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Top Gear Series Six | Interview with Freddie Flintoff

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How did you find it bobsledding down an Olympic run in a Sinclair C5?

This series has been so much fun. We are all finding our feet and getting to know each other better. The producers are tailoring stuff for us more, which is disconcerting given some of the stuff they’re asking me to do! I’ve done some risky things before, like bungee jumping off a dam in a car and the Wall of Death, but this year they’ve been upping the stakes. When they said I was going to be bobsledding in a Sinclair C5, I was a little bit blasé about it at first. I’ve done the skeleton before. With that, you just lie there and move very fast downhill. But I realised very quickly that there is a lot more skill to driving a bobsleigh.

Tell us more.

I had to cram in a lot of stuff very fast. I was thrown in at the deep end. During training on a bobsleigh, I turned it over and was travelling on my head at one point. But somehow I managed to flip it over and get back on the rails. But the C5 was a different animal…

How you feel at the top of your first run in a Sinclair C5?

I was nipping a bit because I had no point of reference. I’m not a bobsledder. When you’re waiting to go, you’re thinking, “I have no idea what will happen.” Part of that is frightening, and part of that is brilliant! Then you trundle down the ramp and you’re off. You’re pulling levers and hoping you’re doing the right thing. It really took some handling. At the same time, you’re trying to talk because you’re making a TV show. It was stupid – it was like driving a car very fast on a tight track where you weren’t quite sure where you were going. But before you know it, it’s all over and you just want to do it again and again.

Why is that?

You just want to get better. It’s the sportsman in you – you want to do well. I must’ve done 20 runs, and I kept wanting to improve. At first, you’re hitting the walls and you want to do it cleaner. The camera crew found it all very funny. We have such a good relationship – they are like mates laughing at me. They are hoping I will bang a few walls – not even for the show, just so they can hammer me when I get to the bottom! It was great fun. It was an incredible few days.

What motivates you to do these incredible stunts?

I have never really had a job, but I’ve always managed to do things I enjoy, and Top Gear is another one of those. We are all motivated to make the best show we can and push boundaries. We also have incredible life experiences. We get to travel to all these amazing places and do all these amazing things. It’s such a buzz.

How do you explain the great chemistry between the three of you?

We did a practice day before we started filming properly, and it was evident then that there was something there. Now, after three or four years together, it’s getting stronger. There are things we all do differently and better than the others, but we appreciate each other and play to each other’s strengths. The show is also more tailored to us now, which is nice. People look into our chemistry too much – for me it’s quite simple. The other two are just good lads, and that transfers to the screen. You can try too hard to find that chemistry. It just comes naturally. I’ve had that in a dressing room. If you get some good lads together, you do well. That’s essentially what we have on Top Year.

Can you amplify that?

Even though Chris is posh and Paddy and I aren’t, we get on very well and have a similar sense of humour. We each have massive respect for what the others have done. Chris and I are huge Phoenix Night fans, and Take Me Out is a guilty pleasure in our house. Chris has an unbelievable status in the car world. However, Paddy has no interest in cricket, so he has zero respect for me!

Why has the show lasted so long?

People have a very strong relationship with cars, and cars are always changing. For instance, electric cars are now coming in. So on Top Gear, viewers are seeing something they really like, presented by three people who are mildly amusing. It’s also a very simple formula. Noel Edmonds and Angela Rippon did it back in the day, and then Jeremy, James and Richard did it very successfully. I used to watch them. From a sporting point of view, if you play for England, you’re always thankful to people who come before you. You also know people will come after you, so you have to maintain it and keep it for the future. So I’m very grateful to the people have gone before. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. Hopefully in the future, somebody will think the same of us.

What gives you such a thrill about working on Top Gear?

I really love cars. I’m not like Chris, who knows the entire workings of an engine. He loves a gearbox and will talk you through torque till you fall asleep. But I love a whole range of cars, from supercars to the Ford Cortina, and I love the opportunity to drive so many different ones. My knowledge and my driving ability are getting a lot better. Paddy and I will never be as good at driving as Chris – he is frustratingly good – but we’re chipping away and improving all the time.

Anything else?

Working on this show, you get the opportunity to do things you never thought you’d do and things that never previously existed. Watching the footage back, it looks incredible. The cameramen are geniuses. It’s crazy. The places we go, the cars we drive and the people we meet are amazing. The producers will come up with an idea that is completely bonkers. A part of you thinks, “That’s stupid!” But then another part of you thinks, “Why wouldn’t I do that? What an opportunity!”

So you’re always keen to grasp these opportunities?

Absolutely! When I played cricket, that’s all I wanted to do and I loved it. But I finished at 31, and then I stumbled into telly. Since I’ve been doing it, I realise it’s an amazing way of doing stuff that I never knew existed. When I’m an old man, I don’t want to look back at missed opportunities. I’d sooner fail at something and get it wrong than not have a go. So far I’ve not been found out, although that day may be coming closer!

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