The New Zealand Race was an epic race on the BBC television series Top Gear between an Oracle racing boat and a Toyota Corolla which took place along the North Island of New Zealand. Jeremy Clarkson was driving the "rented" Corolla" along a specified land route while James May was on-board the Oracle yacht, both racing to the second northernmost point of the country. The New Zealand Race aired as part of the first episode of Top Gear's twentieth season and was filmed in March of 2013.
Race Overview - Part I
Both presenters would begin at a beach at the very top of the Coromandel Peninsula racing, through different routes, to the finish line at the second most northernly point in New Zealand near Cape Reinga. James' route was 220 miles while Jeremy's was 410, giving James confidence in a win. Jeremy's car was a Toyota Corolla, which he claimed was "the fastest car in the world" because it was a rental and he could take the car "to the maximum". James' yacht was an AC45, the fastest production sailing boat in the world, and manned by the Oracle Team USA crew that had won the America's Cup in 2010 with one more addition - four-time Olympic sailing gold medalist Sir Ben Ainslie, whom James insists on addressing as "Sir Ben Ainslie, Sir." (The crew, including Ainslie, later retained the America's Cup after an unprecedented comeback against Emirates Team New Zealand in San Francisco.)
At precisely eleven minutes past seven the race began, with Jeremy claiming he is on a mission from God. He says that this race is representative of fossil fuels versus wind power, with Jeremy representing oil and 'internal combustion' and James' yacht representing wind power for obvious reasons. Jeremy gets off to an early start because a sail on James' yacht is loose. Jeremy approaches a narrow bridge at 100km/h and sees a black SUV ahead of him; in a desperate attempt to get out of his way Jeremy crashes into the side railing on the bridge and is forced to pull over to fill in a 'damage report' card. Elsewhere, James' yacht is approaching its top speed but this new turn of speed forces water into the faces of the crew. Jeremy once again sets off assuming that he is in the lead; he pulls over to call James before discovering via a tracking device that he is well behind. With almost the entire journey ahead of him Jeremy sees that he is losing very badly and begins apologising for letting those protesting against 'the government installing wind mills' down.
Race Overview - Part II
The race resumes with Jeremy Clarkson entering the 'often-busy' city of Auckland, New Zealand's largest and most populous city; luckily for Jeremy the traffic in the city is relatively low and he is only hampered down by a slow Toyota in front of him. James attempts to call Jeremy via his phone but it is forced out of his hands by the rough ocean. The conditions of the sea start to slow the boat down, at one point tipping it on its side, nearly rolling it over.
Back in the Toyota, Jeremy realizes he is catching James but wonders if he is catching him fast enough. He decides to take a short cut over unsealed tarmac and gravel; eventually even this ends and he is left off-roading in a paddock. The conditions on the boat are still unbearable for James who tells the captain that he needs to "have a slash". Jeremy finds a narrow track that leads him back to the main road; before he rejoins the road he encounters a tractor coming down the track in the opposite direction and he crashes into a stone wall to try and get away from it.
Back on the road, Jeremy's Corolla is suffering from the damage. He pulls into an AVIS rental office and tells the receptionist that a "maniacal tractor driver who was doing 70km/h". The hire car company gives Jeremy another car, another Toyota Corolla except this one is red whereas the original was blue. The race is nearing its final stages; in an effort to close the gap Jeremy detours to Ninety Mile Beach, a fifty mile long straight piece of coastal beach. With James exhausted and "sick" of the ocean the yacht approaches the northernmost point of New Zealand, after which the sailing will be smooth. Jeremy leaves the beach and rejoins the road with the yacht with now only seven miles to the finish.
Because of the depth of the water at the shoreline the crew members on the yacht tell James he will have to swim the last few metres to the finish line. With Jeremy rapidly approaching the finishing point the yacht reaches its final stop and James is forced to jump out. James is now swimming towards the finish line while Jeremy is once again off-roading down to the beach and the finishing point. James reaches a shallow part of the beach and begins to walk towards the stick that marks the finish of the race with Jeremy in the background still struggling to make his way down to the beach itself. Jeremy's Corolla gets stuck in a sand-bog and James reaches the marker, winning the race for himself and the yachting team while Jeremy is stuck. Jeremy still claims a win for fossil fuels and petrol because of the sunburned state of James after the race saying, "look what wind power does to your face".
The crew came under fire from local Maori tribe leaders for their plans to film on Ninety Mile Beach, which is a holy site for many the indigenous islanders. Initially, the production team had planned to film a high-speed run in the Pumpkin Seed vehicle that Burt Munro used to set a world speed record in the sixties, the subject of the New Zealand film The World's Fastest Indian. These plans were scrapped, however, but the crew did film part of the Corolla-Oracle race on Ninety Mile Beach in its place.