Admit it, if you’re anything like us, you’ve sat at home on a Sunday night watching Top Gear and dreamed of being the Stig.
We’re not saying it won’t happen but unless you’ve got decades of racing experience under your Nomex belt, your chances are probably less than 50/50.
Still, while you wait for the call from the BBC you can occupy yourself with the latest Lego Technic set which allows you to be both master technician and silent, white-clad stunt driver.
The Lego Technic App Controlled Top Gear Rally Car - to give it its full name - is exactly what you’d expect. The £124.99, 463-piece set is a tie-up between the world’s favourite construction toy and probably the world’s most famous car show and features a couple of motors and a Bluetooth receiver to allow remote control of this generic rally car via a smartphone app.
The last couple of Technic sets we’ve built - a Land Rover and a Bugatti - have been enormous, complex things aimed squarely at older teenagers and adults but, with an age rating of nine-plus, this was an ideal set for a bit of father-son building time.
Although, to be honest, the nine-year-old in question could have managed the set fine without any parental input. With just over 100 stages clearly mapped out (and annotated with Stig facts along the way) it can be easily completed in a day and apart from some fiddly routing of wires it’s a pretty straightforward build. It’s not based on any real-life car but with its Hella-style spotlights, chunky tyres and inventive sponsorship stickers it definitely has a rally car aura.
Unlike some of the bigger, more adult-oriented models, there’s as much fun to be had playing with this Top Gear Technic set as building it.
I was a bit sceptical of the idea of a phone-based remote control system but the Control+ app is surprisingly effective. Obviously, with its tiny motor and floor-scraping ride, the Top Gear rally car is never going to compete with a proper R/C vehicle from the likes of Tamiya but Lego has a couple of tricks to keep it interesting.
The first benefit is that, as it’s pretty sedate, you can trust even younger children with the controls. Even my six-year-old failed to break it while doing his best Stig impression around the garden. You use simple pedal graphics for accelerating and braking plus the gyro in your phone to steer, so operating it is second nature to most 21st century children.
Beyond the basic remote controls, the app features an ingenious challenge system. A selection of routes is programmed in and drivers have to follow the on-screen instructions to follow the path, aiming to set the best time they can. You can even take it for a spin around a virtual version of the Top Gear test track, with videos to unlock as you progress through the challenges.
As far as Technic sets go it’s not among the most challenging but for younger builders with a passion for cars it’s a good introduction and is boosted by clever interactive functions that will keep them engaged long after they’ve finished building.