Driving into work today came the unsolicited thought, hey, we haven’t seen Damian in proximity to a car in ages. Then the mind went to one of the shots from the Billions S3 promo. The one where Bobby is gliding through a sea of lovely hot rods, perhaps picking out one to take out for a test drive. Of course, the mind said, you’re not crazy for randomly thinking about Damian and cars; You just saw that image recently, that’s all. (My mind likes to talk to itself, no biggie.)
So, when Damianista and I had our usual Tuesday late afternoon chat about what my weekly post should be, and since I didn’t have anything new, I thought, why not post Damian’s turn at Top Gear again?
Then, as serendipity would have it, on the drive home, listening to NPR’s “Fresh Air”, I heard Terry Gross’s interview with a lovely young woman, Patrice Banks, who had opened up a mechanic’s shop run by women, with the goal of making women comfortable with taking care of their cars. Is car care the last frontier for women, I thought? The name Danika Patrick rings a bell, even to those of us outside the NASCAR circle, so that diamond-cut chrome-plated ceiling must have been traversed on some level. But, yeah, it is kind of uncomfortable as a woman to go get a car looked at, with the ever-present thought that the guys are going to take advantage of the fact I know little and care little about my mom car, a little Mazda, accept for the expectation that it keep carrying me around town when I need it to.
Alas, sometimes the universe decides for you. So, here’s my post on bearded Damian’s appearance on British Top Gear. Enjoy!
Boys and their cars. And girls too, for that matter. There’s something about being behind the wheel of a nice automobile, pressing the gas, shooting ahead with the force of however many horses, and letting a machine take you where your feet can’t. Damian made his second appearance on Top Gear in June 2016 and got to drive around a bit: recklessly, dangerously, at the sort of speeds humans probably weren’t ever designed to go, at least not unaided. Yes, no doubt, there’s a rush there, the burst of power and the addictive lurching feeling of hairpin turns at top speed, the balance between control and utter abandon. One small explosion in a combustion chamber to get things moving, then the lingering burn of the fuel made from our fossils, and we’re off to the races, quite literally. And for those few seconds of sheer joy, you sorta want to forget that these are the very machines that have summarily sent our planet on a not-so-slow burn. Alas, let’s keep this post about joy, and the joy of watching Damian play with cars.
In his first appearance on Top Gear in 2013, Damian tanked royally. He was crowned the inauspicious distinction of worst lap time ever around the Top Gear track. He said of that experience:
I do remember being out here in the snow and the ice the last time, and..just losing control of a car when you’re not going to hit anything, is, um, quietly addictive.
Given he had snow and ice to deal with that day, Damian couldn’t possibly let a record like that stand. So here he is on the reality show again and here are the fun bits we get from this go around on Top Gear.
1) Damian’s first car was a Subaru Impreza, which he drove while on vacay in South Africa. The Top Gear folk did a cute photoshop of Damian from back then in front of a silver Impreza. He cringed a bit seeing his younger self and noted this was his “Hamlet hair”.
They imagined silver but a bit of research shows us this first may have been during the break Damian took between Eton and Guildhall, so, maybe 1989 which would mean this beauty just may have been Damian’s 1989 ImPRETza, slick profile!
When sharing this fun fact, Damian did that English thing of taking non-English words and pronouncing them like they’re English (The English did that a lot in the colonial days, and, thanks to that adorable propensity, English now has words like cummerband (literally a “closing for the stomach” in Hindi/Persian) , kowtow (closing heads in Cantonese) and Dad (from Welsh equivalent Tad)). Damian pronounced Impreza like it was an English word and then quickly went all adorably self-effacing and gave us a bit of Italian pronunciation, clipped here. (albeit it’s a Japanese car so it’s any non-Japanese speaker’s guess on how it’s supposed to be pronounced!)
2) We learn that Damian’s favorite ride these days is his Mini convertible. Sure, he’s got a deal with Audi of which he’s said:
I’m sponsored by Audi, so I have this rather lovely arrangement where they just insist that I’m always in the latest model.
But apparently the Audi has to have some rest time, so the Mini is his go-to for making the school run with the kids in the back and the puppy leashed safely to the handbrake. That is, in case Petra wants to make a run for it, stop goes the car, and everyone stays safe. BTW, yours truly had a chance to drive a friend’s Audi recently on a long stretch of I-90, and darned if I had to press the gas more than once or twice. The car takes YOU on the ride and it’s a beauty, both up and down mountains. That said, everytime I see a Mini (which I just today learned is a BMV thanks to NPR) especially a convertible, I just want to give it a hug. Oh, the cute.
Damian’s huggable current ride:
3) Next Damian got into a Mini and rode the track, fast and hard, clearing puddles, getting some air over a hill, much to his delight. SPOILER ALERT: Damian beat Gordon Ramsay’s time and made a place for himself at the top of the board. Gear head redeemed!
4) We learned after the fact that he also took a laundry-change-inducing 150mph turn in the McLaren they showed at the start of the episode. Regrettably they didn’t have the camera on Damian inside that ride, but once outside, we got the jist. He was floored. (Fun fact: I had a McLaren too….ur, a MacLaren I should say…stroller. Must have clocked at least 2mph trying to get my girl to take a nap during our strolls :))
— Top Gear BBCAmerica (@TopGear_BBCA) June 7, 2016
And there you have it, Damian Lewis making a fast and furious appearance in the very believable guise of gear head extraordinaire.