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Q&A with Chris Harris on the new series of BBC One’s Top Gear

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How did you find the race against the Formula 1 drivers at Silverstone?

First, congratulations to the production team for getting us access to the track on an F1 weekend. That doesn’t happen very often. It was magnificent to be there. They gave us three drivers who were willing and full of banter, which was great. They could have said nothing, but they were terrific fun.

Did you have a good time in Iceland?

Absolutely. I loved driving around Iceland in a blue Vauxhall Chevette. There aren’t many better-looking places on the planet than Iceland. The landscape is outrageous. It reminded us that even though we love filming in the UK and we have made the best of it over the past 18 months, we need to go abroad again because Top Gear is about selling a dream and that involves travel.

Talk us through the film you made about the DMC DeLorean.

John DeLorean is one of the most interesting characters in motoring history. They recently made a big film about him, and it’s 40 years since the car first went on the market. The car stars in Back to the Future. It’s the most famous film car in the world, even more famous than James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5. Of course, the DeLorean is a terrible car. It had flopped by the time Back to the Future came out, and that’s the joke in the film. “You’ve made a time machine.” Pause. “Out of a DeLorean!” The great sadness, of course, is that if only DeLorean could have kept the business going for another two years, it might have been the best-selling car in America because of the film.

What did you discover when you filmed at the old DeLorean factory in Belfast?

It’s a remarkable story. We spoke to some engineers and people who worked on the shop floor. At that time in Northern Ireland, during the troubles, the fact that Protestants and Catholics worked together on the DeLorean Factory floor without any issues was remarkable.

How did you find it driving a DeLorean?

It’s a car I’ve always wanted to drive because it’s such a dreadful motor vehicle. Its physics is all wrong. It’s one massive ego trip of a car. It’s a story of an ego running out of control, which I love. The moment you get people who have proper charisma and ego and can hoodwink the government into giving them a few quid, just sit back and enjoy the results!

Why do you think these more serious stories work on Top Gear?

Each one of us has an opportunity to take a subject, and maybe deal with it without having to put on the clown shoes and be funny the whole time. Those are the pieces that earn us the right to go and muck around as a threesome. That’s the light and shade of the show.

Were you daunted by the chilli challenge in the middle of nowhere?

Yes. I kept thinking, “we have got to film all day tomorrow, we’re in the middle of a moor and we don’t have any facilities.” The next morning on that moor was a disaster. We were complaining non-stop about how we were feeling!

Why does the chemistry works so well between the three of you?

On Top Gear, you want both your co-hosts to be using one arm to hug you and the other to rabbit-punch you. That works very well with the other two because they’re total idiots!