Squirrel' gathers Top Gear staff for autumn

Askew: raiding rival motoring titles such as Top Gear

Dennis Publishing is planning to take on BBC Top Gear magazine and has poached three of its top journalists ahead of an October launch, codenamed Project Squirrel.

Mike Askew, former associate editor on Auto Express, is editor and is raiding rivals to complete his team.

Top Gear’s former deputy editor, James Mills, is on board as executive editor, its former motoring editor Angus Fraser is road test editor and Colin Ryan, a former sub at Top Gear, is chief sub-editor.

The new monthly is hoping to target men aged 25 to 45 who have become disillusioned with Top Gear because they feel it is becoming too upmarket. Askew said it would involve readers in road tests and will be more buyingrelated than existing titles.

“We see Top Gear moving into the lifestyle arena with GQ, Maxim and FHM. This will be stylish but it’s going to be for the regular Joe,” he said. “People have been left behind by Top Gear; they would like something that sits between Top Gear and What Car?. We want to speak the language of the readers rather than preaching from on high,” he told Press Gazette.

Askew suggested all three titles would feature similar cars, but the treatment in the new title would be different, including a big focus on testing procedures. “They are getting ever more complicated and we are going to try to filter out all the guff in a language that will appeal to people who don’t usually buy car magazines,” he said.

‘Squirrel’ is expected to be one of Dennis’s biggest launches to date. It will have up to 300 pages and a cover price of £3.50 to £4.00. Askew said he hoped to sell at least 100,000 in line with the UK edition of Top Gear, which sells 136,216, and What Car?, which sells 137,411.

He said he was not concerned about Planet Driving, the new motoring title from Nigel Mansell, claiming ‘Squirrel’ “has a personality to it but there will be no personalities in it. We are going to let the cars do the speaking.”

Its 10-strong team also includes managing editor Paul Hudson, ex-commissioning editor of the Saturday Telegraph motoring section, and Sarah-Ellen Brown, deputy road test editor from What Car?.

“We hope it will have a big impact on the market. It is one of Dennis’s biggest ever launches and you can’t go creeping in through the back door,” Askew added.

By Ruth Addicott

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