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Since 2003, our top secret Top Gear test track (based just off the A281 in Surrey) has played host to all manner of glamorous metal in the hands of The Stig, celebrities in an array of afforable hatchbacks, the odd barbeque or two, and John Prescott. Here’s everything you need to know from 13 years of smoke and power - with links to all the behind the scenes footage.
- Max Whitlock 01:39.5
- David Tennant 01:44.0
- Ore Oduba 01:45.7
- James McAvoy (Wet) 01:47.1
- Frankie Dettori 01:47.2
Clarkson, Hammond and May visit all four corners of the globe, as the trio herd cows in the far reaches of Australia and conduct a half-hearted search and rescue operation in the wilderness of British Columbia. Richard – without needing to be asked twice – takes the opportunity to make a tribute to the Land Rover Defender by driving one up an extremely steep incline, and James and Jeremy pay similar homage to the history of French manufacturer Peugeot, albeit with fewer compliments. The presenters are also tasked with building their own ambulances, while Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Olly Murs feature in the Reasonably Priced Astra.
Inadvisable amounts of radiation await James, Jeremy and Richard as the trio embark on a road trip to Ukraine’s deserted nuclear power station, Chernobyl. Escaping without the inconvenience of additional limbs and mutated facial features, the presenters give road tests to the jaw dropping McLaren P1, the astonishing Porsche 918, and the less-scary-but-still-pretty-good Caterham Seven 620R. And before heading out for another classic Top Gear adventure in Burma, there’s just time to cram Hugh Bonneville, Tom Hiddlestone and Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul into the Reasonably Priced Car.
The presenters provide some essential consumer advice as Jeremy and James use a hire car and a boat to find the quickest way to get around in New Zealand, while Richard gathers a selection of cabs together to determine which is the fastest taxi… in the world. Elsewhere, the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta gets the chance to show what it can do on the roads of Scotland, and TG tackles water-based motoring once again with the creation of the fabled Hovervan. Ron Howard, Rachel Riley and Benedict Cumberbatch are among the celebs let loose in the brand new Reasonably Priced Car: a red Vauxhall Astra Techline.
The Top Gear Technology Centre swings into action again as Jeremy aims to build a car even smaller than the Peel P50, while the subject of OAP transport is addressed as well with the creation of the ‘Rover James’. After proving itself with a host of celebrity names on our track, a batch of Kia Cee’ds are sent to Twickenham for what is assumed to be the first ever game of car rugby, and the presenters conduct a race from London to Milan with a Shelby Mustang GT500 up against public transport. Special guests include Mick Fleetwood, Amy Macdonald and James McAvoy.
James, Richard and Jeremy get back to business by taking a Lamborghini Aventador, a McLaren MP4-12C and a Noble M600 to Italy, and there’s also a trip to Beijing to meet the Stig’s surprisingly violent Chinese cousin. Top Gear is then invited to film a car chase for the upcoming remake of The Sweeney starring Ray Winstone and Plan B, before taking on a trio of disabled war veterans on some DIY mobility scooters. On the track, the dust is blown off the Suzuki Liana as Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen sets a lap time, while ordinary stars Matt LeBlanc and Slash compete in the Reasonably Priced Cee’d.
It’s the 50th birthday of the Jaguar E-Type, which means a celebration involving a marching band, some Spitfires and the white cliffs of Dover is in order. Less bombastically, three hot hatches are driven around the circuit of the Monaco Grand Prix, the McLaren MP4-12C lines up against the Ferrari 458 on our track, and the presenters decide to have a go at improving the railways… with cars and caravans. Northern comedians Ross Noble and Rowan Atkinson get strapped in to the Reasonably Priced Kia Cee’d, as do music legends Alice Cooper and Bob Geldof.
Richard, Jeremy and James attempt to prove that they are wise men by driving three convertibles across the Middle East, before undermining themselves somewhat by landing a helicopter on top of a Skoda Yeti, robbing a bank in Albania and converting a combine harvester into a snow plough suitable for the roads of Britain. There’s plenty of action on the track as well as Hammond finally gets the chance to drive some of his supercar heroes from the 80s, and Top Gear Australia are in town to compete for a motoring version of the Ashes. John Bishop, Simon Pegg and Amber Heard are among the stars in the Reasonably Priced Car.
Top Gear dabbles with danger as James drives up to the edge of an active volcano, Richard holds an explosive funeral for our old Chevrolet Lacetti, and Jeremy drives the widow maker that is the Reliant Robin. The trio recover by embarking on a relaxing holiday in Cornwall – which turns out to be anything but in their home-made motorhomes – while Captain Slow goes very, very fast in the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. Stars in the new Reasonably Priced Kia Cee-apostrophe-d include Rupert Grint, Peta 23 from Essex and F1 veteran Rubens Barrichello. Oh, and two little-known Americanists called Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise.
The three presenters push the boundaries of modern engineering as they build their own homemade electric car, and James takes holidaymakers into the realms of the unknown by inventing a caravan that can fly. There’s also another ‘sensible’ road test, with Jeremy taking the Renault Twingo to its limits in Belfast, and the superb Lexus LFA takes to our track to demonstrate why it’s one of the best cars in the world today. And that’s according to the Stig. Guests include Eric Bana, Michael Sheen and the revelation that is Seasick Steve.
After weeks of speculation about the identity of our tame racing driver, the Stig finally summons the courage to remove his helmet in front of a studio audience. James and Richard find themselves racing Royal Mail as they attempt to drive from Penzance to the Orkneys faster than a letter, while Jeremy puts the new Lotus Evora to the test out on the track. Sprinting superstar Usain Bolt finally sets a time that matters in the Reasonably Priced Car, as do Michael McIntyre, Sienna Miller and US TV legend Jay Leno.
Top Gear gets eco-friendly with an economy race which sees Richard, James and Jeremy attempt to make it from Switzerland to Blackpool on a single tank of petrol, while the electric Tesla and Honda’s hydrogen-powered Clarity also get reviewed. For balance, the presenters set a lorry on fire, race a powerboat against a Ferrari, and attempt to travel the length of Vietnam in just eight days. Meanwhile, Michael Parkinson and Sir Tom Jones join a plethora of guests lining up to have a go in the Reasonably Priced Chevrolet Lacetti.
After coming to the conclusion that the police force is too focussed on paperwork, Jeremy, Richard and James decide to build three alternative cars to replace the standard Vauxhall Astra. Needless to say things don’t go that smoothly as TG’s rozzers attempt to apprehend the Stig… Elsewhere, there’s a big race across Japan as the infamous bullet train takes on the Nissan GT-R, and the three presenters also head to Belgium to face down a challenge from the Germans. The Ferrari 430 Scuderia and the Bentley Brooklands star out on the test track, as do the likes of James Corden, Fiona Bruce and Jay Kay in the Reasonably Priced Car.
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