A is for AA Gill. A close friend of Jeremy Clarkson and fellow Sunday Times columnist who summarised many people’s feelings about the show when he described it as “a triumph of the craft of programme-making, of the minute, obsessive, musical masonry of editing, the French polishing of colourwashing and grading.”
B is for BBC. The broadcaster who makes the show and, through its commercial arm, has sold the programme to over 150 territories globally. In addition the BBC has managed to sell the Top Gear format to be remade in a number of countries, including the US, Australia, Russia, China and Korea.
C is for Cars. It’s not very imaginative, I know… but there are quite a lot of them on the show. I suppose you could have Clarkson and controversy too – it’s not often you’ll see those two words in the same sentence… Oh go on then, here are some of his best gaffes.
D is for Dunsfold Park – the aerodrome near Cranleigh, Surrey, where Top Gear is filmed in a converted aircraft hangar. The adjacent runways and taxiways are used as the main test track.
E is for Enstone – the Oxfordshire village where Top Gear hoped to relocate filming to in 2006. However, the plans were scuppered when the local authority rejected planning permission to use a nearby airfield as a test track on environmental grounds.
F is for Facebook. Not content with attracting monster ratings on the TV across the world, the show has made somewhat of a splash on the social network. With more than 10 million “likes” it’s one of TV’s biggest Facebook hitters. And you can even watch full episodes of the show through the page…
G is for Gambon – the final corner of the Top Gear test track. It was named after the Irish actor Michael Gambon after he went around it on two wheels in the reasonably priced car.
H is for High Definition. In 2009, series 14 of the show became the first to be simulcast on both BBC2 and the BBC HD Channel.
I is for iPlayer – the BBC catch-up service, which was dominated by the Top Gear in India special over Christmas 2011, garnering a staggering 1.7 million requests in five days, making it the most popular show on the service over the festive period.
J is for Jason Dawe (right) – the forgotten fourth Top Gear presenter from its current incarnation. Jason presented the show alongside Clarkson and Hammond in the first series of the rebooted show in 2002, only to be replaced by James May in series two.
K is for Korea. In August 2011, South Korean broadcaster XTM became the most recent foreign channel to licence the show from BBC Worldwide and remake it with their own team. The presenters are Kim Kap-su, Kim Jin-pyo and Yeon Jeong-hoon (연정훈).
L is for Lotus – the car company that designed the Top Gear test track.
M is for May. James May is often referred to as “Captain Slow” by his co-presenters because of his careful driving and his penchant for sensible, economical vehicles. However, in a 2010 episode of the show, he proved everyone wrong by reaching nearly 300mph in a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.
N is for National Motor Museum in Beaulieu. The permanent home for many of the weird and wonderful car creations that have come from the show.
O is for The One Show, on which Jeremy Clarkson caused controversy with his comments about public sector workers who chose to strike. He said: “I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families. I mean how dare they go on strike when they have these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed, while the rest of us have to work for a living.”
P is for Power Lap – the section of the show where The Stig attempts to get a car around the Top Gear circuit in the fastest possible time. In order to qualify for the Power Lap high-score board, a car must be road legal, commercially available and able to go over a standard speedbump. The current high score is held by the Ariel Atom V8.
Q is for quickest – the fastest non-racing-driver lap on the Top Gear test track is currently held by actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson.
R is for reasonably priced car – the vehicle in which celebrity guests are invited to get round the Top Gear test track as quickly as they can. For the first seven series of Top Gear the car was a Suzuki Liana, from series eight to fourteen the Chevrolet Lacetti took over and the latest reasonably priced car, the Kia Cee’d, came into service in series fifteen.
S is for The Stig – the mysterious Top Gear test driver and driving coach whose identity is meant to be a closely guarded secret. However, on two occasions the cat has escaped from the bag, and The Stig has had to be replaced. The original “black Stig” was outed by a Sunday paper in 2003 as Perry McCarthy. His replacement, Ben Collins, the first “white Stig”, outed himself in his autobiography in 2010 and was promptly asked to make way for a new test driver. Despite much speculation, the current Stig’s identity remains a mystery.
T is for theme tune. Written by Dickey Betts, guitarist of The Allman Brothers Band, the Top Gear theme tune is an instrumental song called Jessica, first released on the band’s 1973 album Brothers and Sisters. The song is named after Dickey’s daughter, Jessica Betts.
U is for uncool – one of the four ratings available to cars on Top Gear’s “Cool Wall”. The worst a vehicle can be rated is seriously uncool.
V is for Vampire turbojet drag racer – the 314 mph car that Richard Hammond crashed on 20 September 2006 while filming a segment for the show, sustaining serious injuries. The BBC delayed the ninth series while Hammond recovered. The footage of the crash was included in the first programme of the new series, screened on 28 January 2007.
W is for Wilman. Andy Wilman is producer of the rebooted post-2002 Top Gear series and is believed to be the primary impetus behind the creation of The Stig.
X is for Xenophobia – something the team have been accused of on several occasions – think France, Poland, Germany and Mexico for starters.
Y is for YouTube. Top Gear’s official BBC Worldwide YouTube channel contains many of the team’s most exciting moments from past series. It has had over 280 million video views.
Z is for zebras crossing. In 2007, the Top Gear team were criticised by an environmental group for driving across the Makgadikgadi salt pans in Botswana, the setting for one of the largest annual zebra migrations in Africa. A campaigner for the Environmental Investigation Agency said: “These are incredibly fragile ecosystems and Top Gear is setting a very bad example.”