Shane Jacobson, host of the sadly-defunct Top Gear Australia, will be back promoting the Top Gear Live brand this week as the motor show spectacular makes its long-awaited return to Australian shores, with a four-day appearance at Perth’s Burswood Dome, from tomorrow onwards.
The RichardsF1.com team was lucky enough to catch up with Shane shortly before he jetted over the Western Australia, where we talked about his love of cars and motorsport, and what it’s like working with Jeremy Clarkson, James May and The Stig…
But Shane is far more than the host of the short-lived Australian spin-off of the world-famous car show.
His breakthrough came with the creation of his character, Kenny Smyth, a Melbourne plumber who starred in the eponymous Kenny mockumentary in 2006. It was a critical and commercial success, launching Shane to a broader audience across Australia.
He later earned critical acclaim for his subsequent roles in films such as Cactus, Newcastle and Charlie & Boots, as well as earning a Helpmann Award for his performance on the stage in the Australian production of Guys & Dolls.
Aside from his impressive entertainment skills, Shane is also a petrolhead who proved the perfect comic foil as Top Gear Australia’s co-host when the franchise was bought by the Nine Network in 2009.
This week, he’ll serve alongside two of the three hosts of the UK version of the show, Jeremy Clarkson and James May, as they bring their Top Gear Live Prototype Tour back to Australian shores.
We offer our sincerest thanks to Shane’s management team for making this interview possible.
What triggered your fascination with motoring when you were growing up, and what was your first experience behind the wheel?
Like most boys I have just always had an interest in cars, and my first experience was when my Mum would let me change gears for her from the passenger seat in our old Torana.
Were there any cars you idolised in your younger days?
Absolutely… an EH Holden… and I have got one.
The motoring landscape is littered with brilliant and dreadful cars. Have you ever had a ‘lemon’ in your collection of cars?
TE Cortina. I know, not cool at all.
You achieved success for your comic roles before you took on the co-hosting role in Top Gear Australia. How did the opportunity come about, and what were your initial perceptions (and misgivings, if any) about joining the franchise?
I was at a lunch with some people from Channel 9, we were celebrating the completion of a project we had just worked on, during the lunch they were telling me that they were soon to start Top Gear Australia.
I honestly thought they had already lined up their hosts and told them that if they need a Star in a Reasonably Priced Car then I would gladly volunteer. They then started to ask me about my interest in cars, I went on to explain my collection of cars and all my licences and racing history. And within two weeks of that casual non-related lunch I was offered the job as a host. I was excited about the idea of joining from the very moment it was offered.
We attended a taping of one of the episodes where you, (co-hosts) Steve Pizzati and Ewen Page were having great fun on- and off-camera. I believe that a cheeky audience member may have pinched the celebrity lap times off the board as well! What were the production experiences like, in terms of conception and filming in and out of the studio?
Making Top Gear Australia is a load of fun, when we are out on the field we have a great crew that we (the hosts) get along with very well, we all trust each other which is very important, because some of the stuff we are all doing can be fairly risky if people aren’t all on the ball.
One of the great things is that once we have finished putting together and filming all the stories we then get to come into the studio and show them in front of a live audience and get to hear the actual reactions of a real crowd.
Has working on the show changed your approach to driving?
I have had a lot more track time in fairly quick cars which has improved my track driving for sure, but it hasn’t changed my approach to on road driving at all, I consider myself a careful and responsible driver on the public roads.
On a racetrack, however, it’s a different story!
You’ve had the opportunity to drive some incredible cars in some fantastic locations while working on Top Gear Australia. What have been some of your highlights while working on the show?
There have been many, but some favourites are driving a Ginetta sports car around the Isle Of Man, driving the new Blue Meanie 7-litre supercharged V8 around Phillip Island and driving the mountain roads in New Zealand in a WRX custom-built buggy was fairly mad, but loads of fun.
Having joined Messrs Clarkson and May on Top Gear Live’s last visit to Australia, Shane is looking forward to reuniting with the show’s hosts again when the franchise hits Perth for the first time.
Top Gear Live will be making its return to Australian shores later this year, and its first visit to Perth. Are you looking forward to the opportunity of working again alongside Jeremy Clarkson and James May after last season’s Ashes Special?
Working with the UK boys is always fun, they are a moving circus of joy and laughter. It’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure.
What can fans look forward to in the upcoming Top Gear Live spectacular?
Cars, Flames, Stunts, the Stig, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and me!
The bulk of motoring enthusiasts are also motorsport fans; is this the case for you? If so, what motorsport series’ are you following?
The V8’s here in OZ and the Utes and I am a bit of a sucker for the GT1 World Championship.
[Images via Shane Jacobson]