Friday, April 24, 2015

Alright, mate

Now, with the formal resignation of executive producer Andy Wilman, we have the full set of the Not Quite Top Gear team in the pitlane waiting for offers.

Wilman conceived the current incarnation of the programme over a long lunch with Jeremy Clarkson in 2001 - complete with aircraft hangar and supercar obsessions. They were mates from Repton days - originally, the anonymous white-suited test driver was to be called The Gimp, but when the first appointee rightly rejected the honorific,Wilman and Clarkson lighted upon The Stig, a nickname given to new boarders at their school.

Andy was born in Glossop. His dad was in textiles, with a mill making tea towels and dish-cloths. Older brother Stephen was the family petrol head, racing bikes and winning titles at motocross. Andy failed his driving test three times.

At Repton, Jeremy brought his extensive Dinky collection, but by the sixth-form seemed to have convinced the teachers he needed a real car. "We used to go off in it to the girls' school. We had a laugh. We messed about. We weren't there." Andy wasn't expelled, but flunked his A-levels and went to London for re-sits. After a spell in MacDonalds, running a deli and flirting with the idea of a being an actor, he settled on Russian and American Studies at Keele.

Degree acquired, he bumped into Jeremy in London again, who was by now writing for local papers. Andy punted one at Auto Express - and they took it. He learned his trade on the job, and with the help of an occasional phone call to Clarkson, stayed with Auto Express for four years. Then the BBC approached him to be features editor for Top Gear magazine. In 1994, he joined the Top Gear programme proper - and appeared on camera in 35 episodes, mainly in unlamented spin-offs such as Top Gear Waterworld. Here's a feature in which he deploys his Keele degree.

Let's hope the next Wilman/Clarkson lunch is productive.

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