Chris Evans' new Top Gear preview - new and revitalised or same as it was?

Chris Evans' new Top Gear preview - new and revitalised or same as it was?

Never has there been so much build-up, so much chatter on Twitter and Facebook, for the start of a new BBC2 series, or so many "experts" and fans champing at the bit to criticise or praise. Yes, it's the return of Top Gear, this Sunday evening.

On the face of it, everything has changed, and boy, has it needed to.

It's a new line-up of presenters and, shock horror, a woman among them. Sabine Schmitz is not new to Top Gear, however; she's the woman who turned Clarkson ashen-faced in a Transit as she took it at speed round the Nurburgring during one episode. The woman has balls of steel, as any racing driver does.

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So is her presence in the new series really a departure from the norm? It's certainly needed; Motorsport is full of up-and-coming female racing drivers; enough that one could argue she is simply representative of the percentage of women racing cars these days, rather than a token effort.

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An evening for women in motorsport held at the Royal Automobile Club earlier this month showed just how "normal" Top Gear is being in having a female presenter: Chloe and Holly Mason, daughters of Pink Floyd's drummer Nick Mason, both race historic cars. Also present was 13-year-old Abbie Pulling, a promising kart racer, and 2015 Renault Sport Formula One development driver Carmen Jorda.

The thing about cars and racing is that you can't fake it. You can't fake the knowledge of how a car handles, or what's going on if it's got a limited slip diff. You can't blag an understanding of how weight transfer affects what the car does on entering a corner, or what reduced spring rates do for a car's suspension. 

So Top Gear really does sort the men/women from the boys/girls. It's fine to be the funny one who makes the gags and shunts cars into rivers or hits metal bits with a hammer for laughs, but it won't see you round a race track and out the other side, unless you make a virtue of being the slowest one out there, as James May did.

So it will very soon become apparent to all watching the new Top Gear that Sabine Schmitz is not there as a stab at political correctness, but as one of a growing number of female racing drivers who can easily outwit most men on a circuit.

And I, for one, shall be glued to my TV. I think it will probably provide enough of a real petrolhead fix for me to forgo The Grand Tour, as the Amazon programme on offer in the autumn has so disappointingly been named... We'll see.