Fly on the wall at the News UK Motor Awards
Of course. Such an obvious choice for People's Car of the Year...
News UK hosted its second annual Motor Awards earlier this week.
The event was dotted with industry marketing heads, journalists and a certain Jeremy Clarkson, there in his capacity as lead motoring correspondent at the Sunday Times.
The awards had a tough act to follow – last year’s inaugural event was dominated by the unscripted spectacle of lead presenter Clarkson, being heckled by Richard Hammond and James May, attending on behalf of DriveTribe.
The pinnacle of 2018 was the moment The Times Motoring Editor Nick Rufford revealed his 'Motoring Personality of the Year'. An award that was sprung - to the apparent surprise of its recipient – on Jeremey Clarkson himself.
It was of course a red flag to the bull; Hammond and May unleashed both barrels in a barrage of abuse that was somewhat bluer and more unbridled than versions you might see on TV.
2019 back for more
So, with memories of much entertainment in 2018, expectations were high.
As an industry awards do, it felt more intimate and party-like compared to the industrial scale bun fights of competitor events. Guest were limited to the early 100s, rather than the 1000s that traditionally pack into venues like the Dorchester or Grosvenor House.
And the winner is
Television presenter Laura Woods was the mainstay of the proceedings, rattling through a long list of categories as varied as “adventure car or the year” and “dog-friendly car of the year”, alongside a roll-call of: best SUV, sportscar, family car and other such derivatives.
It has to be said, she did an admirable job. The room was somewhat sedate and better behaved compared to the average industry shindig, so her quips weren’t instantly carried by a wave of alcohol fuelled guests. That said, she had a natural ability to laugh at herself and rally audience support while providing a capable precursor to Clarkson.
As the awards reached their conclusion, Clarkson took to the stage to announce three special categories: The Clarkson Supercar and Peoples Car of the Year, as well as The Times and Sunday Times’ Personality of the Year.
Relaxed and completely at home, he casually opened the proceedings by suggesting he would keep things brief, as the audience “no doubt had affairs to get on with after the show.”
In his own inimitable style his chosen awards all had an additional narrative.
The Supercar of the Year went to the Ferrari 488 Pista, a car he described as “genuinely unbelievable…lighter and more dainty” than any other equivalent. Before revealing what he particularly liked about it, was its ability to render the previous model “utterly worthless…not worth its weight in scrap”.
Given James May is an owner of the previous version, the updated car has in his words, “ruined James May, which delights me.”
The peoples' choice?
You might expect a Ford or a VW to claim the crown for Clarkson’s People’s Car of the year. But no, he bestowed that honour on the £148,000 Bentley Continental GT V8.
In his words: “Bentley is owned by Volkswagen, and as we know, Volkswagen means people’s car”
Secondly, where he lives most of his neighbours “have helicopters. So, Bentley is a people’s car.”
Down to earth personality
When it came to his final award The Times and Sunday Times’ Personality of the Year, his announcement seemed genuinely heartfelt and respectful - the award went to TV presenter and legendary Motorcycle racer Guy Martin.
Clarkson summed-up Martin as “a truly brilliant human being. Unbelievably, he still works as a lorry mechanic, even though he’s a television presenter, motorcycle racer, speed record-holder, daredevil extraordinaire. And yet he seems to have a down-to-earth way about him.”
He also suggested that Martin was in effect an amalgamation of himself, Hammond and May – a “professional northerner, which I sort of am.”
“Someone who likes nuts and bolts and has a shed, which means he’s James May, and he goes upside-down and breaks bones, so he’s Richard Hammond.”
He also seemed drawn to Martin's humbled, unaffected manner, stating he especially liked the fact Martin couldn't be bothered to come to London to collect the award “because he doesn’t like to leave Grimsby. I respect that.”
Who will take the crown in 2020?
The News UK Motor awards couldn't claim to be as grandiose as more established motoring events. But that, in many ways, is its charm.
Hammond and May were unable to make the 2019 event, but if ever there was a Motoring Awards to attract all three at once, it would likely be the lower key familiarity of an event like this.
The real challenge for next year: who should claim the personality of the year?
More to the point, given Clarkson is a key adjudicator and a leading writer at the Sunday Times, could he ever bite his tongue enough to permit either Hammond or May to take the gong?