Freddie Flintoff says nothing prepared him for the beauty of Ethiopia during Top Gear filming

Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff during filming for Top Gear. Photo: BBC

Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff is a presenter, broadcaster and cricketing legend who is kicking off the new series of Top Gear with a visit to Ethiopia.

Freddie made his first class debut for Lancashire in 1995, and international honours came when he made his Test Match debut in 1998 versus South Africa. Freddie made his biggest impact for England in the summer of 2005, when he played a major role in regaining the Ashes from Australia. His contributions won him the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year award in the same year. In 2006 Freddie was awarded an MBE, yet in September 2010, as one of the biggest players in the game, Flintoff retired from professional cricket due to a recurring knee injury.

Since his retirement, Freddie has developed a strong broadcast career. In March 2010, Flintoff became a team captain, along with Jamie Redknapp, on the Sky One sports panel show A League Of Their Own. The Bafta-winning show has been a huge success and is now about to film its thirteenth series.

2012 also saw the BBC One documentary The Hidden Side Of Sport, which took an insightful look at depression in the world of sport. Freddie met with some high profile figures for the documentary including Piers Morgan, Vinnie Jones and Ricky Hatton. In the same year, Freddie embarked on one of his greatest challenges to date; training to become a professional heavyweight boxer. This was broadcast in a documentary for Sky One; Flintoff: From Lord’s To The Ring. The culmination of this was a victory on his debut fight at Manchester Arena, where he defeated his American opponent.

After a chronic knee injury seemingly ended his cricket career in 2010, it was announced that Freddie would play for Lancashire again in the T20 blast squad in May 2014. Following on from his stint with Lancashire in 2014 Freddie continued his professional cricket comeback in the Australian T20 Big Bash league in December 2014 and January 2015. As well as playing in the tournament Freddie joined Channel TEN’s prestigious commentary team and made quite an impression with his on field commentary.

In March 2015 Freddie was crowned the King of the Jungle in the first series of the Australian version of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!, and later that year fronted a new six part series for BBC Two, Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week. Bowled over by the support of the Australian public, Freddie returned to Australia in November 2015 until early 2016 to reprise his role with Channel TEN on The Project twice weekly and to also join the commentary team on the Big Bash League.

In early 2016, Flintoff was elected the new PCA President of the Professional Cricketers’ Association at the PCA’s annual general meeting held in Birmingham. Freddie joined a very exclusive club as he succeeded his fellow Lancastrian David Lloyd in becoming the seventh President in the association’s history.

In September 2017, Flintoff was the main presenter for Cannonball on ITV with Frankie Bridge, Radzi Chinyanganya, Ryan Hand and Maya Jama as poolside reporters. In December of that year, Flintoff hosted a new ITV primetime show which aired on Christmas Eve, All Star Musicals.

2017 also saw Freddie try his hand in the acting and musical worlds. Flintoff made his acting debut in one episode of Kay Mellor’s BBC drama Love, Lies And Records. He also made his stage debut in Kay Mellor’s musical Fat Friends, touring around the UK in 2018 playing the character Kevin alongside Jodie Prenger and Sam Bailey.

Since then, Freddie took up the role of host for Sky One’s Carnage. The high-octane show saw teams of creative engineers, mechanics and drivers from throughout the UK and Ireland transform regular cars into weaponised battle-ready vehicles.

Paddy McGuinness Freddie Flintoff and Chris Harris in Top Gear
Chris Harris is joined by comedian Paddy McGuinness and cricket legend Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff for the new series of Top Gear. Photo: BBC

Top Gear Q&A with Freddie Flintoff

What was your reaction when you heard you had got this job?

I was filming A League Of Their Own when I heard they wanted me to screen test for Top Gear. It was the only job I really wanted. I turned up, and I’ll be honest with you, I got a bit competitive because I really wanted it. It took a while to hear back from the producers, and I thought: “This is not good.” Then one day I was sat in the back of the car with the kids. The missus was driving, and I got the call saying I got it. I was so happy. I thought: “How has this happened? How have I gone from the background I came from to work on a show as big as this, with Chris Harris!?” I’m very lucky with A League Of Their Own, but if there was one job I could pick, it would be this.

When did it sink in that you had got the gig?

When I went down to the track at Dunsfold for the first time, I thought: “Oh, I am actually doing Top Gear!” It’s such fun.

How would you describe your time so far on Top Gear?

We spent a lot of time during filming just laughing. Obviously, it is about the car – it is a car show. But it’s so much fun to make. I also love the opportunity to travel. I’ve been lucky that since I’ve retired from cricket, I’ve had some jobs which have taken me round the world, and that’s been great fun. But this has been special. I’ve been to Ethiopia, Borneo and Iceland. Travelling with Paddy is brilliant, too. He’s like a man who’s opened his eyes for the first time! He’s a fantastic travel companion.

Did you feel pressure coming into this job?

No. I was a fan. I always used to watch it. But in the world I’ve come from, you’re always following someone. There’s always pressure to do well, whether it be in cricket or on a show like this. But I’m really enjoying it, to be honest. The only pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself. I can’t affect what the public think. I just have to go and do my job. That’s the attitude I took as a cricketer.

Did you have any accidents?

I rolled a hearse. And I gave a market stall in Mansfield a bit of a nudge. It was slippy in Mansfield. But I did offer to pay for the stall!

What have been your highlights from this series?

We went to Ethiopia, and that was amazing. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been to quite a lot of parts of Africa, but nothing prepared me for how beautiful Ethiopia is. Unbelievable place. It’s absolutely stunning. The great thing about it is that driving through, it just gets better and better. For me, that’s one of the great things about the show. As a sportsman, you’re away for months on end, but with this, you are only away for a week or so. As a job, it’s brilliant, but as a life experience, it’s absolutely incredible. You get to travel to the most amazing places.

Is anything scripted?

No. The nice thing about filming is that it is as it is. It’s not scripted. They put us in these places and we just crack on with it – and it is filmed. I do A League Of Their Own and Paddy does Take Me Out. They are the same. They just let the cameras roll and see what happens.

You and Paddy are both from different parts of Lancashire. Is there any rivalry between you?

Yes. As much as we love each other, there is that little bit of niggle between different areas of Lancashire. That comes through a little bit in the show.

How would you characterise your relationship with Chris?

It’s great. Chris plays himself down a bit. We’ve come on to the show that he’s been involved with for some time, and he’s funny! His car reviews are amazing, and I just watch him drive in awe. On that side, you never stop learning.

Do you have a problem getting into small cars?

Yes! I bought a Lamborghini, but I couldn’t fit into it! That’s an ongoing story. I’m a big lad, aren’t I? There are some cars that I can’t fit into, the Lamborghini being one of them. I’ve now swapped it for a convertible, so I can look over the top. I’ve got a bad camber on my drive, so I can’t get up the path unless I can see it properly. I fit into some cars better than others. As I get older, I prefer bigger, comfier cars rather than squeezing into all sorts, unlike Chris, who can get into pretty much almost anything!

Are some of your celebrity friends eager to come on the show?

Yes. I realised how big the show was when I did a Comic Relief special with Robbie Savage. He thought he was coming on to Top Gear, but in fact it was a prank. He was really, really excited. That’s when I realised that people really want to come on the show. Some of the lads I work with will be desperate come and join us. It’s a measure of how big the show is. All my mates want tickets for the studio recordings. I can’t give them away for the cricket!

Finally, has your driving improved since you have been on Top Gear?

I hope so!

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