have seen it. We always try to be very delicate in the way we do things. I’m really excited to get over there.”
For all the new stuff that you’re about to see in these fresh episodes, some things about Top Gear will always remain the same…such as Rutledge freaking out. “When you see what happened down in Gainesville,” he teased, “That was one of those [moments]. I’ll leave that up to your imagination. Apparently someone on our show loves that show Fear Factor.
“I then got a different kind of a scare when I stood up a Dodge Challenger drag car,” he added. “When I say stood up, you could see the entire underside of the car. That was a different kind of scary.”
Then there’s Tanner finding ways to torment Adam. Be on the lookout for a segment where Tanner gets to be Adam’s driver. “It’s sometimes better than him driving himself, I think,” Tanner joked, but he was behind the wheel for good reason: the car involved is a pricey one. “I don’t even know what that car cost, but it was pretty expensive. I know that the wood inside was $50,000.”
“I beat him up around the road and had fun,” he added. “The episode where I took Rutledge in the limo trying to drift it, it’s kind of like that scenario. I will say Adam didn’t last as long as Rutledge.”
What’s Adam doing? Being Adam Ferrara – almost completely fearless and prone to property destruction. Asked what he’s learned from his Top Gear years, he told us, “I learned that, Tanner put it very well. ‘You don’t have a risk management system,'” he laughed. “He goes, ‘You come in and you just do it. You just barrel your way through things. When things start going bad, you keep going.'”
Oh, and enduring plenty of Paul Blart: Mall Cop jokes from Rutledge. “He’s not going to stop,” he quipped. “It doesn’t matter. He’s not going to stop at all. Now he’s making Nurse Jackie jokes.” (Adam, of course, having been promoted to series regular on the Showtime drama for this season.)
It’s the guys’ job to push the limits of what cars can do, and that’s fantastic, but do you ever wonder how they explain the possibly life-threatening things they’re about to attempt to other people? We asked Rutledge how his wife reacts when he tells her what he’s up to. “I think my mom is more worried about it than my wife is most of the time,” he said. “My wife, Rachel, is so wonderful to me. She knows I’m having the time of my life. She’s my biggest cheerleader.
“I have had, on more one occasion, to call my life insurance guy to make sure these shenanigans are going to be covered,” he added with a laugh. “That’s not my favorite thing to do. And they took a couple days once to get back to me.”
That’s not to say his loved ones aren’t a little worried for him, especially when they actually see the final cut. “Sometimes my wife will freak out and I am sitting on the couch watching the show with her,” he told us. “She’s nervous about if I’m going to make it [and] I’m sitting right next to her.”
All three hosts have had plenty to do during their time off. Rutledge returned to defend his title at this year’s Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race and welcomed a new baby. Adam worked on Nurse Jackie and continues to book stand-up appearances around the country. Tanner tried his hand at truck racing and, by the time you read this, will be gearing up for X Games Austin. But even with successful individual careers, they always come back to Top Gear.
It’s obvious that they love the insanity, they love each other, and they love the audience. We might have had to track them all down because they’re so busy, but these three amazing, funny, down-to-earth guys are always happy to sit back and talk about the opportunities the show has given them and how proud they are of what this little spinoff that could has done since it first debuted almost four years ago.
“I just want [the show] to be something people tell their friends about,” Rutledge continued. “You wouldn’t believe how many parents would tell me ‘We watch Top Gear with our kids.’ It’s really touching for the three of us. We didn’t know that a 17-year-old girl would want to watch the show with her dad. It’s just cool to feel like we’re a part of a conversation for so many different age groups.”
Top Gear has certainly evolved since its premiere, and so have its hosts. Tanner achieved even more accolades in motorsport before leaving his longtime Global Rallycross team to join forces with Volkswagen this offseason, and then there’s the truck racing. Adam has Nurse Jackie and is working on his second stand-up comedy special. Rutledge is a dad again, plus he finally won a professional race. Yet the fundamental DNA of the show remains the same: three of the best guys that we know, sharing the same passion for cars strong enough that they’re willing to do anything and everything they can with them. It’s just like getting together with your friends, except they have a bigger budget and more plaid shirts.
Do they ever think they’ll hit their limit? A time when they can’t think of anything crazier to do or any place they haven’t gone? It doesn’t seem like it. “I think we’ve started that insanity and we’re comfortable there,” Adam said. “I don’t know if there is a limit. Every time we think we’ve done everything, someone comes up with a better idea and we’re like, ‘Oh, then we can do this.’ So it’s collective lunacy. One guy starts with an idea, then the rest of us throw some more crazy ideas into it, and it just builds up.”
“I think when you get to season four and season five of a show like this that has all these quirky ideas, you start to wonder if it’s going to run dry,” Tanner agreed. “And I think this year, there’s an epiphany that that’s not going to happen. It can never really run dry, becase you’re dealing with three individuals that are not really acting like anybody. They’re just being themselves.
“We all have genuinely such different tastes, such different opinions on things, that when the producers write the idea for how it’s going to go on the road and give us our challenges and things like that, the meat that’s on the bones is all so genuine that it feels like you could just keep doing it for forever.” Hopefully they will, because we can’t think of any place else we’d rather be, then rejoining them on the road.
New episodes of Top Gear begin tonight at 9 PM ET/PT on History (check your local listings for specific channel); after each episode airs, check back here for our recaps. For more with the guys, be sure you’re following them on Twitter (@AdamFerrara, @TannerFoust and @RutledgeWood).
Photo Credit: History Channel