Top Gear Segments

Top Gear Segments

Top Gear has featured a number of recurring segments on the show. The most popular are listed here. These elements make up the basic structure of the show.


Epic races

There have been six "epic races" on Top Gear, involving a car racing another mode of transport. These races usually start at the Top Gear test track, and usually last no more than a day.
*Car vs. Train in a race to Monte Carlo, Clarkson drove an Aston Martin DB9 while Hammond and May caught a bus to Guildford station, a train to London Waterloo, the Eurostar to Gare du Nord in Paris where they transferred to Gare de Lyon using the Paris Métro and finally the TGV to Monte Carlo. "Series Four, Episode One" Won by Clarkson

*Car vs. Plane in a race to Verbier, Switzerland, Clarkson drove a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti while Hammond and May caught a flight to Geneva and a short coach ride to the finish. "Series Five, Episode Eight" Won by Clarkson

*Car vs. Boat in a race to Oslo, Clarkson drove a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren while Hammond and May caught a flight to Newcastle, a ferry to Kristiansand and a Speedboat to Oslo, ending up in a small town outside Oslo called Drøbak "Series Six, Episode Six" Won by Clarkson

*Car vs. Private Plane in a race to London from Alba, Clarkson drove a Bugatti Veyron while Hammond and May rode scooters to the airport and flew a Cessna 182 to Lille where they caught the Eurostar to London. "Series Seven, Episode Five" Won by Clarkson

*Car vs. Bike vs. Boat vs. Public Transport in a race to see what form of transport was quickest at getting from one side of London to the other during rush hour. Clarkson took a boat, Hammond a bicycle, May a Mercedes-Benz GL 500 and The Stig went by public transport. "Series Ten, Episode Five" Won by Hammond, followed by Clarkson, then The Stig and May in last.

*Car vs. Bullet Train in a race through Japan to the top of Mount Nokogiri Yama, Clarkson drove a Nissan GT-R, while Hammond and May took public transport - an "ordinary" train, the 188 mph bullet train, the subway, another "ordinary" train, the bus to the ferry, and bicycles to the top. "Series Eleven, Episode Four" Won by Clarkson

Races vs. athletes

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.

*Car vs. Trail of fuel: Jeremy Clarkson raced a Chevrolet Corvette Z06 against a trail of fuel. The race began when the quarter mile trail of gasoline was lit.

*Car vs. aerobatics plane: Hammond presented a race between The Stig in a Radical SR3 against British Aerobatic Champion, Tom Cassells,cite web | |title=Tom Cassells |url= |accessdate=2008-01-26] in a CAP 232 Aerobatic Plane around the "Top Gear" test track. "Series One, Episode Nine"

*Car vs. racing pigeons: May used a Ford SportKa equipped with satellite navigation to compete against racing pigeons in a point-to-point race.Won by racing pigeons "Series Four, Episode Four"

*Car vs. snooker player: Ronnie O'Sullivan had to pot 14 snooker balls while his Mercedes-Benz SL500 was raced around the "Top Gear" test track by The Stig.Won by snooker player "Series Four, Episode Four"

*Car vs. all-terrain skateboarder: Hammond presented a pair of races on the "Green Mile", a half-mile downhill course in Wales, between double world champion all-terrain skateboarder Tom Kirkmancite web || title=Tom Kirkman | url= | accessdate=2008-01-26] and a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Group N rally car, and then a Bowler Wildcat, both driven by Ben Collins. "Series Five, Episode Two"

*Car vs. bobsleigh: May co-piloted a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Rally car driven by Henning Solberg, raced Hammond and the Norwegian Olympic bobsleigh team down a mountain in Lillehammer, Norway.Won by bobsleigh "Series Five, Episode Eight" (repeated in the "Winter Olympics Special")

*Car vs. marathon runner: Clarkson raced a Fiat Nuova Panda against marathon runner A.C. Muir around the London Marathon circuit during the morning rush-hour.Won by marathon runner "Series Six, Episode Seven"

*Car vs. motor powered kayak: Hammond visited Iceland and raced a modified off-road vehicle against a motorised kayak over Lake Kleifarvatn. "Series Six, Episode Ten"

*Car vs. rock climbers: Clarkson, in an Audi RS4, competed against two rock climbers, Leo Houlding and Tim Emmet, in a race from the bottom of a French gorge to the top.Won by rock climbers "Series Seven, Episode Two"

*Car vs. urban downhill cyclist: May raced a Renault Clio III down the narrow streets of Castle of São Jorge's district in Lisbon against a downhill bike racer, Gee Atherton. "Series Seven, Episode Four"

*Car vs. greyhound: Hammond drove a Mazda MX5 against Ireland's most expensive greyhound, Mama Tina, around Shelbourne's greyhound track in a one-lap pursuit style race. "Series Seven, Episode Six"

*Car vs. speed skater: Clarkson, in a Jaguar XK8, raced against speed skater Eskil Ervik around a speed skating track. "Winter Olympics Special"

*Car vs. parachutist: Hammond raced two miles (3 km) against a British army parachuter in Cyprus with a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S.Won by parachutist "Series Eight, Episode Four"

*Car vs. traceurs: May raced two traceurs, Daniel Ilabaca and Kerbie, over six miles (10 km) across Liverpool in a Peugeot 207 1.6L Diesel, from the edge of the city to the Liver Building.Won by traceurs "Series Eight, Episode Seven"

*Car vs. fighter jet: Hammond raced a Bugatti Veyron against a Eurofighter Typhoon, piloted by RAF Squadron Leader Jim Walls, to see which one could travel two miles faster (the Bugatti along a runway and back, the Eurofighter climbing a mile straight up and back down).Won by fighter jet "Series Ten, Episode Three"

*Car vs. rollerblades: Hammond drove an Aston Martin V8 Vantage against Dirk Auer, a man on roller skates with a turbo powered rocket backpack, in a straight half-mile drag race. "Series Ten, Episode Five"

*Car vs. tall man: May used an Alfa Romeo 159 in a race against Graham Boanas, to discover who could cross the convert|1.5|mi|km|sing=on widecite web || title=Graham Boanas | url= | accessdate=2008-01-26] Humber River faster without using the Humber Bridge. Won by tall man "Series Ten, Episode Six"

*Car vs. BMX bikes: May travelled to Hungary and raced a Fiat Nuova 500 against some BMX cyclists through the streets of Budapest. Won by cyclists "Series Ten, Episode Nine"

mall races

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 vs. new.

*Old cars vs. new cars — road circuit aka Top Gear Generation Game: five of Clarkson's older cars versus five of Hammond's modern vehicles. The pairings were: Golf GTi MKI vs MKIV, Toyota MR2 old vs new, Ford Escort Cosworth vs Focus RS, Peugeot 205 vs 206, Nissan 300ZX vs 350Z. "Series Three, Episode Eight"

*Diesel vs. petrol: A race between Clarkson in a diesel Skoda Fabia and Hammond in a petrol Mini Cooper to see if diesel had caught up to petrol. "Series Four, Episode Eight"

*Old cars vs. new cars — road circuit, race vs. showroom: three pairs made up of one classic racer and one showroom car raced against the clock in The Stig's hands. The pairings were: 1974 British Rally Championship-winning Ford Escort vs Ford Focus RS, Four times Le Mans-winning (1966-69) Ford GT40 vs Noble M400; 1983 World Rally Championship-winning Audi Quattro vs Mitsubishi Evo VIII MR FQ-340. "Series Five, Episode Eight"

* Snowmobile on water vs. Jeep Engined Offroader on water: Richard Hammond and Gisli Jonsson race a man on a snowmobile, both teams raced their vehicles over water. "Series Six, Episode Ten"

*RWD vs. 4WD — rally special stage: May took The Stig to an indoor exhibition rally track of the World Rally Championship at the Millennium Stadium to compare the RWD and 4WD Porsche 911 Carrera. "Series Seven, Episode Five"

*Old cars vs. new cars — hill climb: May and Hammond oversaw a race against the clock at the Prescott Hill Climb course, which featured an Austin-Healey Sprite and a modified Peugeot 306, both driven by The Stig. "Series Seven, Episode Six"

*Real life vs. a computer game — road circuit: Clarkson travelled to the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to compare a real life lap in a Honda NSX with one he did earlier using the same car in the Playstation 2 game "Gran Turismo 4". "Series Seven, Episode Six"

*Biathlon: Clarkson (in a Volvo XC90) raced May (in an Audi Q7), in a car-biathlon, with cross-country driving instead of skiing. "Winter Olympics Special"

*RWD vs. 4WD — off-road slalom: Clarkson ( in an RWD Jaguar XK) and May (in a 4WD Land Rover Discovery) created a slalom course on a frozen lake and raced against the clock. "Winter Olympics Special"


Novelty challenges and short stunt films are typically based on absurd premises, such as a bus jumping over motorcycles (as opposed to the more typical scenario of a motorocycle jumping over buses) or a nun driving a monster truck. These features have become much less prominent over the life of the programme (they were much more regular during the first four series'), being replaced or superseded in later series' by the "How hard can it be?" and "Cheap car" challenges which are much larger in scope.

Finally, 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 tests to establish who has bought the best car. The presenters have no prior knowledge of what the tests will be, although they generally involve a long journey to determine reliability, fuel economy (not always however), and a race track event to determine performance.

Unusual reviews

Another "Top Gear" trademark is the often unusual approach to 'reviewing' cars. Rather than presenting straight road tests, the presenters find interesting ways of focusing on a specific aspect of a car. These items often take the form of (typically) small challenges.

*Drive until you get bored / Test: enjoyable travel. Clarkson claimed that Jaguars "ease the burden of travel"Top Gear Series 2 Episode 4 2003.06.01] and devised a test for the Jaguar XJ to see how far he could drive one before he got bored. "Series Two, Episode Four"

*Lap of the M25 / Test: fuel economy. Clarkson drove a lap of the M25 in a diesel Volkswagen Lupo, while another driver used the petrol version to see which would achieve more miles per gallon. Clarkson was allowed to spend any money he saved over the petrol version on a gift at a service station. He chose a small gold model of a cockerel, which made a reappearance in later series as 'The Golden Cock'- the award given to the presenter who'd made the most embarrassing mistake of the year. "Series Three, Episode One"

*Toyota Hilux destruction / Test: toughness. Clarkson and May used various methods in an attempt to destroy a Toyota Hilux. The heavily damaged (but still driveable) Hilux is now stood on a plinth in the "Top Gear" studio. "Series Three, Episodes Five & Six"

*Helicopter gunship evasion / Test: handling. Clarkson tried to avoid being caught in missile lock from an WAH-64D Apache attack helicopter while driving a Lotus Exige. "Series Four, Episode One"

*London to Edinburgh and back again on a single tank of fuel / Test: fuel economy. Clarkson attempted to drive a diesel Audi A8 convert|800|mi|km on a single tank of fuel. "Series Four, Episode Four"

*Minicab road testing / Test: toughness and practicality. Hammond and May worked as minicab drivers in order to subject a Renault Scenic and Ford C-MAX to a year's worth of hard abuse in one evening. "Series Four, Episode Seven"

*Off-road up a mountain / Test: off-road ability. Clarkson tried to drive a Land Rover Discovery from the beach to the top of a mountain in Scotland, completely off-road. It was heavily criticised by environmentalists for the damage done by the vehicle's tyres. This stunt was memorable in that Clarkson left the mountain by helicopter with the Discovery's keys in his pocket delaying its removal from the hill. "Series Five, Episode Three"

*24 hours in a car / Test: comfort. Hammond and May spent 24 hours in a Smart Forfour to assess the marketing claim that the car is "designed like a lounge". "Series Five, Episode Four"

*Tank evasion / Test: handling. Clarkson discovered if a Challenger 2 tank could lock its main cannon on to a Range Rover Sport. "Series Six, Episode One"

*Car Football / Test: toughness and handling. Hammond and May, along with a selection of professional drivers, played a football match using Toyota Aygos. "Series Six, Episode One"

*Sniper evasion / Test: handling. Clarkson drove around a deserted village in a Mercedes SLK55 AMG and a Porsche Boxster S, trying to evade snipers of the Irish Guards. "Series Six, Episode Five"

*Road Test Russian Roulette / Test: random road testing. Hammond and May worked as ScooterMencite web || title=ScooterMan | url= | accessdate=2008-01-26 ] 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 had to do it in the presence of the cars' owners. "Series Six, Episode Nine"

*Supercars / Superbridge / Test: illustrate the point of supercars. The trio took three supercars (a Ford GT, a Ferrari F430 and a Pagani Zonda S) on a road trip to the recently opened Millau Viaduct via Paris. "Series Seven, Episode Three"

*Car Ice Hockey / Test: toughness and handling. Hammond and May, along with a selection of professional drivers, played an ice hockey match using Suzuki Swifts, while Clarkson acted as referee. "Winter Olympics Special"

*Horse racing camera platform / Test: smooth ride. Clarkson reviewed the Citroën C6 and put it to work as a mobile camera platform covering a horse race. "Series Eight, Episode Five"

*Car Football 2 / Test: toughness and handling. Hammond and May, along with a selection of professional drivers, staged a another football match using Toyota Aygos against a new contender, the Volkswagen Fox. "Series Eight, Episode Five"

ignificant cars

The programme will on occasion, sometimes to celebrate an anniversary, present short review films of non-contemporary cars to highlight why they are significant. These reviews are distinct from the various challenges involving old cars, because the subject matter is addressed in a more serious and factual manner. Reviews include:

* Ford Escort RS1800 "Series One, Episode Two"
* Citroën DS "Series One, Episode Three"
* Bentley T2 "Series Two, Episode One"
* Rover P5 "Series Two, Episode Two"
* Jaguar Le Mans C-Type & Mark 2 "Series Two, Episode Four"
* Triumph TR6 "Series Two, Episode Five"
* GM HyWire "Series Two, Episode Nine"
* BMW M1, M3 & M5 "Series Three, Episode Two"
* Lamborghini Miura "Series Three, Episode Four"
* Lamborghini Countach "Series Three, Episode Four"
* Volkswagen Corrado VR6 & Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Cosworth "Series Three, Episode Five"
* Aston Martin V8 Vantage "Series Three, Episode Six"
* Mercedes-Benz 280SL "Series Three, Episode Eight"
* Aston Martin Lagonda "Series Three, Episode Eight"
* Dodge Charger 440 R/T "Series Four, Episode Three"
* Jaguar XJS "Series Four, Episode Six"
* Rover V8 engine & SDI "Series Four, Episode Eight"
* Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing "Series Five, Episode Five"
* Maserati Biturbo & 250F "Series Six, Episode Two"
* Maserati Bora "Series Six, Episode Three"
* Aston Martin DB5 & Jaguar E-type "Series Six, Episode Five"
* British racing green & Vanwall F1 "Series Seven, Episode Two"
* Modern control layout Featuring: Benz Motorwagen, Royal Enfield quad bike, De Dion-Bouton, Ford Model T, Cadillac Type 53, Austin 7 "Series Ten, Episode Eight"

tar in a Reasonably-Priced Car

In each episode, a celebrity is interviewed by Clarkson. Then, Clarkson, the guest 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. Consequently, as the Lacetti is more powerful, the leader board was wiped clean. 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.

Ellen MacArthur set the fastest lap time of any celebrity in the Liana. However, before it was retired, The Stig was given the chance to do a lap in the car and set a faster time than MacArthur.

As of December 2007, Simon Cowell has set the fastest lap time of any celebrity in the Chevrolet Lacetti.

There have been several mishaps in the past with this feature. Sir Michael Gambon went around the final corner of the track on two wheels, prompting Jeremy to rename the corner in Gambon's honour. Lionel Richie and Trevor Eve 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. The Stig is top of this board, but the presenters consider Lewis Hamilton's time to be more impressive: it is only three tenths of a second behind, despite being set on a very wet and oily track. In the past Clarkson has told drivers that they may deduct 4 seconds for a wet lap in the Suzuki Liana making Hamilton's lap even more impressive. All Formula One times, even those set after the seventh series, are set in the Suzuki Liana.

Power Laps

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

The qualifications for the normal Power Lap Board is that the car being tested must be a road-worthy car and be able to go over a speed bump. [ [ Top Gear Power Laps] Top Gear Website Retrieved on 2006.11.13 "In order to qualify for the power laps board, a car must be road legal and be a car. For this reason, the F1 car (0.59.0), Aston Martin DBR9 (1.08.6) and Sea Harrier (0.31.2) do not appear."] There is a separate unofficial board of times for non-production car times.

The most powerful production car ever featured on "Top Gear", the Auto PS|1001 Bugatti Veyron, has not yet been driven around the track by The Stig. According to Hammond, this is because Bugatti has not given "Top Gear" permission to run the car through a power lap. [Top Gear Series 8, Episode 2 2006.05.14 "Richard Hammond: You know, I think the only time that the Zonda F is gonna get knocked off the board is when Bugatti finally let us put a Veyron on our track."] This was confirmed on the Veyron's second appearance in February 2007, when Clarkson made an appeal to Veyron owners to let Top Gear borrow their car and allow The Stig to drive it around the track, offering up to £30 to do so.

The car that recorded the fastest lap time on the "Top Gear" track was the Renault F1 car, at fifty nine seconds (0:59.00), although it was disqualified because the rules only include cars able to get over speed bumps.

As of the Tenth Series the fastest road legal car that met the 'sleeping policeman' requirement was the Ascari A10 in a time of 1:17.3. This is only 0.3 seconds faster than the former lap leader the Koenigsegg CCX with the Top Gear rear spoiler.

Without the 'sleeping policeman' requirement the fastest time around the track for a road legal car would be the Caparo T1. The Caparo posted a time of 1:10.6 despite its reliability problems.

The Cool Wall

Introduced in the sixth episode of series one, 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. The categories are "Sub Zero", "Cool", "Uncool", and "Seriously Uncool". Initially, part of the coolness factor rested on the extent to which the presenters believed each car would impress English actress Kristin Scott Thomas, although more recently, BBC newsreader Fiona Bruce has replaced Scott Thomas as their notional judge. When Scott Thomas appeared on the show in series nine, she turned out to dislike all the 'cool' cars and like all the 'uncool' cars. They have also added a separate 'DB9 Section', a mini fridge on a table to the right of the board, for those cars considered "super cool". It initially contained just the DB9, with the V8 Vantage, nicknamed the "Baby Aston", joining it in the seventh series. On one occasion, a particularly uncool car's picture was stuck onto a member of the audience to the left of the board.

An acknowledged rule of the Cool Wall is that cars owned by the presenters cannot be considered cool. In series nine, Clarkson was forced to place the 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 the car into the Sub-Zero section.

Frequently Clarkson and Hammond will disagree 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 in his favoured section, preventing the much shorter Hammond from being able to reach it. On one occasion, Hammond began eating the card on which a BMW M6 was featured, preventing it from being used. In series six, Clarkson slipped two spinal disks from "repetitive oversteer injury" and was unable to bend down. Taking advantage of this, Hammond ended an argument by placing the car in question at the bottom of the board.

In the fourth episode of series nine, Hammond attempted to place a Ducati 1098 motorcycle on the wall, but due to his hatred of motorcycles Clarkson removed it (and some of the wall) with a chainsaw. Clarkson pointed the chainsaw at Hammond and jokingly said, "Run or you'll be a lot shorter".

In the first episode of series ten, the fire-damaged Cool Wall was featured in the programme. It, along with other studio furniture (including the chairs used during the News segment) had been damaged or destroyed in a fire at the warehouse where props were stored.

However, in the second episode of series eleven, a new Cool Wall was started, with all the previous cars on the board still in the same place.

Car of the Year

At the end of each autumn series the hosts present an award to their favourite car of the year, that they can all agree on. Winners have included:

*2001 – Ford Mondeo
*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 (they couldn't decide)

Ownership survey

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

Novelty car features

The programme has always been able to come up with new ways to answer that old adage "What will they think of next?" For example, squeezing the 6'5" Jeremy Clarkson into a Peel P50, and then getting him to drive round central London and the BBC Television Centre. [Sunday October 28, 2007] Clarkson then promptly described it as "the best car we've had on the show ever." The piece featured Clarkson in various interactions with BBC News journalists — specifically being pulled out of a lift while still in the car by Fiona Bruce (who was also the new muse for the Cool Wall), trying to get the car back from John Humphrys who had taken it for a joyride around the office, and driving to a meeting "within the building" and appearing in the background on BBC News 24. Ultimately, Clarkson suffered the final ignominy of being turned 180° by Dermot Murnaghan while stuck at a zebra crossing in a car with no reverse gear. Novelty features include:

* People carrier racing "Series Five, Episode Five"
* Clarkson opens the Chipping Norton lido by driving a Rolls-Royce into it "Series Six, Episode Three"
* The Peel P50 "Series Ten, Episode Three"
* Motorhome racing "Series Ten, Episode Six"

Ending credits

The programme occasionally alters the end credits to reflect its locale, replacing every first name in the credits with one reminiscent of the area. In the "Winter Olympics Special" [cite web
title = Series 7 - Episode 7
work = Top Gear Episode Archive
publisher =
url =
accessdate = 2007-12-12
] episode, filmed in Lillehammer, Norway; everybody was named Björn (except for Hammond, May and The Stig; who took the names Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid respectively), whilst in the "African Adventure Special" [cite web
title = Series 10 - Episode 4
work = Top Gear Episode Archive
publisher =
url =
accessdate = 2007-12-12
] all were called Archbishop Desmond. 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.In Series 9, The America Challenge ending credits named Clarkson as 'Cletus Clarkson', Hammond as 'Earl Hammond, Jr.', May as 'Ellie May May', The Stig as 'Roscoe P. Stig' and replaced the first names of all other crew members with 'Billy Bob'.


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