WHEN THE BBC’s Top Gear was re-invented in 2002 it proved an instant hit with the public and at its peak attracted UK audiences of more than 7m viewers. Even after 22 series, when the show fronted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May was suspended, it was averaging a very healthy 6.44m viewers per episode.
Its runaway success wasn’t limited to the UK either; the Clarkson-fronted show was one of the BBC’s biggest exports and has spawned several locally produced international versions in the US, Australia, China, Korea and Russia.
But while these foreign spin-offs feature similar stunts, exotic supercars and eye-popping pyrotechnics, they’re missing one crucial element: Jeremy Clarkson. Here are a few choice quotes from the man himself on Top Gear MkII and his put-upon co-presenters, Richard Hammond and James May.
“Eleven years ago I had the most brilliant idea for a new car-related television programme. It would be based in a hangar, it would be presented by four people, including a racing driver who would never speak and ‒ this was the clincher ‒ it would show only real-world family cars, driving around on the roads of Britain. No silly Ferraris… Later, other people suggested that we should perhaps ease up on my strict rules about foreign travel and Ferraris. And with a heavy heart I acquiesced.” July 22, 2012
“The Sunday Times is not available in the swampland where Hammond lives. And even if it were, it’s full of big words he wouldn’t understand.” July 1, 2012
“I joke that my hatred of the [Porsche] 911 stems from the simple fact that both Richard Hammond and James May have one. But this, if I’m honest, isn’t it. I haven’t liked these arse-engined Hitler-mobiles since way before Hammond was even born.” February 27, 2011
On the Top Gear Live show: “James always says, ‘I don’t know why I do this ‒ this is awful; this is terrible; I can’t wait for it to end.’ But he secretly loves it as well, despite his endless protestations. He even has a rider in his contract saying he has to have a packet of beef Hula Hoops after every show. And ginger beer, lashings of it. It’s like being on tour with Enid Blyton, frankly.” October 24, 2012
“[We] made a film about an art gallery in Middlesbrough. I’m to blame. I brought it up in a meeting and instead of getting insects to lay eggs in my hair, the production team nodded sagely. We’d take over an art gallery, fill it with automotive-based art and prove that cars bring in bigger crowds than unmade beds and pickled sharks. Somehow, though, it didn’t occur to any of us that this would be a very long and boring film until after it appeared on the show. ‘That was very long and boring,’ we all said afterwards.” May 20, 2012
“Richard Hammond is from Birmingham. James May is from one of the moons of Jupiter.” July 10, 2011
“James May genuinely doesn’t have a sense of direction. We were in a hotel in Brazil recently and I said good night to him in reception and came down in the morning and he was still wandering about with his suitcase because he couldn’t find his room.” September 4, 2011
“A lot of people wonder why Top Gear films these really fast cars on an airfield. The reason is simple. On a road, almost all of them are borderline idiotic.” August 14, 2011
“Top Gear is watched by 7m or 8m people in Britain every week and that means 54m find something better to do. Watching Heartbeat. Staring out of the window. Having a stroke. These are Peugeot’s customers.” August 22, 2010
On the Mini Cooper S Roadster: “It’s not as well balanced as a Mazda MX-5 but it’s faster and it has more soul. In many ways it reminds me of Richard Hammond. It’s small and it’s annoying and it wears stupid clothes. But when you get to know it, it’s a bloody good laugh.” May 27, 2012
“We have a little secret on Top Gear. Well, Hammond and I do. We know that, no matter what car we review, it’s not as good as a diesel Range Rover. We daren’t ever say this out loud, though, because it would render the whole show pointless.” October 30, 2012
“James May drives around in a Ferrari and I’m sorry, but that’s as hysterical as the notion of Prince Philip turning up to open a community centre in a Mazda MX-5. With Jay-Z on the stereo.” October 14, 2012