Top Gear is a BAFTA, Multi-NTA and Emmy Award-winning
BBC television series about motor vehicles, mainly
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 programme is estimated to
have 350 million viewers worldwide and 8 million
viewers each week in the UK on BBC Two. The show
is presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond,
James May and The Stig, an anonymous test driver.
It is one of the most pirated television shows
in the world.
Gear is broadcast in many countries; for a list
of these, and of the releases the programme has
produced over the years, please see the List of
Top Gear broadcasters and video releases. Series
10 of Top Gear has now finished; but show will
return in the summer 2008.
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 Park in Surrey, a private
aerodrome and business park. Top Gear uses a temporary
racing circuit which was designed for the show
by Lotus and is laid out on parts of the runways
and taxiways. A large hangar is used for studio
recording with a standing audience who apply to
the BBC for free tickets.
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 masked racing driver, was
introduced as the test driver. New segments were
also added, including "Star in a Reasonably-Priced
Car", "The Cool Wall", "Car
News", "Power Laps", and one-off
features such as races, competitions and the frequent
destruction of caravans.
9 was scheduled to air on BBC Two from 8 October
2006. However, on 20 September 2006, Hammond was
seriously injured while driving a jet-powered
drag-racing car at up to 314 mph (502 km/h) for
a feature in the show. On 24 September the BBC
said: "It also confirmed the final part of
the Best of Top Gear had been postponed indefinitely
and the new series, due to begin on 8 October
2006, will be delayed." Both the BBC and
the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried
out inquiries into the accident. On 5 October
2006, filming resumed. The ninth series began
on 28 January 2007 and included footage of Hammond's
crash. The first show of the ninth series attracted
higher ratings than the finale of Celebrity Big
Brother and the final episode of the series had
8 million viewers — BBC Two's highest ratings
for a decade.
special edition of Top Gear — filmed for
Red Nose Day 2007 — called Top Gear of the
Pops mixed the show's typical format with music
and appearances from artists Lethal Bizzle, Travis,
Supergrass, and McFly with a challenge to write
a song including the words "sofa", "administration"
and "Hyundai" and a performance by Clarkson,
Hammond and May with Justin Hawkins of "Red
Light Spells Danger" by Billy Ocean.
of earlier series are currently shown on Dave
and UKTV People, cut to 45 minutes to allow it
to fit in an hour-long slot while leaving room
for adverts. Since mid-October 2007 the channel
Dave has begun showing new episodes of Top Gear,
only three weeks behind BBC Two. The new episodes
are also shown in an edited 45-minute version.
Top Gear has been broadcast in other countries
either in its original format, in a re-edited
version, or (as in the case of the North American
edition) with specially shot segments in front
of the UK audience.
BBC also broadcasts edited Top Gear programmes
on its international BBC World TV channel. Episodes
are shortened from their original length of one
hour to 30 minutes, often leaving dangling references
and inconsistencies. Additionally, the original
transmission order is sometimes not adhered to,
so references to un-aired events are common. The
only footage specially shot for the international
version is for the end of each episode, when Clarkson
bids his goodbye to BBC World viewers, instead
of BBC viewers.
BBC World has not shown cut versions of the current
series, but has resorted to "best of"
collections of the previous series. In both cases
the BBC World edition mainly features the challenges
and races from the normal episodes, with Clarkson's
'stronger' remarks removed. Interviews and "Car
of the Year" are generally not shown.
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. The Sun reported
in July, however, that plans for an American version
had been shelved, partly over Clarkson's misgivings
about spending several months in the U.S., away
from his family.
special programme, Top Gear: Polar Special, was
broadcast in the UK on July 25, 2007, and again
on July 29. This episode involved a race to the
Magnetic North Pole from Resolute, Canada, with
James May and Jeremy Clarkson travelling in a
'polar modified' Toyota Hilux, and Richard Hammond
on a dog-drawn sled. All three presenters had
experienced explorers with them, but Clarkson
and May became the first people to reach the magnetic
North Pole by car, using the vehicle's satellite
navigation to pinpoint their co-ordinates with
the known coordinates of the pole. It was the
first episode of the programme to be shown in
September 9, 2007, Top Gear participated in the
2007 Britcar 24-hour race at Silverstone, where
the hosts (including The Stig) drove a race-prepared,
diesel BMW 330d to win 3rd in class and 39th overall.
19 November 2007, the Special Broadcasting Service
(SBS), an Australian Broadcaster, secured the
rights to franchise Top Gear and produce an Australian
version of the show. Australia is the first country
in the world to secure the rights to make a local
version of the show, which mixes performance cars
with comedy and celebrities. Top Gear host Jeremy
Clarkson added, "I'm delighted that Top Gear
is going to Australia. Maybe the first guest could
be Jonny Wilkinson."
special episode of Top Gear for Sport Relief entitled
Top Ground Gear Force, was broadcast on BBC Two
at 10:00 pm on 14 March 2008. This programme,
which borrowed the Ground Force format, saw presenters
'Alan Clarkmarsh', 'Handy Hammond' and 'Jamesy
Dimmock May' undertake a one-day makeover of Olympic
rower Sir Steve Redgrave's garden.
on 14 March 2008, BBC Worldwide announced that
the Top Gear format would provide the basis for
a live event that will visit fifteen countries.
Clarkson, Hammond and May are expected to be present
for the British leg of the tour.
Gear test track in computer games
24 October 2007 it was announced that players
of the forthcoming PlayStation 3 game, Gran Turismo
5 Prologue, will be able to download episodes
of Top Gear within the game, and that the show's
test track will be one of the included circuits
when the full game (Gran Turismo 5) is released
at Christmas 2008. A very basic yet driveable
version of the track appeared around 2003 for
the PC 'hardcore' racing simulation Grand Prix
Legends. There's also a version of the test track
for the realistic PC racing simulation Rfactor,
produced with permission from Dunsfold park.
International Top Gear series
19 November 2007, it was revealed that a localised
Australian series of Top Gear would be produced
by the SBS 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 has been given yet as to the exact
makeup of the show, other than that it will have
a distinct Australian style. It is believed that
the Australian show idea was sparked by Clarkson's
love of the Australian performance car brand HSV.
SBS ran a competition to find hosts for the show,
interested applicants were invited to apply via
the SBS Top Gear website.
is also commissioning a version of the show to
be broadcast in the United States, which will
have different presenters from the UK version.
NBC has begun casting, but no official casting
announcements have been made to date. (Credit:
Top Gear boosts magazine garage, by Miriam Steffens
- 13th March 2008
The Sydney Morning Herald)
Magazines has moved to beef up its men's magazines
division, entering a joint venture with the BBC
to start an Australian version of the car lover's
magazine Top Gear in June.
venture, likely to be called Park Publishing,
will be run from ACP's Sydney offices by its head
of men's and specialist titles, Phil Scott.
wants to publish more new titles - one this year
- with plans centering on Australian versions
of BBC Magazines' children's and food titles,
or a travel magazine based on the BBC-owned publisher
is the fourth large deal in a year for the BBC,
which had identified Australia as one of its key
growth markets last year.
broadcaster acquired Lonely Planet in October
for about $250 million and took a 25 per cent
stake in the Australian production company Freehand,
which is behind TV series including Missing Persons
January the pay TV company Foxtel said the BBC
would provide a channel for its new high-definition
service later this year.
month BBC Worldwide, the BBC's main commercial
arm, signed an agreement to provide programs including
The Whistleblowers and The Vicar Of Dibley to
the Seven Network.
Gear will be launched with a multimillion-dollar
advertising campaign, with hopes it might sell
up to 70,000 copies a month and reach a wider
audience than ACP's best-selling motoring magazine,
publisher also plans a $1 million advertising
blitz to promote a relaunch of FHM next month,
aimed at moving the raunchy magazine more upmarket
to stem circulation losses.
bought FHM through its takeover of Emap's Australian
titles last year, but it lost 24 per cent of sales
in the December half as it competed for the same
readers as ACP's own Ralph.
a sign how serious ACP is taking the relaunch,
Mr Scott said the publisher had even "walked
away from around $1 million worth of advertising
revenue from the phone sex market".