Top Gear

From Academic Kids

This article is about Top Gear, the television series. For the video game, see Top Gear (video game) and for the Radio 1 music show, see Top Gear (radio show).

Top Gear is a long-running BBC television series about cars, motorcycles and motorsport. When it started in 1977, it was initially not networked throughout Britain, hosted by BBC anchorwoman Angela Rippon. Early presenters included Noel Edmonds and William Woollard.

Originally a fairly middle-of-the-road magazine show reviewing new car models and other car-related issues, such as road safety, it saw a massive boost in its audience in the early 1990s when it became more controversial, unashamedly petrolhead-oriented programme, fronted by Jeremy Clarkson. Among Clarkson's contemporary presenters were Quentin Willson, a former used car salesman, Tiff Needell, a keen racing driver, and Vicki Butler-Henderson, also a racing driver.

Despite enduring criticism that the show is overly macho, encourages irresponsible driving behaviour, and ignores the environment, under Clarkson's presentation it pulled in huge audiences. It became hugely influential with the motor manufacturers, since a critical word from the Top Gear team can spell disaster in the sales department; this was most memorable in the case of the Ford Ka, whose sales plummeted when Clarkson decided that "it looks like a frog". However, even more critical statements have not affected sales of the Toyota Corolla; and praise did not help the Alpine Renault A610.

Every year since the early 1990s, the team has named and shamed the worst (and the best) of the year's new cars in the J. D. Power Top 100 survey.

Top Gear has used the Allman Brothers Band song 'Jessica' as its theme tune for many years, so much so that many viewers are unaware that the track exists as a separate entity from the show. Originally the show used part of the original recording of the song, although in recent years (and as of the previous series in 2004) it has used a different recording which has different instruments and is not performed by the original artists.

After Clarkson left to pursue other aspects of his TV career, the show became more toned down, but still retaining something of its influence. The show's format has been widely imitated since the huge success of the mid-1990s, for example by Channel 4's Driven show, and ITV's Pulling Power. However, without Clarkson its audience fell from six million to under three million. In 2002, the show's remaining presenters moved to Channel Five with a virtually identical show called 5th Gear when the BBC decided to discontinue the show.


Top Gear revived

After a period of doing other programmes, Clarkson and producer Andy Wilman pitched a new format for Top Gear to the BBC, who consequently brought it back. The new format show, made at Dunsfold Park in Surrey, involves a standing studio audience with whom the presenters interact and with whom Clarkson often good-naturedly argues. There is also a "chat show"-type segment where Jeremy talks to a different guest each week and the video of their on-track performance in a Suzuki Liana is viewed (the subsegment being entitled 'Star in a Reasonably Priced Car'). The show is famed for its outrageous races, for example Clarkson racing the TGV train against Hammond and May from Surrey to Monte Carlo in an Aston Martin DB9. Or racing a plane from Surrey to Verbier in a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti.

A trait exhibited by Top Gear producers is an apparently pathological hatred for caravans. Various stunts have seen caravans destroyed by using them as conkers while suspended from cranes, dropping one onto a Toyota Hilux diesel light utility to prove the truck's indestructibility and towing one example to aerodynamically induced structural failure using a high powered Jaguar saloon car.

The current presenters are Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. The credits also mention The Stig as a presenter, although he never speaks a word. The sixth series began on May 22, 2005.

Due to the good viewing figures of the new format show, it also seems to have been awarded an increased budget as there are several expensive experiments and trips into Europe and to America.

Currently, the top three celebrity laps are held by comedian and tv presenter Jimmy Carr with 1:46.9sec, music expert and tv presenter Simon Cowell with 1:47.1sec, and snooker player Ronnie O'Sullivan with 1:47.3sec. The slowest lap is held by TV presenter Richard Whiteley with 2:06.0sec.

The top ten power laps, or laps where a car is driven round the track by the Stig are held by the Maserati MC12 with 1:18.9sec, the Ferrari Enzo with 1:19.0 sec, the Ariel Atom with 1:19.5sec, the Porsche Carrera GT with 1:19.8sec, the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren with 1:20.9sec, the Ford GT with 1:21.9sec, the Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale and the Porsche Carrera GT3 RS, both with 1:22.3sec, the Lamborghini Murcielago with 1:23.7sec and the Pagani Zonda with 1:23.8sec.


In 2002, the programme launched a search for the fastest faith, with representatives from different religions each driving a lap of the test track. The winner was the Church of England.

In 2002, a Radical was raced around the track against a jet fighter plane.

In May 2003, Richard used a drag racer with a rocket engine to blow up the car he considered to be the worst of all time, the Nissan Sunny. At the end of the show he also used the racer to blow up a caravan.

In 2003, Jeremy tested the Koenigsegg which, with a top speed of 245mph is the world's fastest production car. He couldn't resist a speed run on the test track. The record was 170mph set by the Pagani Zonda. This was smashed, with the Koenigsegg managing 174mph. Jeremy later commented how he felt nervous before the run because engineers from Koenigsegg had asked him if they could put tape around the windscreen.

In 2003, supermodel Jodie Kidd managed to knock Jay Kay off the top spot of the celebrity laps. He had been there since the second ever programme.

In 2003, the team visited the Isle of Man to test four BMW sportscars, the M1, M3, M5 and M3 CSL.

In 2005, the first episode of series 6, Jeremy tested the new Mercedes CLS AMG, Richard and James played football using the new Toyota Aygo and Jeremy took up the gauntlet to see whether a Challenger 2 tank could lock its main cannon onto a Range Rover Sport.

In the second episode of series 6, the Jeremy tested the Maserati MC12, which costs a staggering 412,000. The team also decided to buy a 2-door coupe each for less than 1,500 that wasn't a Porsche (mirroring a competition they had last series where they had to spend 1,500 to buy a Porsche). They were then set a series of challenges to see which had got the best deal, scoring points for each challenge. The winner turned out to be James, with a Jaguar XJS. Richard bought a BMW 635, while Jeremy went for a Mitsubishi Starion.

Car of the Year

Every year, the show presents a "Car of the Year" for the best new car in that year. Winners have included:

External links

  • BBC Top Gear (, The official BBC Top Gear website.
  • Top Gear magazine ( The 'Top Gear magazine' website
  • Final Gear ( Top Gear/5th Gear Fansite, with episode summaries for most episodes since the relaunchpl:Top Gear

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