The 28th series of Top Gear premiered on Sunday night (January 26) and it did so with an episode featuring arguably the craziest stunt ever performed on the show.
The stunt – done in the name of science – saw former cricketer Freddie Flintoff at the wheel of a ‘90s Rover Metro, about to be dropped 500 feet from a dam in Switzerland. The goal was to get the Metro to accelerate faster than the Ariel Atom, which Flintoff reviewed on the same episode.
While much of the stuff we see on TV is to varying degrees scripted, Flintoff’s reaction seemed entirely genuine. “This is one of the most horrific things I’ve ever done,” he says at the beginning of the segment, apparently so terrified that he can hardly respond to mate Chris Harris, speaking to him by walkie talkie from the safety of solid ground.
Harris spoke about the stunt after reports about it made their way online last year, after they shot it, admitting that he hadn’t put much thought into how this could actually cost Freddie his life. He also admitted that his (Freddie’s) DNA is unlike regular mortals’ for having agreed to perform such an insane stunt.
And insane it was. The entire scene played out in typical reality TV fashion, with plenty of suspense time and booming music, and one rather silly attempt at humor when Freddie supposedly forgot to release the handbrake, but when the car dropped, it was truly something else. Suffice it to say Flintoff secured his legend status with it, based on social media reactions alone.
“How do you make a car accelerate faster than an Ariel Atom for less money?” Top Gear’s executive producer Alex Renton says of the stunt. “Simple, you get one of the highest dams in the world, an old Rover Metro, a long piece of elastic and a presenter with no fear. Add gravity and you have one of the most terrifying sequences I have ever shot on the show.”