Top Gear (2002 TV series)

Top Gear (2002 TV series)
Top Gear
Top Gear logo since 2002
Genre Motoring
Directed by Brian Klein
Presented by Jeremy Clarkson (2002–)
Richard Hammond (2002–)
James May (2003–)
Jason Dawe (2002)
The Stig (2002–)
Opening theme "Jessica"
Ending theme "Jessica"
Composer(s) Dickey Betts
Country of origin United Kingdom
Language(s) English
No. of series 17
No. of episodes 139 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Andy Wilman
Producer(s) Chris Hale
Editor(s) Guy Savin
Dan James
Location(s) Dunsfold Park, Guildford, Surrey, England, UK
Running time 60 min. (approx.)
Production company(s) BBC
Distributor BBC Worldwide
Original channel BBC Two
BBC HD (2009–present)
Picture format (SDTV) 576i (Series 1–13)
(HDTV) 1080i (Series 14-present + Polar Special 2007)[1]
First shown in 1977–2001
Original run 20 October 2002 –
Preceded by Top Gear
Related shows Top Gear (US)
Top Gear Australia
Top Gear Russia
Top Gear Korea
Stars in Fast Cars
Top Gear of the Pops
Top Ground Gear Force
External links
Production website

Top Gear is a British television series about motor vehicles, primarily cars. It began in 1977 as a conventional motoring magazine show. Over time, and especially since a relaunch in 2002, it has developed a quirky, humorous style. The show is currently presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, and has featured at least three different test drivers known as The Stig. The programme is estimated to have around 350 million viewers per week in 170 different countries[2] and is heavily downloaded from peer-to-peer file-sharing services, with roughly 300,000 downloads per episode[3] via torrent programs. First run episodes are broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two, and since Series 14, also on BBC HD. Seventeen series have been broadcast, the most recent of which started on 26 June 2011.[4]

The show has received acclaim for its visual style and presentation, as well as criticism for its content and comments made by presenters. Columnist A. A. Gill, close friend of Clarkson[5] and fellow Sunday Times columnist, described the show as "a triumph of the craft of programme making, of the minute, obsessive, musical masonry of editing, the French polishing of colourwashing and grading".[6]



Jeremy Clarkson, who helped the original series reach its peak in the 1990s, along with producer Andy Wilman, successfully pitched a new format for Top Gear to the BBC, reversing a previous decision to cancel the show in 2001. The new series was first broadcast in 2002. Top Gear's studio is located at Dunsfold Aerodrome and business park in Waverley, Surrey. Top Gear uses a temporary racing circuit which was designed for the show by Lotus and is laid out on parts of Dunsfold's runways and taxiways. A large hangar is used for studio recording with a standing audience.

The new series format incorporates a number of major changes from the old show. The running time was extended to one hour and two new presenters were introduced: Richard Hammond and Jason Dawe, with James May replacing Dawe after the first series. The Stig, an anonymous, helmeted racing driver, was introduced as the test driver. New segments were also added, including "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car", "The Cool Wall", "The News", "Power Laps", and one off features such as races, competitions and the regular destruction of caravans and, more recently, Morris Marinas.

In early 2006, the BBC had planned to move the filming site from Dunsfold to Enstone, Oxfordshire for filming of the eighth series of Top Gear, but the move was rejected by West Oxfordshire council due to noise and pollution concerns.[7] Filming of the series went ahead at Dunsfold in May despite not having a permit to do so,[8] with a revamped studio set, a new car for the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment, and the inclusion of one of Hammond's dogs, named "Top Gear Dog" (now known as TeeGee), in a few studio and film segments of that series.

On 20 September 2006, Richard Hammond was seriously injured while driving a Vampire turbojet drag racing car at up to 314 miles per hour (505 km/h) for a feature in the show. The BBC indefinitely postponed the broadcast of Best of Top Gear and announced that production of the show would be delayed until Hammond had recovered. Both the BBC and the Health and Safety Executive carried out inquiries into the accident.[9] Filming resumed on 5 October 2006.[10] The ninth series began on 28 January 2007 and included footage of Hammond's crash.[11] The first show of the ninth series attracted higher ratings than the finale of Celebrity Big Brother[12] and the final episode of the series had 8 million viewers – BBC Two's highest ratings for a decade.

  1. Top: Series 1 host lineup from left to right: Jason Dawe, Richard Hammond, and Jeremy Clarkson.
  2. Bottom: The presenters from Series 2 onward: James May, Richard Hammond, and Jeremy Clarkson.

A special programme, Top Gear: Polar Special, was broadcast in the UK on 25 July 2007 and was the first episode to be shown in high-definition. It involved a race to the North Magnetic Pole[13] from Resolute, Nunavut, Canada, with James May and Jeremy Clarkson travelling in a 'polar modified' Toyota Hilux, and Richard Hammond on an Alexander Tachauer drawn sled. All three presenters had experienced explorers with them, and Clarkson and May became the first to reach the 1996 North Magnetic Pole by car, using the vehicle's satellite navigation. Since 1996, the North Magnetic Pole had moved approximately 100 miles (160 km). The recorded 1996 location is the target used by Polar Challenge and was used by the Top Gear team as their destination; the Geographic North Pole is approximately 800 miles (1,300 km) further north.

On 9 September 2007, Top Gear participated in the 2007 Britcar 24-hour race at Silverstone, where the hosts (including The Stig) drove a race prepared, second hand diesel BMW 330d to come 3rd in class and 39th overall. The car was fuelled using biodiesel refined from crops shown during a tractor review in the previous series.

In 2008, the show was adapted into a live format called Top Gear Live. The tour started on 30 October 2008 in Earls Court, London, moving on to Birmingham in November then at least 15 other countries worldwide. Produced by former Top Gear producer Rowland French[14] the events were described as an attempt to "bring the tv show format to life... featuring breath-taking stunts, amazing special effects and blockbusting driving sequences featuring some of the world’s best precision drivers".[15]

On 17 June 2008, in an interview on BBC Radio 1's The Chris Moyles Show, Hammond and May confirmed that in Series 11 there would be a new "occasional regular host".[16] This was revealed to be Top Gear Stunt Man. The series' executive producer, Andy Wilman, also revealed that future programmes will have less time devoted to big challenges:

"We've looked back at the last two or three runs and noticed that a programme can get swallowed up by one monster film – a bit like one of those Yes albums from the 70s where side one is just one track – so we're trying to calm down the prog-rock side. We'll inevitably still have big films, because it's the only way you can enjoy the three of them cocking about together, but they'll be shorter overall, and alongside we'll be inserting two- or three-minute punk songs."[17]

Series 14, broadcast in autumn 2009, attracted criticism from some viewers, who perceived that the show was becoming predictable with an over-reliance on stunts and forced humour at the expense of serious content. On the BBC's Points of View broadcast 13 December 2009, Janice Hadlow, the controller of BBC Two, rejected such comments, observing that she was still pleased with Top Gear's ratings and audience appreciation figures.[18] However, on 20 December, Andy Wilman admitted that the three presenters were now "playing to their TV cartoon characters a bit too much". He added, "It’s fair to say this incarnation of Top Gear is nearer the end than the beginning, and our job is to land this plane with its dignity still intact. But ironically, that does mean trying new things to the last, even if they screw up, because, well, it means you never stopped trying."[19]

Nevertheless a one-off special of the long-running USA news programme 60 Minutes featuring Clarkson, May and Hammond attracted 16 million viewers in October 2010 (which was the highest audience for the show in 2010), highlighting Top Gear's continuing popularity.[20]

Series 15 was aired in the UK from 27 June 2010 to 1 August 2010 on BBC2 and BBC HD.[21]

Series 16 was aired from 26 December 2010 to 27 February 2011.[22]

Series 17 began on 26 June 2011.[23]


In addition to first run episodes broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two, and since Series 14, also on BBC HD, Top Gear is also shown on Dave, BBC America, BBC Canada, RTÉ Two & Setanta Ireland in Ireland, Veronica in The Netherlands, Canvas in Belgium, Kanal 9 in Sweden, Malaysia's Media Prima's NTV7, Nine Network and GO!, Prima COOL in the Czech Republic, Viasat3 and Viasat6 in Hungary, in Australia (previously on SBS One which showed the programme until the end of the 13th series aired in 2009), Prime TV in New Zealand, BBC Entertainment in Latin America, and a number of other television channels around the world. The popularity of the show has led to the creation of three international versions, with local production teams and presenters for Australia, Russia and the United States.[24] Episodes of the Australian version premièred on 29 September 2008 and NBC was holding the American version for broadcast in February or March 2009, as a possible mid-season replacement, but later dropped it from their schedule before production resumed.[25] Older seasons are also available on Netflix streaming. The U.S. cable channel History picked up the rights to the American version, which premiered on 21 November 2010.



The show regularly features long-distance (or, as Clarkson refers to them, "epic") races.[26][27] These typically feature Clarkson (or one of the other presenters) driving a car against other forms of transport. The challenges usually involve Hammond and May taking the same journey by combinations of plane, train or ferry. The feature is edited in an entertaining way to portray the result as close and to conceal the winner until the very end of the race (regardless of the actual closeness of the race).

A number of smaller scale 'novelty' races have also taken place that demonstrate various strengths and, more often, weaknesses of cars. These races involve one of the presenters, in a carefully chosen car, racing head-to-head against an athlete in conditions that favour the latter. The programme has also featured a variety of small races, typically lasting a couple of minutes, that pit two similar cars against each other, for example, old and very powerful racing cars against new showroom cars.


Jeremy Clarkson's '"Toybota"' pickup truck from the amphibious cars challenge.

In the first few series, they featured novelty challenges and short stunt films, typically based on absurd premises, such as a bus jumping over motorcycles (as opposed to the more typical scenario of a motorcycle jumping over buses) or a nun driving a monster truck. No stunt films appeared between series seven and ten, but series eleven saw the introduction of segments with an anonymous stunt man (credited as "Top Gear Stunt Man") performing car jumps.

Starting with series five, many of the show's challenges were introduced with the tag-line "How hard can it be?". These included challenges where the presenters attempt to build a convertible Renault Espace, being roadies for The Who, participating in the Britcar 24-hour endurance race at Silverstone Circuit and trying to build an Electric Vehicle that would be cheaper than a G-Wiz.

Starting with series four, one episode of each series has featured a film built around the premise of "Cheap cars", whereby the presenters are given a budget (typically around £1,500, but it has been between £100 and £10,000 depending on the type of car) to buy a used car conforming to certain criteria. Once purchased, the presenters compete against each other in a series of challenges to establish who has bought the best car. The presenters have no prior knowledge of what the tests will be, although they typically involve long journeys to evaluate the cars' reliability and fuel economy, and a race track event to determine performance.

One of the recurring jokes is when May stops his car, Clarkson or Hammond will slam their car into the back, usually blaming the brakes. This can be seen in the Bolivia Special on the Death road. They also often sabotage May's cars during the course of the challenges.

Many of the car creations from the challenges are on display at World of Top Gear at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu.

Isle of Man Post Office issued a set of six stamps featuring a selection of the most bizarre and ingenious automotive challenges featured on Top Gear. The stamps are very popular with collectors and non collectors worldwide Official Top Gear stamps

Christmas specials

Every year an extended special is broadcast featuring the three presenters undertaking a themed challenge. During the 2010 Christmas special the team was flown to Iraq, and issued with the challenge to make their way to Bethlehem in a bid to recreate the voyage of the Three Kings from the East. Notable scenes included Richard Hammond being stopped for a bullet shaped lighter at an Iraq-Turkey border crossing. Jeremy Clarkson attempted to bulletproof his passenger side door with sand before watching a 9mm bullet go straight through it and continuing to travel clear through the driver door in what appeared to be three different holes caused by the bullet tumbling and fragmenting. In addition, James May suffered head trauma when he was knocked over by a tow strap, striking the back of his head against a rock, whilst trying to help dislodge Clarkson's car. On arrival in Bethlehem, the team, to their surprise, were greeted by a small "stig-like" infant in a manger.

At the end of 2011 there will be another Top Gear Christmas Special which will be in India.

Star in a Reasonably Priced Car

In each episode, a celebrity is interviewed by Clarkson. Then, they and the studio audience watch footage of the guest's fastest lap around the Top Gear test track. The times are recorded on a leader board. For the first seven series of Top Gear's current format, the car driven was a Suzuki Liana.

At the beginning of the eighth series, the Liana was replaced by a Chevrolet Lacetti. As the Lacetti is more powerful, the leader board was wiped clean, which has allowed several celebrities to return, including Boris Johnson, now Mayor of London. The format for setting a lap time was also changed: each celebrity is allowed five practice laps, then a final timed lap. No allowance is made for any errors on this final timed lap. The Lacetti was replaced with a new car for the fifteenth series, a Kia Cee'd, which Clarkson pronounces as "Kia see apostrophe d".

Ellen MacArthur set the fastest lap time in the Liana, with a time of 1:46.7. The fastest lap time in the Chevrolet Lacetti was set by Jay Kay with a time of 1:45.83. His performance in the final episode of series 11 replaced Simon Cowell's at the head of the leader board. Kevin McCloud was second with a time of 1:45.87, Brian Johnson was third, and Simon Cowell fourth, both with a time of 1:45.9 on the board. The fastest time in the Kia Cee'd was briefly that of Tom Cruise with a lap time of 1:44.2; since then he has been beaten by Ross Noble who achieved a time of 1:43.5 in July 2011, John Bishop who managed 1:42.8 in January 2011, and Rowan Atkinson who achieved the current fastest time ever of 1:42.2 in July 2011.

There have been several mishaps in the past with this feature. Michael Gambon went around the final corner of the track on two wheels, prompting Clarkson to rename the corner in Gambon's honour. Lionel Richie and Trevor Eve each lost a wheel and David Soul destroyed the clutches of both the main car and the back-up car. Several celebrities have come off the track in practice, with Clarkson showing the footage to the audience.

There is a separate Formula One drivers' leader board, because of the considerable skill advantage F1 drivers have. Sebastian Vettel is currently top of the time sheet, with a time of 1.44.0. So far, only Sebastian Vettel and Rubens Barrichello (with a time of 1.44.3) managed to be faster than The Stig. All Formula One times, even those set after the seventh series, are set in the Suzuki Liana.

Power Laps

Top Gear Test Track

In the Power Laps segment, The Stig completes a lap around the Top Gear test track to gauge the performance of various cars. The Top Gear test track was designed by Lotus.

The qualifications for the normal Power Lap Board are that the car being tested must be roadworthy, commercially available, and able to negotiate a speed bump[28] (sometimes referred to as a 'sleeping policeman'). There is a separate unofficial board of times for non-production cars, such as the Aston Martin DBR9 Le Mans racer.

Cars that have recorded ineligible lap times on the Top Gear track include the Renault F1 car, at fifty-nine seconds (0:59.00), and the Caparo T1, at 1:10.6, both disqualified due to the sleeping policeman requirement, as well as the Ferrari FXX, at 1:10.7, which was disqualified for using slick tyres. The Pagani Zonda R set a time of 1:08.00 but was disqualified for not being road legal.

The fastest road-legal car that met the Power Lap requirements has been the Ariel Atom V8 with a lap time of 1:15.1, beating second-place McLaren MP4-12C, by 1.1 seconds.

The Cool Wall

Introduced in the sixth episode of series one,[29] Clarkson and Hammond decide which cars are cool and which are not by placing photographs of them on to various sections of a large board, known as 'The Cool Wall'. The categories are, from left to right; "Seriously Uncool", "Uncool", "Cool", and "Sub Zero". According to Andy Wilman, the show's producer, any given car's coolness factor rested on various attributes that are not necessarily related to the quality of the car itself.[30] For example, Wilman suggests that "fashionable cars" such as the Audi TT, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Jaguar S-Type, and Volkswagen Beetle are uncool because they "make a massive impact for five minutes and then look clichéd and vaguely ridiculous."[30]

On the show, Clarkson has stated that cars were deemed cool by the extent to which he believed they would impress actress Kristin Scott Thomas,[31] and later, BBC newsreader Fiona Bruce. Both have since been the celebrity guest for the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car feature; when Scott Thomas appeared on the show in series nine, many of her own judgments on which vehicles were "cool" and "uncool" were the opposite to the show's verdicts (her own car being a G-Wiz, previously dubbed "uncool"). Later, when Bruce came on in series 11, her preferred choice of transport – a Citroën Xsara Picasso – visibly horrified Clarkson.

In the first episode of series four, a separate fridge section, the "DB9 Super Cool Fridge", on a table to the right of the board, was introduced after Clarkson declared that the Aston Martin DB9 was too cool even to be classified as "Sub-Zero". It initially contained just the DB9, but was eventually joined by the Aston Martin V8 Vantage in the seventh series. At the other end of the scale, James May's car – the Fiat Panda – from the cool side of the wall was placed several metres to the left of the "uncool" side, on a banner at the back of the hangar followed by the Renault Laguna. This was partly due to an acknowledged rule by the presenters that cars owned by themselves cannot be considered cool. In series nine, Clarkson was forced to place the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder in the Uncool section because he had just bought one. He then revealed that he had sold his Ford GT, allowing him to move that car back into the Sub-Zero section.

The humour of this section often lies in Clarkson and Hammond disagreeing over which section a car should be placed in, with Clarkson nearly always winning the argument – sometimes by placing the car at the very top of the wall, preventing the much shorter Hammond from being able to reach it (although in the last episode of series 13 Hammond got his own back by using a scissor lift to place a Nissan 370Z in the Sub-Zero section, which was then stopped by Clarkson pressing the emergency stop button so that he could put the Pagani Zonda Cinque, Hammond's "favourite car in the world", and 5 photos of Hammond himself in the Seriously Uncool section). Clarkson sometimes uses more extreme methods such as burning the card depicting the car in question, or once even taking a chainsaw to the wall when Hammond dared to try and place a Ducati 1098 motorbike on the wall. Clarkson has even destroyed Hammond's microphone to stop him. Hammond has occasionally had his revenge: after a series of disagreements with Clarkson's choices, he snatched the card on which a BMW M6 was featured from Clarkson and then ran into the audience, leading to a fight between the two and to Hammond eating the card, preventing it from being used. During series six Clarkson had slipped and had surgery in two intervertebral discs in his back, and thus was unable to bend down; Hammond ended an argument by placing the car in question at the bottom of the board.

The Cool Wall was mostly destroyed in the fire that occurred in August 2007 (reported, tongue in cheek, by Jeremy Clarkson as having been started by their Five rivals, Fifth Gear) and was not used during the subsequent tenth series. The burnt wall was present during episode 3 of series 10, when Hammond was testing the auto-parking Lexus LS 600 next to it. A new Cool Wall was introduced in the second episode of series eleven.

Two specific rules of the cool wall are: "All Alfa Romeos are automatically cool" and "Everything with a Skoda badge on it is considered to be seriously uncool". In addition, a car owned by any of the presenters is automatically "uncool".

Unusual reviews

A common theme on Top Gear is an approach to reviewing cars which combines standard road tests and opinions with an extremely unusual circumstance, or with a challenge to demonstrate a notable characteristic of the vehicle.

This has included several reviews, including "Toyota Hilux Destruction", featured in series three, episodes five and six. Various methods were employed by Clarkson and May to try to destroy a fourth generation Toyota Hilux, thereby proving its strength. The 'trials' included dropping the Hilux from a crane, setting the vehicle on fire, crashing it into a tree, driving it through a big shed (with a sign which said 'Top Gear Production Office'), leaving it in the Bristol Channel and waiting for the tide to engulf it, dropping a caravan on it, slamming it with a wrecking ball, and finally having it hoisted to the roof of a tower-block that was subsequently demolished with explosives. The heavily damaged (but still driveable, without the use of any new parts except for a replacement windscreen) Hilux now stands on a plinth in the Top Gear studio.

Another such review featured a Ford Fiesta, after Hammond read out a letter from a viewer complaining that "Top Gear cannot review cars properly any more." Clarkson gave the model a sarcastic, but thorough, appraisal and was then pursued around Festival Place shopping centre in Basingstoke, Hampshire, by a Chevrolet Corvette C6. The Fiesta was then used as a beach landing craft with the Royal Marines.

Occasionally, many cars are featured and reviewed inside one segment. In the "Scooter Road Test Russian Roulette Challenge" of series six, episode nine, Hammond and May worked as ScooterMen[32] in order to road-test as many randomly selected cars as possible, the catch being that they wouldn't know what they'd be road-testing and have to review the vehicles in the presence of the owners.

Exotic or foreign cars are occasionally also reviewed in unusual ways. In the "VIP Chauffeur" test of series eleven, episode six, May conducted road tests in Japan of the Mitsuoka Orochi and Galue, and used the Galue to chauffeur a Sumo wrestler and his manager to a tournament as a way to test if the car is "Japan's Rolls-Royce".[33]

During its release in 2008, the Dacia Sandero was frequently mentioned as a running gag in the show's News feature, with the presenters' increasingly sarcastic excitement highlighting their opinion that the car was of no real importance to anybody. James May would sarcastically say "Great News! The Dacia Sandero..." and it would follow with a pointless fact about the Sandero. In the first episode of series 14, the crew actually went to Romania, where the Sandero is built. While there, Jeremy bought a Sandero for May, but just after May drove it, it was promptly crushed by a lorry. James said it was a brilliant car, and was furious when it was crushed.

Also in series 14 Clarkson tested the Renault Twingo in Belfast following a complaint from one of the city's residents. Despite catching a cold on the ferry getting there, he admitted he loved the car. However, he did some rather strange things, including driving it "upside down" in the Belfast Sewage System. In a joke gag, Clarkson ended up driving the car into Belfast Lough after an attempt to land it on the HSS Stena Voyager after missing boarding times. Throughout the review it was revealed Ross Kemp was in the boot.

In series 15 episode 3, Clarkson, Hammond and May took turns testing three high performance sports saloons: a Porsche Panamera Turbo, a Maserati Quattroporte, and an Aston Martin Rapide. All three presenters acted as chauffeurs for an actual wedding; the couple was invited to the studio during the airing of the segment (afterwards, they were introduced to the audience and presented with a toilet seat with a picture of the three presenters on its surface).

Car of the Year

At the end of each autumn series the hosts present an award to their favourite car of the year. The only criterion for the award is that all three presenters must come to a unanimous choice. Winners have included:

Year Car
2002 Land Rover Range Rover
2003 Rolls-Royce Phantom
2004 Volkswagen Golf GTI
2005 Bugatti Veyron
2006 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder
2007 Ford Mondeo or Subaru Legacy Outback
2008 Caterham Seven R500
2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni
2010 Citroën DS3

Car of the Decade

Decade Car
1990s Ford Escort RS Cosworth
2000s Bugatti Veyron

Ownership survey

From 2003 to 2006, Top Gear conducted an annual survey which consults thousands of UK residents on their car-ownership satisfaction. The survey asks respondents to score cars on build quality, craftsmanship, driving experience, ownership costs, and customer care. While for legal reasons the survey is now conducted via the Top Gear magazine, the results are still used on the show. The survey, formerly undertaken in conjunction with J.D. Power, is now conducted by Experian. Based on these weighted criteria, the best and worst ranked cars from the survey are:

Year Best ranked Worst ranked
2003 Jaguar XJ[34] Volkswagen Sharan[35]
2004 Honda S2000 Mercedes M-Class
2005 Honda S2000 Peugeot 807
2006 Honda S2000 Peugeot 807

Ending credits

For the special episodes, the programme alters the end credits to reflect its locale, replacing everybody's first name with one reminiscent of the area. The first time this was done was for the "Winter Olympics Special"[36] episode, filmed in Lillehammer, Norway, where everybody was named Björn after Björn Ulvaeus, except for Hammond, May and The Stig, who took the names Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid as a reference to the other members of ABBA, even though ABBA is from Sweden, not Norway. The end credits of the American Road Trip episode in series 9 named Clarkson as 'Cletus Clarkson', Hammond as 'Earl Hammond Jr.', May as 'Ellie May May', The Stig as 'Rosco P. Stig' and replaced the first names of all other crew members with 'Billy Bob'.

Furthermore, in the Polar Special all first names in the ending credits were replaced with Sir Ranulph, in reference to the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who had also made an appearance early in the episode. In the African Adventure Special[37] all were called Archbishop Desmond, while for the Vietnam road trip special, everyone's first name was replaced with Francis Ford as a nod to the Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now.

In the Sport Relief 2008 special 'Top Ground Gear Force' all the crew's first names were replaced with 'Monty' in reference to the celebrity gardener Monty Don. Clarkson was renamed 'Alan Clarkson' and May as 'Charlie May' in reference to Ground Force and Hammond as 'Handy Hammond' referencing Changing Rooms.

The one regular episode where the credits were tampered with was the last episode of series 8. Reflecting the episode's main challenge, Clarkson, Hammond and May's first names were altered to those supposedly typical of van drivers; Lee, Wayne and Terry respectively.

The end card of Series Fifteen, Episode 1 stated that the episode was made in 2020, with an additional "X" accidentally added on to the Roman numeral date; the presenters admitted this mistake in the next episode and subsequently discovered that they were broadcasting from the future.

In the end credits for the Christmas 2010 Special, the names of all the cast and crew were changed to mimic the style of medieval naming that gave a person's name and the place of birth, as in "Richard of Solihull", "Jeremy of Doncaster" and "James of Bristol", to link with the theme of the Three Wise Men.



Top Gear has used an adaptation of The Allman Brothers Band's instrumental hit "Jessica" as its theme song since the original series started in 1977. The show used part of the original Allmans' recording of the song up until the late 1990s, but later series and the 2002 relaunch use updated cover versions.

During series 6, May hosted a segment showing nominations for the greatest song to drive to, the final list of ten was voted for by write-in nominations on the Top Gear website, the top five were then submitted for phone vote by viewers of the show. Songs in the top 10 were:

Rank Band Song
10 Fleetwood Mac "The Chain"
9 AC/DC "Highway to Hell"
8 Led Zeppelin "Immigrant Song"
7 Kenny Loggins "Danger Zone"
6 Motörhead "Ace of Spades"
5 Deep Purple "Highway Star"
4 Steppenwolf "Born to Be Wild"
3 Meat Loaf "Bat Out of Hell"
2 Golden Earring "Radar Love"
1 Queen "Don't Stop Me Now"

It included continual complaining from the presenters about the presence of "Bat Out of Hell" on the list (which was leading as of the selection of the top five) and its promotional segment included such visuals as cars being towed away and gridlocked streets. On the other hand, the equivalent "Don't Stop Me Now" segment was the exact opposite, featuring open roads and being described as "a joy" and "a song for life" in the voice-over.

Media releases

Music compilations

During the run of the series, several compilations of driving songs have been released. These releases were inspired by similar releases that were made available during the show's original run in 1990s. Two exclusive compilations have been released – Australian Anthems, a compilation released in celebration of an Australian version of the show being commissioned, and Seriously Rock & Roll: NZ Edition, released in very limited quantities in the UK, which features a range of music from famous New Zealand artists.

Name Release date Notes
Top Gear: The Greatest Driving Album This Year! 10 November 2003 Double CD
Top Gear: The Ultimate Driving Experience 14 November 2005 Double CD
Top Gear: Anthems – The Greatest Ever Driving Songs 21 May 2007 Double CD
Top Gear: Seriously Cool Driving Music 12 November 2007 Double CD
Top Gear: Anthems 2008 – Seriously Hot Driving Music 2 June 2008 Double CD
Top Gear: Sub Zero Driving Anthems 17 November 2008 Double CD
Top Gear: Australian Anthems 17 November 2008 Double CD
Top Gear: Seriously Hot Driving Anthems 27 October 2009 Double CD
Top Gear: Seriously Rock 'N' Roll 26 November 2009 Double CD
Top Gear: Full Throttle 8 November 2010 Double CD


A number of DVDs have also been released, covering various specials, compilations and much more.

Video on Demand

Select episodes of Top Gear are available on the BBC iPlayer in the UK. Select series of Top Gear are available on Amazon's Video on Demand, and on Netflix and iTunes in the United States. Currently on Amazon, series 7 through 14 are available in standard definition, with series 14 also available in high definition. On Netflix, series 2 through 15 are available for streaming in both the United States and Canada. For series 14 and 15, iTunes provides individual episodes in either standard or high definition.

Top Gear on Facebook

In August 2011, the BBC announced [38] that full-length Top Gear episodes will be available to purchase with Facebook Credits and watch on Facebook.

Awards and nominations

In November 2005, Top Gear won an International Emmy in the Non-Scripted Entertainment category.[39] In the episode where the presenters showed the award to the studio audience, Clarkson joked that he was unable to go to New York to receive the award because he was busy writing the new script.

Top Gear has also been nominated in three consecutive years (2004–2006) for the British Academy Television Awards in the Best Feature category. Clarkson was also nominated in the best "Entertainment Performance" category in 2006.[40] In 2004 and 2005, Top Gear was also nominated for a National Television Award in the Most Popular Factual Programme category; it won the award in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011. Accepting the award in October 2007, Richard Hammond made the comment that they really deserved it this year, because he didn't have to crash to get some sympathy votes.[41]

Top Gear presenters have also announced on the show that they have won some slightly lower profile awards. In Series 10, Richard Hammond won the award for the "Best TV Haircut" and James May won the award for the worst. All three presenters have won the award for Heat magazine's "weirdest celebrity crush" revealed during the news. In series 11, the Stig won an award from the Scouts for Services to Instruction. After revealing that, the Stig was shown "attacking" the Scouts, and the presenters coming to the conclusion that he is either terrified of Scouts or was a Girl Guide.

At the end of 2009 Top Gear was voted best programme of the decade in a Channel 4-commissioned survey, The Greatest TV Shows of the Noughties, ahead of The Apprentice and Doctor Who in second and third places respectively. Industry insiders and television pundits voted; also a thousand members of the public took part in a YouGov poll. The results were broadcast on Sunday 27 December 2009 at 9:00 pm, the same time as the Bolivia Special on BBC Two.[42][43][44]


Top Gear has often been criticised for content inside programmes by some members of the public and by Ofcom. Most of the criticisms stem from comments from the presenting team; however, other aspects of the programme have been underlined as unsuitable. Incidents and content ranging from (but not limited to) remarks considered by some viewers to be offensive,[45] promoting irresponsible driving,[46] environmental issues,[47] ridiculing Germans,[48][49] Mexicans,[50] Polish[51] and alleged homophobia[52] have generated complaints. British comedian and guest of the show Steve Coogan has criticised the show, accusing it of lazy, adolescent humour and "casual racism".[53]

The programme has also been accused of misrepresenting vehicle manufacturer Tesla in an episode first aired in 2008. The firm took Top Gear to court for libel and malicious falsehood after it suggested one of its Roadster vehicles had run out of power after only 55 miles.[54][55] On 19 October 2011, the High Court in London rejected Tesla's libel claim, ruling in favor of Top Gear & the BBC.[56]

Clarkson himself has been critical of the BBC over handling of the programme. In the February 2006 issue of Top Gear magazine, Clarkson voiced his opinion that the BBC did not take Top Gear seriously. He has also commented on his dislike of BBC bosses for choosing the length of the series and for often replacing the show with snooker (which Clarkson labelled as "drunk men playing billiards"), despite Top Gear having considerably higher viewing figures.[57]

International productions

Top Gear is broadcast in 170 different countries. BBC claims Top Gear has a viewership of 350 million per week. These numbers are speculated and are not confirmed by released BBC ratings.[58] Whether these numbers hold true, Top Gear is still one of the most watched TV shows currently.


On 19 November 2007, it was revealed that a localised Australian series of Top Gear would be produced by the Special Broadcasting Service network in conjunction with Freehand Productions, BBC Worldwide's Australasian partner. This announcement marks the first time a deal has been struck for a version of Top Gear to be produced exclusively for a foreign market. No indication was given as to the exact makeup of the show, other than that it would have a distinct Australian style.[59] SBS ran a competition to find hosts for the show, and in May 2008 confirmed that the presenters for the Australian programme were to be Charlie Cox, Warren Brown, Steve Pizzati and a local 'cousin' of The Stig.[60] James Morrison replaced Charlie for the second season of Top Gear Australia. Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson added, "I'm delighted that Top Gear is going to Australia."[61] It was announced that the Nine Network had secured the rights to the local and UK versions from 2010 on both its Nine and Go! (digital TV) stations.[62] On 20 June 2010, it was announced that actor and comedian Shane Jacobson and Top Gear Australia magazine editor Ewen Page would join a returning Steve Pizzati to present the show which premiered on 28 September 2010. The Australian version has received lacklustre reviews.[63][64]


On 14 October 2008, the Top Gear website confirmed that a Russian edition of the programme was scheduled for production by the end of that year. Initially, 15 episodes were scheduled.[65] It was revealed on 20 December that the pilot, branded Top Gear: Russian Version, was filmed for broadcast on 22 February 2009.[66] The format is similar to its British counterpart, with three hosts: an ex rock guitarist Nikolai Fomenko, an ex-MTV Russia VJ Oscar Kuchera, and a former automotive journalist Mikhail Petrovsky.[citation needed]

After only half of the first season, broadcasting of the Russian version ceased due to viewers' criticism. The channel switched to broadcasting the British version of the show from then on.

United States

First news of an American version of Top Gear surfaced in January 2006, when the official Top Gear website ran a feature about the filming of an American version of the show, produced by the Discovery Channel.[67] The pilot featured Bruno Massel as one of the hosts, but was not picked up by the network,[68] which later began running edited versions of Series 1–5 of the UK original.

In April 2007, the BBC reported on a Sun story that Top Gear had been in talks about creating an American version. The current presenters would remain as hosts, but the show would focus on American cars and include American celebrities.[69] Plans for an American version were eventually shelved, partly over Clarkson's misgivings about spending several months in the U.S., away from his family.[70]

NBC announced it ordered a pilot episode for an American version of Top Gear, to be produced by BBC Worldwide America.[71] The pilot, filmed in June 2008, was presented by television and radio host Adam Carolla, stunt driver Tanner Foust, and television carpenter Eric Stromer.[72] However, following the failure of a car-themed drama, NBC did not place the programme on its schedule, indicating it planned to hold it as a spring/summer (2009) season replacement.[73] Eventually, NBC dropped the show. In a February 2010 appearance in Australia, Jeremy Clarkson commented that the U.S. version of the show had been "canned".[74]

The show found new life in February 2010, when it was announced that the History cable channel had picked up the series and ordered between 10 and 12 episodes.[75] The show began production in August 2010, with a premiere on 21 November 2010.[76][77] A trailer was released in early August showing footage of the hosts simulating a "Moonshine run".[78]

South Korea

On 20 August 2011, the 1st episode of Korean version of Top Gear, produced by the XTM Channel was aired. The current presenters are Kim Kap-su, Kim Jin Pyo, Yeon Jeong-hoon (연정훈).


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