For a long time, a key part of Top Gear has been travel: every series the hosts are sent to a variety of exotic and not-so-exotic locations to undergo various challenges and try out assorted cars.
Of course, given the current coronavirus situation, this has been something that has had to be significantly scaled back for the upcoming series 29 – although one overseas trip was filmed prior to lockdown, the remainder of the series had had to be filmed on home turf.
But the hosts reckon the lack of travel isn’t the travesty some might think, claiming it gave them a chance to appreciate the opportunities our own shores have to offer.
Speaking in this week’s issue of Radio Times, Freddie Flintoff said: “Our own country is beautiful. We sometimes forget that, so it was nice to be rooted here. Bizarrely, in some ways lockdown created more opportunities as we got to go to venues we would never get access to otherwise. So I don’t think we get any less from this series, it was just different.”
Chris Harris added: “The cornerstones of Top Gear are the relationship between the hosts and the motor vehicles. Travel has always been a thing, but it’s number three on the list.”
So which UK locations did the hosts head to? Read on for everything we know so far.
Dunsfold Aerodrome runway
One of the biggest changes for the new series has seen the live studio audience scrapped in favour of a drive-in format, with fans watching the recordings from their own cars – a change Paddy McGuinness reckons could stick around even after COVID.
The drive-in was located on the runway at Dunsfold Aerodrome – where the Top Gear test track is located.
The first episode sees the hosts travel to McGuinness’ home town of Bolton, where they are tasked with staying in a company car for a 24-hour period.
Understandably this episode was a highlight for McGuinness, with the presenter saying, “I just loved the charm of the episode filmed in Bolton, and not just because it’s my home town.
“For me it has a bit of everything: you learn a bit about cars, but the relationship between the three of us is absolutely cemented in that episode. It’s got a very warm feeling and the beauty of it being in Bolton is that people had no problem getting involved.
“When we started singing karaoke in the car, as soon as you said to a few people, ‘Do you fancy a sing-song?’ they were all around us. That’s Bolton for you!
“I was actually quite emotional when I saw the edit because it was so lovely seeing all these streets where I grew up.”
For inarguably the series’ most daring challenge, the hosts head to Alexandra Palace in North London – where a Wall of Death had been built inside, on which they were tasked with travelling up to 50MPH in an insurance write-off.
It was such a dangerous task that McGuinness has claimed the trio almost died, and Harris said that this was his highlight of the series.
“Doing the Wall of Death with my two buddies was a stand-out,” he said. “It was full on, classic Top Gear: the health and safety guys had been all over it but there were still a lot of unanswered questions.
“The whole thing was sketchy as hell — but that’s what Top Gear is all about. It was great television but, on a personal level, it was friendship-defining as well.
Alton Towers was looking rather different when the hosts headed their to film a challenge, with the usual busy crowds nowhere to be seen due to the lockdown.
It was here that the gang resumed filming after the gap caused by the pandemic, and the trio race around the empty theme park in electric cars.
Elvington airfield, Yorkshire
Freddie Flintoff’s highlight moment from the series was filmed at Elvington airfield in Yorkshire – where the former cricketer managed to get up to 200MPH in an old Jaguar.
He said: ” I might never have scored a double hundred as a batsman, but I got to do 200 miles per hour in a Jaguar XJ220 at Elvington airfield in Yorkshire. It was a stand-out moment for me for a few reasons.
“I remember when that car came out when I was about 12 and I’d never seen anything that looked like that and cost that much money — now here I was driving it. It was like nothing else I’ve driven. I’ve done 180, 190 miles per hour in new cars and it feels so fast — but in that thing it felt ridiculous: it’s rattling away, and you feel every bump. I loved it.”
The series won’t be without overseas travel completely, thanks to a segment filmed in Cyprus before the pandemic.
Here the hosts attempt a ski-slope slalom in rental cars (Cyprus is known for its very cheap rental cars) – protecting the cars from damage with a range of methods.
Harris opts for bubble wrap coverage, Flintoff ties some buoys to his car, and McGuinness covers his rental entirely with large inflatable lilos!