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“I Felt Pressure” — Is It Top Gear Australia’s Job to Stop Men From Speeding?

Top Gear Australia's Blair Joscelyne, Jonathan LaPaglia, and Beau Ryan

The original Top Gear is the Sistine Chapel of car shows. Not only does the UK series have access to the most prestigious automobiles, its hosts discuss them with endless wit and charm. There’s a reason that Australia attempted to remake the show on two separate occasions — and there’s a reason the previous attempts failed. 

In 2008, SBS took a crack at making an Australian version of Top Gear, but the series was met with lukewarm reviews and inconsistent ratings. The Nine network gave Top Gear Australia a go in 2011, but the series failed to establish a fanbase. 

This year, Paramount is stepping up to the plate, and they’ve enlisted the help of The Amazing Race’s Beau Ryan, Australian Survivor’s Jonathan LaPaglia, and Mighty Car Mods’ Blair Joscelyne. The hosts are all motorheads with extensive presenting experience, and they’re hoping this is the secret ingredient to making Top Gear Australia a success. 

Top Gear Australia's Blair Joscelyne, Beau Ryan, and Jonathan LaPaglia
Paramount

LaPaglia, Ryan, and Joscelyne all believe they have what it takes to resurrect Top Gear Australia from the dead. Speaking with The Latch, they explained that the chemistry they shared on set elevated the show’s prerequisite car shenanigans.

“On set, the chemistry was there, it was there straightaway,” Ryan said. “We hung out every second of every day for just under four months. We had 130 shoot days. You can fake chemistry for a couple of days, but you can’t fake it for 130 days. If you can, you are seriously talented. And LaPaglia is seriously talented.” 

Top Gear Australia's Jonathan LaPaglia
Paramount

“It’s a misnomer that Top Gear is a car show,”  LaPaglia chimed in. “It’s really a buddy show about three guys travelling around, having fun, and doing stupid shit in fast cars.”

Joscelyne agreed with his fellow hosts, and gave credit to the crew for making the hosts’ banter pop. 

“One of the most exciting things about working on this version of the show is that we made it with a lot of the key UK crew members,” Joscelyne said. “They’ve been making the show for years and years. They brought decades of experience to this production. They also helped us scale up our version. We’ve been to countries all over the planet. We’ve been to South America, we’ve been to Europe, and we’ve even been to Albion Park.” 

Top Gear Australia
Paramount

However, while Top Gear Australia has taken a lot of inspiration from its European counterpart, there are some aspects of the original that they may have chosen not to export.

Top Gear Australia Versus Toxic Masculinity 

Like the Sistine Chapel, the original version of Top Gear didn’t emerge from the earth fully formed. The golden era of this show was created by the hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May. Between 2003 and 2015, these men used their charisma and witticisms to make Top Gear a cultural institution. 

Still, this version of Top Gear isn’t above critique. To put it politely, this era had a slew of controversies over the course of its 12-year run. One of the more consistent critiques levied at the show was that it promoted dangerous driving. At times, some of the hosts sped on public roads, and they frequently pressured one another to engage in dangerous behind-the-wheel behaviour. 

In the UK, speeding kills and injures 54 young people every week, and young men in the country are particularly prone to driving dangerously. While the golden era of Top Gear isn’t directly responsible for the foolish decisions of young people, it certainly helped normalise such high-risk acts. 

Beau Ryan, Jonathan LaPaglia, and Blair Joscelyne couldn’t speak to these issues, but they were keen to discuss how their own show depicts driving fast in fast cars. They all know that speeding is an epidemic in Australia, and that some young Aussies feel peer-pressured to drive in a reckless fashion.

Top Gear Australia's Beau Ryan, and Blair Joscelyne
Paramount

“In Australia, pride and ego are intense things, especially for young men,” Ryan said. “There are moments when you jump behind a wheel and those feelings kick in. You don’t want to look bad. You want to win. But whenever those feelings crept onto set, we reminded each other why we were there. We were all filming a TV show, we were all presenters, and we all wanted to have fun.”

“Safety was always at the forefront, and we were very supportive of each other,” he continued. “We didn’t make it competitive. Yes, there were times where there was a bit of competition. But when push came to shove, and something could have been dangerous, we were more supportive than pushy.”

“I remember during one of the first shoots we did, LaPaglia was driving a Ferrari Testarossa around a circuit, and he did a great job,” Joscelyne said. “I hadn’t seen him driving like that yet. On screen, I went up and told him he did great. I wasn’t like, ‘Oh mate, you could have gone faster.’ So we always had each other’s backs.” 

Top Gear Australia
Paramount

“Sometimes I felt pressure,” Ryan added. “I’m not going to lie. Seeing both those guys drive so well, it would sometimes make me feel that way. Especially LaPaglia in that Testarossa. That was one of the best things I’ve ever seen.”

“But fortunately, he was also a s**t host,” Ryan joked. “He reminded me that you can’t be good at everything.”

How to Curb Young Men From Driving Too Fast

Across Australia, one-third of all speeding drivers and riders who die in fatal crashes are males between the ages of 17 and 25. According to Blair Joscelyne, while the media can help curb such incidents from taking place, the message of a TV show can’t be a silver bullet. Joscelyne is a huge advocate for making track days more accessible, days where everyday Aussies are allowed to drive their cars around pre-established racing tracks.

Top Gear Australia
Paramount

“In this country, there needs to be more opportunities for people to go and drive their cars off the street,” Joscelyne said. “Sometimes people end up going to the street because there’s no other options. This is why skidpans, track days, and driver training days are so important and need to be so accessible. In Japan, you can go up to a track and you can pay by the hour. It’s usually around 50 bucks. You can then put your car on the track and drive it. You don’t need to do all these waivers, and you don’t need to book months in advance.” 

“One of the criticisms I have of Australia is there’s not enough motorsport that is grassroots, motorsports that are open to everybody,” he added. “It’s really important that we keep that aspect of motorsport alive. I hope that shows like Top Gear Australia can get people excited about cars and educate them about such issues as well.”

The 2024 season of Top Gear Australia will air exclusively on Paramount+ from May 17, 2024.

Related: The Obscure Aussie Road Rules You Need to Know About

Related: Is There Actually a Way of Stopping Young Men From Speeding?

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