As it turned out, Top Gear drew a very respectable 5.3 million viewers according to overnight figures – around the same as it was getting before the BBC pulled the final three episodes back in March following Clarkson’s suspension from the show.
It easily won its 8-9:15pm slot on Sunday night too, with an audience share of 23% (a few per cent higher than the previous episode), and was also the biggest show of the evening, just beating Sheridan Smith’s ITV detective drama Black Work at 9-10pm (not including viewers on ITV+1, who bumped it up to 5.5 million).
On the other hand, it wasn’t quite the ratings smash many had expected from Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May’s final episode as presenters. In its heyday in 2007, Top Gear’s audience was regularly into the 7 millions and some thought the end of an era for fans might see it back at that level for one final time.
Of course, the TV landscape is rather different than it was eight years ago, when numbers like that were a lot more common. There’s also the hot weather to consider, with fewer people planted in front of the TV, not to mention the fact that – whether or not Clarkson’s comments are right – the BBC didn’t promote the episode like they might have done in different circumstances.
Either way though, Top Gear remains BBC2’s biggest regular ratings winner for now. The question is, will that still be the case when it returns next year without Clarkson, Hammond and May in the driving seat?