Inside Top Gear's wild parties with girl-throwing contests, games flown in by helicopters and hangover jabs

FOR nearly 20 years Phillipa Sage travelled the world with Top Gear's three stars.

When we told some of her amazing stories of life with Clarkson, Hammond and May, you loved them so here are more of her crazy tales, on the day Phillipa’s new book is published.

AFTER a girl-throwing contest to see who could hurl a female furthest in a swimming pool, the Top Gear boys were bored.

Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond were staying at a secluded house on a private island in New Zealand, which came with its own beach and boat.

But our naughty, hyperactive schoolboy-like divas weren’t entirely happy.

They demanded that the board game ‘Risk’ was delivered to their hide-away as soon as possible.

And so, a helicopter was sent from the capital city Auckland, to fly in a board game where players use ‘diplomacy, conflict and conquest’ to win for the two Top Gear presenters.

Superyachts and partying with pop stars

Welcome to the crazy world of Top Gear Live, the boys’ global stadium tour of 18 countries, performing for two million fans.

The shows made so much money it was like touring with rock stars, complete with private jets, supercars, superyachts, champagne and monumental hangovers.

For nearly 20 years I toured the world with Clarkson, Hammond and James May.

I was ‘mother’ and ‘sister’ to the three most famous middle-aged, very ‘stupid’, clever and funny men who knew a bit about cars.

There was never a dull moment.

In Italy, in a bid to drum up ticket sales the boys staged their own version of the Italian Job car stunt.

In Cape Town their pyrotechnics were so big they nearly blew the disabled members of the audience out of their wheelchairs in the front row.

In Dublin, the boys jammed with U2 and they met Sting in Moscow.

And one night, in Sydney, we ended up taking over the small hotel bar. No other guests were up except for Brian Johnson from AC/DC, who were on tour in Australia. What a lovely guy.

So Jeremy and James May invited Brian to visit our superyacht, Flying Fish, moored in Sydney harbour.

This 32-metre-long floating palace was like nothing I’d ever seen before – even the luxury hotels we’d been in couldn’t match it.

And we used it as a taxi to take us to the venue of the Top Gear Live show!

Outside on the top deck was a Jacuzzi and somewhere, I was never quite sure how it fitted in, was a helipad.

In true James Bond style, the boys’ co-presenter, Greg Murphy – four times winner of the Bathurst 1000 touring car race – arrived on the yacht by helicopter.

Five star barbie on the beach

To celebrate getting through the first show, a barbecue was arranged by our Aussie hosts who knew how to throw a party.

The year before, they had organised a party in a private house filled with supermodels.

And this was to be no ordinary barbecue. It was set up on a private beach, just a half-hour cruise from the hotel on our super yacht.

The five-star catering crew had gone ahead by boat and set up tables with white cloths and flowers and a fully-stocked bar.

After a few beers, burgers and prawns from the barbie, a Top Gear vs AC/DC cricket match was declared.

There were some absolutely epic moments, the best of which was
James May running for a catch.

Determined not to give up, he didn’t let the sea put him off and dived in fully clothed to emerge, like a drowned spaniel, not having caught the ball but also realising he had his mobile phone in his pocket!

James thought he was having a heart attack

The madness carried on. We had to disembark a short drive from the hotel and as we pulled up alongside a rather unglamorous quay, I noticed a vintage fire engine parked up. This was perfect for our ride back to the hotel.

Could it get any stranger? I was now riding in the back of a fire engine with Jeremy Clarkson with James May riding up front in just his underpants – his jeans hadn’t dried out.

As we pulled up one of our crew, who was having a fag outside, thought ‘Oh sh*t, the hotel’s on fire.’

What was more of a shock was to see James May exit in his boxer shorts.

Later James, our most gentle presenter, thought he was having a heart attack after suffering chest pains following an afternoon performance.

Paramedics confirmed no heart attack but not surprisingly he was clearly suffering from stress and the effects of a not so healthy lifestyle.

After a snooze, he declared he felt better and he would go ahead with the evening’s performance.

As a Top Gear presenter, you were not allowed to be ill and certainly weren’t going to get any sympathy, even if you were close to death.

Jeremy and James joked on this occasion, as they always did if one of them was potentially facing death, about the promise they had made between the three of them, that the first word after announcing publicly the death of any of them would be ‘Anyway…’.

Anyway, all’s well that ends well. James was still alive and they completed three more days and nights of successful shows.

Meanwhile, I was stocking up the essentials for the next leg of the trip.

As well as fags, wine, snacks and hangover cures ‘essentials’ included a very expensive bottle of Glandosane, a lubricant especially used by actors to prevent or ease a dry throat.

Glandosane had become a necessity for Jeremy by this point in the tour, as not only was he using his renowned gravelly booming voice so much but he was, as you might have guessed by now, seriously burning the candle at both ends and in the middle, along with smoking sixty a day. God knows how he’s still alive.

Aussie hotel wanted them out

On the whole, we were welcomed with enthusiasm by hotel and restaurant staff around the world.

As you might imagine, having Clarkson, Hammond and May as guests was quite exciting to most and a potentially great PR opportunity.

However, on arrival in Brisbane at the Palazzo Versace Hotel, the one used for I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, it became evident that the staff wanted our celebrities out of there as soon as possible.

The staff were not amused by our sense of humour and antics. The disapproval was mutual.

So, before leaving we replaced photos of superstars in the corridors, like Madonna, Tom Cruise and Patrick Swayze, with pictures of our beautiful boys.

In January 2014, Top Gear Live was in Glasgow where we had a whole castle to stay in.

Highlights were a party in the cellar with live music including a stroppy bagpipe player who did not appreciate JC talking over his performance and expressing his dislike for the instrument.

He was a large man, and it threatened to get physical between our large man and him. Chris diffused the situation. The piper packed his bag and left. Awks.

We went on to have a jolly night. My only clear memory is of us getting into our own version of ‘Hotel California’ with James May dancing on the table.

The fairly elderly staff who provided a fantastic breakfast in the very elegant dining room each morning were wonderful.

We were very keen to thank them and they gave us a send-off fit for royalty as they formed a line-up in the hallway for our departure.

Being one of the last to leave, I had the joy of overhearing one old girl say to another, ‘Who are they? Are they from the Television?’

‘Yes,’ the other replied, ‘It’s Jeremy Vine, Richard Branson and Brian May.’ Priceless.

  • *Adapted by MIKE RIDLEY from: Off-Road With Clarkson, Hammond and May by Phillipa Sage, published today (May 13) byAd-Lib, price £8.99


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