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Clarkson for Oz

Spectacular: Some of the antics staged at the UK's MPH06 event.

Top Gear's MPH team to tour Australia with rolling motor-theatre show in 2008

General News logo11 Sep 2007

BRACE yourself because motoring’s ambassador of political incorrectness is coming to a town near you.

That’s right, Australia is next on the agenda to play host to the UK’s successful MPH Live Motoring Theatre show hosted by the Top Gear TV show’s Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

Instead of a one-off Sydney show in February, as had been originally planned, a positive response from many Australian car companies has resulted in a plan to bring the popular UK-based interactive motor show to Australia’s three largest cities within the next 18 months.

Depending on the availability of Mr Clarkson and his team, the MPH show is expected to kick-off in Sydney as early as April next year, before heading to Melbourne and then Brisbane.

Created by the the producers of Top Gear, which is aired by the BBC in the UK but was made famous here by SBS, the MPH show has been billed as Britain’s premier performance and prestige automotive event for several years.

It features a series of live stage/stunt shows alongside a traditional motor show, plus a number of interactive attractions such as the MPH Driving Experience and the Land Rover Terrapod. There is also a classic car section and the MPH Styling and Tuning zone for aftermarket exhibitors.

The year’s MPH shows will be held at Earls Court in London over November 1-4, and then at Birmingham’s NEC stadium over November 8-11. It will feature the UK debut of Jaguar’s all-new XF luxury sedan and Aston Martin’s new DBS flagship, both of which will make their global premiere at Frankfurt this week.

Comprising ten 75-minute shows over four days each, the UK events are attended by the majority of the UK’s performance and luxury car brands and supported by publications including Top Gear, Auto Express, Evo, Octane and The Sunday Times.

Including aftermarket businesses, the UK’s 2006 MPH shows attracted more than 330 exhibiting companies and 69,263 show-goers. Tickets cost between £23 ($A56) and £89 ($A218).

South Africa became the first nation outside the UK to play host to the MPH show earlier this year. Sponsored by BP, it ran over February 9-11 at the Coca-Cola Dome in Johannesburg and gave South Africa its first look at a live theatre production featuring action sequences and stunts involving some of the world’s most desirable cars.

GoAuto has learned that MPH show producers have been canvassing selected Australian car companies for several weeks. It is believed five 90-minute performances were originally planned for Sydney’s 8000-seat ACER Arena (formerly Sydney Superdome) at Olympic Park.

Cautious Australian MPH show director James Cregeen confirmed three events were planned, but cautioned their timing was primarily dependent on the availability of Mr Clarkson and his team.

“At the moment nothing is official, but the response (from car companies) was fantastic and it’s somewhat disappointing with the interest that we could have held it in February, but it’s better to wait and do it properly,” he told GoAuto.

“We think Australia warrants its own tour in itself, so we’ve decided to postpone and actually get Jeremy and his team over for a tour in its own right. We were going to go for February, but the dream has now become to bring it to Australia for three cities rather than just one.

“The plan originally was London, South Africa, Sydney, New Zealand and Abu Dabi. The idea now is London, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane within the next 18 months. The earliest would be April or May.” Mr Cregeen said the shows producers had considered staging it without Mr Clarkson, and that the shows timing in relation to existing Australian motor shows was undecided.

“We have looked at alternatives (to Mr Clarkson). There is a lot to it aside from Jeremy, but I think he’s the big pull.

“Obviously it wouldn’t want to be on top of other motor shows, but we have to do decide if it’s good to have it around that time or not.

“The aim is to bring the MPH show out here and we’ve done the initial investigations with the manufacturers. The level of interest is good, but there are many other elements to go into it to allow us to go ahead at this stage.

“As you can appreciate there’s a lot of equipment coming over in a plane, so we have to finalise availability and finalise the venues (and there are very few venues that can accommodate us), then get back to confirm the manufacturers.

“What we’ve had to do is put it on hold while we wait to hear back from Jeremy and his team about availability,” he said.

Just as Top Gear has been a cash cow for its producers and the BBC, the motor show component is an integral part of the financial success of the MPH event. It is believed showroom exhibition packages will range between $20,000 and $50,000, and other sponsorship deals command up to $120,000.

While that’s far less expensive than it costs car brands to attend a major motor show such as in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, some manufacturers have expressed concern that the extra time, resources and funds it would require would come at the expense of an existing marketing exercise such as an established motor show.

“It sounds like something we’d have to do, but something else would have to give,” said one marketing manager who did not wish to be named.

Another unnamed spokesman for a luxury vehicle brand told GoAuto the MPH show was simply preaching to the converted.

“If you're an aspiring car company trying to build some brand credibility then it probably makes sense, but I think established brands will question the return on their investment,” he said.

While the Sydney motor show is held in October and the Brisbane motor show traditionally takes place in February, March’s Melbourne motor show would be the most severely impacted by a potential MPH show in Sydney in April, the following month.

Show director Russ Tyrie said more than 229,000 visitors attended this year’s Melbourne show over 10 days, and were treated to interactive highlights such as an off-road circuit and a stunt show by Peugeot driver Russ Swift, who has appeared on Top Gear.

“We certainly see ourselves as an entertainment event as well as an industry event,” he said. “It is a crowded marketplace (but) I guess it ultimately presents a commercial decision only car companies can make.”

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