Posted : 2013-03-20 17:23
Updated : 2013-03-20 17:23

Man in fast lane

Rapper and car raccer Kim Jin-pyo poses after succeeding in driving a 360-degree vertical loop in a Chevrolet Spark last year while filming an episode for Top Gear Korea. / Courtesy of XTM

Kim Jin-pyo aims to add Korean flair to the show

By Kim Tae-jong

When Top Gear Korea was launched in 2011, some may have thought it strange for Kim Jin-pyo to become one of the three presenters for the Korean adaptation of the BBC's popular show, if they remembered him simply as a popular rapper.

But such strangeness didn't last long after they watched him behind the wheel and listened to his analysis of various cars and their strengths and weaknesses.

In fact, the job is perfect for him, as seen when people come to learn how much he loves cars. He also races cars on the Chevrolet Team.

"Yes, they are quite a strange combination," Kim told The Korea Times. "But I really loved cars and music when I was young. But after they became my job, I tried really hard not to hear that I simply enjoy them as hobby, which is a bit stressful for me, though."

The 36-year-old said his love of cars started when he was very young.

"I was a car maniac even when I was really young. I insisted I should take a certain type of taxi that I liked. I collected car magazines whenever I had money. I was fascinated by the Daewoo LeMans, which had a European Opel design, and I used to sit all day by a road to see it without going home," he said.

Top Gear

Thanks to Top Gear Korea, Kim says he can now drive various cars from minis to super cars and can push them to extremes.

In the show, he has been also engaged in various stunts with cars, even very dangerous ones such as driving through a 360-degree vertical loop in a Chevrolet Spark.

"I'm really happy when I'm behind the wheel, regardless of what car I drive," he said. "I love adventure. I can feel the adrenaline pumping into my heart when doing things like that. If safety is guaranteed, I just go."

But during the last three episodes, he also had to face the risk of serious accidents.

For example, when filming a racing sequence between a Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 and a Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopter, a helicopter crashed into the Arizona desert. Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured.

Kim said the show will keep trying new things and it will have more Korean features in the upcoming season. In fact, the show has followed a similar format to the British original since its launch on Aug. 20, 2011.

"When we first launched the show, we just followed detailed instructions from the BBC's original show. We didn't think of any new things," Kim said. "But after three seasons, we're now planning to put more Korean taste into it."

However, he said this won't mean the show will focus on Korean cars.

"When we had a program on local cars, interestingly enough, the viewership ratings weren't so good. I guess viewers want something that they can't easily experience. We're working hard to find out what they want to see."

Best car

When asked which car he loves most, he immediately picked the Ferrari 458 Italia.

"The Ferrari 458 Italia is the best car. It didn't disappoint me even on the racing track. It's even comparable to a racing car. I could even drive it in the city, too. I would definitely buy one if I were really rich with hundreds of billions of won in my pocket," he said.

But in general, he says he thinks about what value a car can give when judging it.

"For example, if a car has an excellent design you like, then it's ok that it has a disappointing performance. I like my Land Rover Discovery because it has many good points such as seven-passenger seats, a large trunk and is a comfortable ride, which can offset all the disappointing aspects such as performance," he said.

He spoke highly of cars from Hyundai Motor and its sister automaker Kia Motors, saying they have been catching up rapidly with world-class automakers.

"Were you able to compare BMW cars and Hyundai cars just 10 year ago? There are still some technical gaps, but Hyundai and Kia have grown really fast to improve their quality, comparable to other global premium brands," he said.

Kim believes the nation should develop an automobile culture, emphasizing that cars are no longer just for transportation.

"It's a shame that we are the world's fifth-largest auto manufacturing country but do not have any automobile culture. We lag behind countries that do not manufacture cars in terms of motorsports," he said.

Future goals

Kim says he wants to give up neither of his two titles of rapper and car racer. He is now preparing a new mini album, titled "Five Breakup Stories," and plans to release his 7th album at the end of this year.

"Since I have two totally different jobs, I know I can't be better than those who only focus on either of them," he said. "But I will try do my best to catch up, and I want to keep my jobs for a long time," he said. "While I'm engaged in cars, I also want to make some contribution to the development of an automobile culture in Korea."

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