Mike Stevens | May 29, 2008

Top Gear's Australian arm has been in the works for a while now, and there's been much speculation over just who would be charged with the mammoth task of replicating on screen the multi-award-winning formula that exists in the relationship between the BBC's original Top Gear; Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May.

Last night, SBS revealed the final three.

After hours of interviews and no small amount of sleepless nights, Motorsport commentator Charlie Cox, cartoonist Warren Brown, and driving instructor Steve Pizzati were announced as the men who broke through a pack of more than 4000 applicants for the job.

SBS director of content Matt Campbell admitted that while it was a mission more challenging than most, the network is confident that they've landed on the perfect ingredients for a recipe alike but uniquely different to the original series.

"We have chosen three totally different and entertaining personalities who have a natural chemistry that works," Campbell said.

Cox, a motorsport commentator for the BBC and winner of several motorsport titles, is famous for his one-liners, making him a perfect Clarkson clone for the Australian show. He is 47.

Brown has previously worked as a cartoonist for The Daily Telegraph, as well as a motoring columnist. Like James May and Clarkson, he shares a passion for classic and historic cars.

Pizzati, the youngest of the team in his 30s and obviously the Richard Hammond model, is an advanced driving trainer as well as being a steerer for Porsche Australia's race team and a freelance motoring writer.

Campbell went on to say "We're pretty pleased and we believe we've got it right. If we didn't get this right, we couldn't get the show right. And I think the Australian public will get that, and not say 'He's Clarkson, he's Hammond or he's May'.

"The world's most entertaining car show's popularity owes much to the relationship between its three presenters. In Charlie, Warren and Steve, Top Gear Australia now has its own team - three guys who possess the spirit of Top Gear whilst having their own distinct personalities.''

Well, I suppose we'll have to see about that one. These boys have definitely got their work cut out for them; not just from the perspective that they've got big shoes to fill (or small ones, in the case of Hammond), but also because of the original Top Gear's unique position.

As a government-funded show with a large budget, they're rarely compelled to pander to auto manufacturers to maintain the flow of test cars to the show. They've been given the rare honour in motoring journalism of being able to be utterly honest and unabashedly straight to the point when it comes to their opinions of the cars they test, because they know there's no danger of the supply suddenly running dry.

In Australia, this is less of an option. In an overall market of only 20 million—many less that actually watch TV and even less than that who are interested enough in cars to tune in to a show about them—support from the manufacturers is more or less a pre-requisite. Step out of line, and you'll quickly find yourself producing a car show with no cars. Do SBS have the budget to overcome this problem, or are we set to see a show built around the idea that every car they drive "is just flat-out great and oh my what a top buy"?

We'll see.

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