Top Gear fans revved up

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They love the show with passion. But don't dare put a foot wrong, as Steve Pizzati explains.

When it comes to devotees of a television brand, it's hard to go past those for Top Gear.

They love the hosts, the camaraderie, the stunts, the technical jargon and the comedy. They know when seven minutes have been cut from the show when it is exported from the UK to the rest of the world and they are fanatical about filming opportunities.

Steve Pizzati, one of three hosts for Top Gear Australia, is all too familiar with fan passion. Having made two seasons for SBS he was in the firing line by those who compared it to the UK series. Now he is the sole remaining host for the local version, driving into Nine's garage.

But trying to fake chemistry with new hosts Shane Jacobson and Ewen Page would be fatal. Pizzati says even the UK hosts took time to find their feet.

"I've spoken to [Jeremy] Clarkson about this in depth," he says, "because I really wanted to know: how did this come about, how long did this take? His answer was it took four seasons, roughly, before they got to know each other and understanding what everyone is about. So the difference is that the audience got to know them in time.

"Now we're compared to season 15 where it's a well-oiled machine."

Indeed, fans were critical of the show when it debuted on SBS calling it a pallid copy of the UK show.

"Our first episodes were a little bit creaky," admits Pizzati. "So in some ways it is a little unfair because we, like they, needed time to grow. It's just that they want us to drop in as this well-polished, well-oiled machine."

Fan loyalty can be a double-edged sword.

"We have tried to quite sincerely make our show. We have certain guidelines as to what we should do, so there is a studio, there is a Stig, there is a test track, there's challenges, there's reviews, there's stories. We've got that formula, or that format if you like."

Top Gear is also notorious for trying to keep its stunts and guests under wraps. As a motoring show its content is akin to soapie cliffhangers. In shooting scenes for the Aussie series it is usually The Stig who generates the most buzz.

"On any other show if someone got a teaser, a spoiler, it wouldn't get very far, I don't think. But can you imagine the next Star Wars script getting out somehow, it would be wildfire, and I think it may be a similar thing. We try not to lose the impact of the show when it comes on air," he says.

"The Stig is just such an iconic character that anytime that we have the bloke in the white suit out in any kind of location there are phones and cameras and all sorts of things going nuts."

Pizzati is relieved it's The Stig who has to endure the rapture, rather than he as host.

"We spoke to the English show not that long ago and they now hire security. They've never done that before, but now they need to. They're just swamped and mobbed wherever they go. So I'd rather it our way, it's not even remotely an issue."

Top Gear Australia airs 7:30pm Tuesdays on Nine.

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