Falkirk firefighters in BBC Top Gear challenge

Two Falkirk firefighters found themselves racing around the BBC’s Top Gear track as part of an emergency services challenge.

By Fiona Dobie
Wednesday, 4th March 2020, 5:44 pm

Neil Jones and Davie Lines were two of a three-strong team from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service competing against the police and ambulance services in a series of challenges on Sunday evening’s show.

They were joined by Kerry Galbraith, a retained firefighter from Oban.

They took part in three challenges –a precision driving lap, a pursuit challenge and one featuring chained cars.

From left, presenter Freddie Flintoff, Kerry Galbraith, Davie Lines and Neil Jones. Pic: Lee Brimble/BBC Studios

Neil, a watch commander who has worked at Falkirk Fire Station for the last 20 years, said: “Top Gear contacted the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service with some specific criteria for people they were looking for to do an emergency services challenge.

“Initially it was just one person they were looking for, but closer to the time they were looking to make it a team of three.

“They seemed to be looking for specific things, including someone with a huge passion for cars and who was competitive.

“I do rallying as a hobby and Davie used to race go-karts and is a very competitive cyclist. So we were lucky to be given the chance.”

Neil Jones, Falkirk firefighter, took part in an emergency services challenge on Top Gear. Pic: Lee Brimble/BBC Studios

The pair travelled south twice in December for the filming – one day on the track and the other in the studios with the live audience.

Davie, who has worked in Falkirk for the last three years, said: “It was incredible. Most people have grown up with Top Gear in their life, however you never think you’re going to appear on the show, let alone get to drive around the track.

“Neil drove the car chasing the Stig and I drove the fire engine around it. Of course, I would have liked to have driven something faster!”

Neil (47), explained: “The whole thing about it was, it was good fun and there was a lot of good team work and good banter, but we wanted to show the professional skills we have as well.”

Pic: Lee Brimble / BBC Studios

The fire service team were up against Surrey Police and North West Ambulance Service.

“Once we met everyone and started the banter flowing,” said Davie, “we were mocking each other and having a laugh, but also cheering each other on.

“Given the nature of Top Gear they wanted it to be relatively serious but fun as well.

“It was a long day, we were there at 7.30am or 8am and we were outside basically all day until it was getting dark.

Falkirk-based firefighter Davie Lines take part in an emergency services challenge on Top Gear. Picture shows him with Freddie Flintoff. Pic: Lee Brimble/BBC Studios

“It was really impressive to see behind the scenes. The amount of people and cameras is incredible”

However the pair had no idea how the finished piece would look on screen, and were only able to watch it along with everyone else at the weekend to see how it had turned out.

Neil said: “It felt very relaxed but you kept thinking ‘how is it going to look on TV’. I was almost relieved to see it, as you were hoping you hadn’t said something stupid.”

“You were miked up and had cameras on you all day,” said Davie (42).

“They told us just to relax, be yourself and have fun, but you almost forgot you had the cameras and mic on.

“You worry that you’ll have done or said something stupid.

“You put in a full day of filming and it’s only a ten or 15 minute section, so we could only anticipate what would be used.

“But now we’ve seen it, it looked pretty good on the TV.”

Neil added: “I think we were alright and we painted the service in a good light.”

Since the show aired on BBC Two on Sunday, Davie said social media has been “pretty busy”.

He said: “I’ve had a lot of people commenting on social media.

“It was an amazing experience for me and I’ve been lucky to have had the chance to do it.

“We’ve had a bit of stick we didn’t win, but it’s not supposed to be serious.”