Meet Niki Faulkner of Driving Wizards, LTD. You've met him before, I suppose, because when you're watching Top Gear you're often seeing him behind the wheel.
Anyone familiar with the world of producing car media know that it's not as glamorous as it looks. To get a single shot, either in stills or on video, you need to drive back and forth around one corner, at least a dozen times. Ask me how I know.
There's almost no way that a show like Top Gear could exist if it didn't have professional drivers on hand to make sure every take happens. Don't forget, the show's hosts are also the show's writers and producers, and there's only so much time to get things done.
This isn't to imply that the hosts can't or don't drive, just that it's almost impossible for them to drive every shot of every scene every time.
Thus it should come as no surprise that Niki Faulkner can be seen at just about every Top Gear shoot of the past few years.
Thanks to his Twitter feed, you can see him driving the new Alfa 4C on the same day that Jeremy Clarkson showed off that he was driving one just like it. You can see him laughing it up with James May, laughing it up with Richard Hammond, getting tagged at car rugby with Top Gear cameraman Iain May, and posing as an instructor for the Reasonably Priced car at Top Gear live one, two, three, four, five, six, seven times.
That's before we get to all the cars he shows off driving on the Top Gear test track:
- The BAC Mono
- The Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ
- The SLS AMG Black and Electric SLS together
- The McLaren 12C
Remember when Top Gear did a special on the chase scene from The Sweeney? Guess who did some of the driving for that chase scene.
Oh, and then there's stuff like this.
He's been interviewed (even in an exclusive piece by Top Gear Magazine) for his stunt work and shoot planning for Rush.
Here he is with the whole Driving Wizards crew, for reference:
And here he is jumping a Lamborghini Gallardo at the Cholmondeley Pageant of Speed because I guess that's a thing you're allowed to do when you're a professional driver.
So what, exactly, does Niki do with the boys from TG? I asked their script editor Richard Porter and he gave a very clear breakdown.
Niki and his merry band of pro-drivers help us out by driving the tracking cars on shoots, providing a safe pair of hands behind the wheel when we're filming from the back of Range Rovers or Discoverys/LR4s, as we tend to do for on-road stuff.
Right. Do you ever see him on camera in the show? Yes, you do.
In some circumstances, they might also drive the star car for the arty, slo-mo/close detail/big sky with strangely moving clouds stuff that directors insist on but which takes ages and which isn't a good use of a presenter's time when he could be travelling to another location to start shooting another item for the programme.
There's more to it than that, though.
Niki might also be used to deliver a car off-camera, say from the airfield to a photo studio where more arty shots are to be gathered after the presenter has driven it. After all, if you had a £300,000 supercar to move around, would you give it to the 23 year old researcher or the bloke who did the precision driving for Rush?
And, though I didn't ask, Porter went ahead and denied any Stig rumors you're probably having.
Niki definitely isn't The Stig, by the way. Too tall, too chatty, too comfortable in the presence of the Dutch.
In short, this guy Niki has pretty much the best job in the world, short of actually being a Top Gear presenter. And because he's not The Stig he gets to brag about it.
Photo Credits: Cholmondeley Pageant of Speed