It was a brilliant experience to be invited to open the Famous and Fearless show last night – I know a lot of you watched it last night and we’ve put together a behind the scenes video further down in this post! It may not have lasted very long, and it might not have looked much to anyone expecting 20 minutes of myself filling a stadium with smoke, but it really was an amazing experience, and I’ll explain a little bit about what you saw and why you saw what you did. 🙂
We received a phone call on Wednesday afternoon from JDM Allstars organisers Niall Gunn who in turn had been in contact with Fuzzy and Andy Harris (who does all the TV motorsport safety like Top Gear and the like, plus the JDM Allstars show). Chris Evans usually starts off each show with a posh car driving onto the set and he jumps out and seamlessly starts presenting the show. For last night, they wanted something loud and spectacular and we were only too happy to be a part of that…. (Read on)
Myself, JimsFactory and Al jumped in the van at midday and drove the short hop up to Liverpool to Echo Stadium on the sea front where the show has been filmed over the last week. Considering the scale of the show, it all looked very unassuming from the outside. They were ready for us to arrive and security got us all signed in, passes sorted, and we unloaded the car and headed down to the underground production area.
Just opposite the studio are a small proportion of the econo-boxes they destroy on a nightly basis. There was another car park full of these!
Driving down to the studio floor gave me my first glimpse of the sheer scale of a complex live broadcast like this – hundreds of people each with a little job. Camera’s, Directors, ‘Celebs’, right down to runners bringing coffees to production assistants, one guy solely working on decals and stickers, one guy in charge of the cable that runs to the jibs etc.
I was ushered fairly quickly after our arrival into the studio….
… to meet Chris and get him some practice in a car that is much more powerful than his Enzo. Chris is a real car enthusiast and was really interested in the car, and a good guy to talk to. He listened and took on board what he could as quick as possible – he was even keen to make sure the car was warm. Even under such a difficult and stressful situation that is live TV, he started to get to grips to see if he could do a rolling burnout.
There were a couple of issues, as always with anything on TV. One of the problems was the surface – it’s polished concrete and as a result is actually quite slippy. I had put 60psi in the rear tyres to make it easier for Chris to drive, and we went for 2nd gear as the car has more than enough power to spin up from a standing start. I sat in with Chris for the 10 minutes we had to try and get it nailed.
Dropping the clutch, fire pouring out of the exhausts and screamers, spot lights – the whole thing was quite an awesome experience even from the passenger seat. Chris listened to me, and actually did a really good job considering he’s never done such hooliganism like things in his own cars.
A few runs in and he was getting it, but he wasn’t confident he could consistently do it – I guess no matter how much you do live TV doing something unfamiliar in an unfamiliar car in a strange and stressful environment would still be really hard work. There was another problem too, and that was doing the burnout and then slickly and quickly getting out of the car – which with the full cage is quite tricky, and with his radio mics and everything else would be complicated. Everything is so precisely timed he decided himself that he would prefer me to do the burnout myself. ARGH.
The next problem was the burnout itself. There were a few reasons we couldn’t do more than a few seconds of driving. The first one is that the car is capable of producing an unholy amount of smoke as most of you know, and in a semi-unventilated stadium filled with thousands of people breathing in Federal smoke is considered a bit of a hazard. To give you some idea, there was supposed to be a BMW tug of war, but they had to can it last minute because they produced too much tyre smoke, which would make it very difficult to film the rest of the show, and get us in serious trouble with the ever prominent, and ever annoying Health and Safety crew !
The next problem was the size of the track – it’s actually tiny (if you watch the video you can see how tight the corners are), and that would have made drifting it extremely sketchy and dangerous – remember this is LIVE TV going out to 2.5 million people. Can you imagine how bad it would look if I’d have crashed 😀
Another thing preventing us doing anything else was the timing wires on the start line – Chris actually destroyed these during the rehearsals, so to avoid this happening again I was told I must not burnout over the start line under any circumstances! So now I had limited run up and space too – brilliant!
So no pressure. I HAD to do a burnout, but make no smoke, and I had to do it classy enough to look cool, but slow and steady enough not crash, and all timed and choreographed to perfection. Really, no pressure? This was the first time I have been nervous for a couple years and my heart was already pounding… and the audience hadn’t even arrived!
The final thing that had to be solved was that no one at the TV production company had actually heard of me, or even drifting for that matter. I was given an impromptu interview by a legend of Cinema driving stunts Ray De-Haan who is the mastermind behind the Aston Martin ice scene in James Bond- Die another Day amongst many other films.
He directed me back upto the road where we unloaded and told me to do a burnout and a drift. On the road. In the dark. Ray was quite happy with the car and me – it was all confirmed, I would be opening the show in about 30 minutes. Christ.
15 minutes before broadcast and the crowd was seated and already being rallied by the Compare. The crowd volume level was unreal – I’ve never heard something so loud that’s made almost entirely by 12 year old girls. Mental! Below we’ve put together a short 7 minute video following how it all unfolded and what it looked like behind the scenes filming.
And that was it! What an incredible opportunity to do something retarded on camera in front of 2,500,000 people and it doesn’t matter if it wasn’t even 15 seconds, it was just brilliant to do it and was worth the relatively little hassle. It’s perhaps hard to expect everyone to understand that it was never going to be me doing some gymkhana for 5 minutes – it was only ever going to be opening a prime time live TV show in front of a huge audience, and that was enough for me!
Huge thanks once again to Andy Harris, Niall Gunn at JDM Allstars and ‘the dude’ for calling me ‘the guy’! 😀