The Top Gear test track is used by the BBC automotive television programme Top Gear. It is located at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, United Kingdom. The track was designed by Lotus Cars. It is used to test both cars and drivers seen on the programme in three segments of the show - Power Laps, Star in a Reasonably Priced Car and Challenges.
The track is on an airbase constructed during the Second World War and later used by British Aerospace as a manufacturing and test facility. The track's main route, marked by painted lines and simple structures such as stacks of tyres, was designed by test drivers from Lotus. the layout of the track is designed to put the car through various conditions, ranging from provoking understeer to testing brake balance and tyres. The track is approximately 1.75 mi (2.82 km) long. It is considered to be an equaliser for cars since, according to Richard Hammond, both 0-60 mph (0-98 kph) times and top speed are totally meaningless. The track also incorporates a drag strip; although this is not used for timed segments, it does feature in some challenges and other features on the show.
The course starts on the perimeter road outside the Top Gear studio. The first bend is a fast right-left kink named "Crooner Curves." "Willson Bend" is the first proper turn on the track and the first corner usually seen when The Stig is lapping a car. "Chicago", a long right-hand around a tyre wall onto the main runway, was designed by Lotus as a Steady State Corner, designed to highlight understeer or oversteer of the chassis. Next is "Hammerhead", a left-then-right corner, which again highlights understeer and oversteer. The track comes to a right-hand curve, then the course turns right through the flat-out section called the "Follow Through". After the left hand "Bentley Bend", the course comes to "Bacharach Bend", which, after the first series, has been referred to as the "Penultimate Corner" or the "Second-to-last Corner" and is often regarded as one of the most challenging on the course. The final turn before the finish line is "Gambon" in honour of Sir Michael Gambon, who completed the turn on two wheels in episode 8 of Series 1. Prior to this, the corner was known as "Carpenters Corner".
The track is used routinely for the Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car and Power Laps segments on Top Gear. It also serves myriad roles in other portions of the programme, especially in testing cars and in challenges. Cars acquired during challenges must often post lap times (driven by either one of the presenters or The Stig) around the track against either a target time or a time set by The Stig in another vehicle. During many challenges, the track is used in more unorthodox fashion — for instance, serving as a makeshift motorway lane during a challenge testing tailgating prowess with vans. The track is also used for testing cars reviewed on the show or drag races. So far, five Formula One drivers have driven the "Reasonably-priced car" on the show.
Power Laps is a segment of the programme in which The Stig completes a lap around the track in a reviewed car to compare its performance to previous contenders.
To be eligible to appear on the Power Lap Times board, a vehicle must be a road-legal production car and must have sufficient ride height to clear a standard speed bump, although occasionally vehicles that cannot appear on the list are still timed. Whenever a non-qualifying vehicle is raced, the time is compared to the official Power Laps but then removed from the board. For example, the Sea Harrier jump jet holds the all-time best lap record of 0:31.2, but this time was taken for comparative purposes only. The Ferrari FXX (1:10.7) was taken off the board after because it both failed to meet road legal standards and used slick tyres.
All laps are timed with the car's manufacturer-provided adjustable settings configured for maximum performance — all adjustable suspensions are set at their most efficient, all gear shift maps are at their most aggressive, and driving aids such as traction control are deactivated. Lap times do not offer complete comparisons between the cars, mainly because wet or otherwise poor weather conditions (see time deductions below) can negatively affect lap times.
The Power BoardEdit
The most powerful production car ever featured on Top Gear, the 1001 PS (987 bhp; 736 kW) Bugatti Veyron, was taken around the track by The Stig on Series 12, Episode 4, after 3 years of waiting. However, it disappointed the team by only managing fifth place on the Power Board, an unexpectedly low position ultimately attributed to the car's kerb weight of 1888 kg (4162.3 lb), more than any of the four faster cars.
For the 1:17.6 lap, the Koenigsegg CCX (written as "Koenigseggisseggggnignigsegigisegggg CCX with Top Gear wing" on a much-longer magnetic strip, because none of the presenters were able to spell Koenigsegg) was fitted with an optional rear spoiler to provide downforce after The Stig spun the unmodified version off the track. The Stig allegedly recommended this modification, correctly predicting that the car would then be the fastest ever round the track, although Koenigsegg stated that the improvement was due to other adjustments. Its lap time was later bettered by the Ascari A10 and Gumpert Apollo Sport.
Lap times of non-qualifying vehiclesEdit
A "non-qualifying" vehicle is one that does not meet the presenters' requirements to remain on the board; that is, one that is not a "road car." This means being available to buy and being fully road-legal (lights, indicators, registration, profile tyres, etc.), as well as being street-worthy (i.e. able to negotiate a speed bump).
The Caparo, Radical, and Westfield are road-legal in the UK but are unable to clear a "sleeping policeman". The Caparo T1 was subsequently modified to have adjustable ride height with a 'road' setting that can clear speed bumps.
Occasionally attempts at the Power Lap record are made without the support of the BBC. The following laps of Dunsfold were recorded, filmed and promoted independently of the Top Gear television programme.
Ultima claim that their motive for running a non-televised lap was that they felt that the GTR was being specifically ignored by the producers of Top Gear. Why Dunlop - Injection chose to run a lap of the Dunsfold circuit is not stated, although it is noticeable that the slower "official" Caterham run was limited by cold tyres.
Star in a Reasonably Priced CarEdit
Star in a Reasonably Priced Car is a recurring segment on Top Gear. During most programmes, a celebrity (usually, but not exclusively of British fame) is interviewed by Jeremy Clarkson. Discussion is normally amusing, and focuses on car-related matters, such as the celebrity's car history. Then Clarkson and the studio audience watch the guest's fastest lap on the Top Gear test track.
Suzuki Liana (2002-2005)Edit
For the first seven series, the car driven for lap times was a Suzuki Liana. When first introduced, the car was worth £9995. The car used is stock except for a roll cage and racing seats added as safety measures. Each guest practices with The Stig before making several attempts to complete the test track in the fastest time. The guest does not learn their time until the interview. Practice laps, crashes and the drivers' facial expressions are also shown during the segment.
The two slowest laps on the Liana celebrity list are held by Terry Wogan and Richard Whiteley, both of whom were beaten by Billy Baxter, a Bosnian war veteran who is completely blind. He guided the Liana through the track under direction from Clarkson in the passenger seat in a time of 2 minutes 2 seconds, which was 1.4 seconds quicker than Terry Wogan, and 4 seconds faster than Richard Whiteley.
The fastest non-professional driver was Ellen MacArthur. Unlike most contenders she made no comments to the camera during her lap. She completed the lap in 1 minute 46.7 seconds, beating Jimmy Carr by 0.2 seconds.
The Liana endured considerable abuse from the stars while undertaking their laps. In one incident, actor Michael Gambon clipped the final corner, almost rolling the car. It was done in such a spectacular fashion that the corner was henceforth named "Gambon Corner". Michael McIntyre also had a similar experience to Michael Gambon in the Chevrolet Lacetti, almost rolling the car on the last corner. When Lionel Richie drove the car, one of the front wheels fell off, invoking Clarkson to coin the term "pulling a Lionel.". Trevor Eve also lost a wheel. The former British transport minister Stephen Ladyman added further injury to the Liana by denting the boot when he lost control during practice and slid backwards into a tyre wall. David Soul managed to destroy the gearbox of two Lianas during his time on the show due to his rough driving style. Patrick Kielty broke the Liana's front suspension during season 4 when he drove on the grass. Christopher Eccleston was the only celebrity to use a Liana with an automatic transmission, because a hesitant Eccleston admitted he was "only qualified to drive an automatic." To accommodate his needs, Top Gear succeeded in borrowing an automatic Liana, of which only 40 existed in the UK. As a reference to his role in Doctor Who, the automatic Liana was shown materialising onto the racing track, with a TARDIS materialisation sound effect played over it.
The Liana has also been modified on several occasions. David Soul's Liana featured a red police light and a white stripe in reference to his Starsky and Hutch role. Johnny Vegas was provided with 'L' plates as he hadn't passed his driving test at the time. When Justin Hawkins came on the show, the Liana he drove had flame decals pasted on it. Actor Sanjeev Bhaskar had an ornate tissue box placed in the back, an homage to Indian drivers.
In its service, the Liana covered 1,600 laps of the circuit; its tyres and brakes were changed 100 times; and, it required six new clutches, two new hubs, driveshafts, wishbones, struts and gear linkages and a replacement wing mirror.
In July 2005, Formula One driver Damon Hill appeared on the show for the first time as the star. This was kept a surprise to the audience and the viewing public, and when Nigel Mansell came on the show, it was covered up in magazines and on the internet by saying that the Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car would be Alan Titchmarsh.
For some of the laps more than one person has been present in the car. This was the case for Clarkson's run when he had both Hammond and Jason Dawe in the car. Trinny and Susannah were both in the car for each other's runs. Denise Van Outen was in Johnny Vaughan's when he did his lap; Van Outen never did a lap driving the car. Clarkson was also present as a navigator for Billy Baxter's laps.
Liana leader boardEdit
F1 leader boardEdit
All Formula One drivers are put into their own list with regard to lap times because of their exceptional skill level. When the Liana was pulled out from retirement to allow Jenson Button to make a time, Clarkson noted that the Liana would be pulled out for use by Formula 1 drivers in the future. The most recent F1 driver to drive the Liana was Jenson Button on the 20 December 2009 show, when he became the only celebrity to have driven the Liana round the Top Gear test track twice. Michael Schumacher, in retirement on the 21 June 2009 episode, was shown attempting the lap but didn't record a time having stalled, bunny hopped and finally got lost, as a joke.
Both Stigs, the original 'black' Stig and the current 'white' Stig, have done laps around the track in the Suzuki Liana. Still topping the all-time list for the Liana is White Stig (1:44.4), who took the car out for its last run (except the subsequent times that it has been brought out for F1 drivers to use).
The first Stig was Perry McCarthy, who once test drove for the Williams F1 team. The identity of the second 'Stig' was not revealed by BBC Top Gear; in the first episode of Series 13 the Stig was "revealed" to be Michael Schumacher, although this was a joke in the vein of the rest of his appearance on the show. The second Stig notably takes a different line into the first corner from most of the F1 drivers. In 2011, is was finally leaked that the second Stig was Ben Collins. Which meant that Collins had been fired as soon as the word got out.
Chevrolet Lacetti (2006-2009)Edit
Starting with the eighth series, the Liana was replaced by a Chevrolet Lacetti and a new blank scoreboard. The format was changed so that each star would have five practice laps, and then a final timed lap, with no allowance being given for mishaps.
As a starter for the new car and format, an open day was held for any celebrity who wanted to take part. Seven stars recorded times that day: James Hewitt, comedians Alan Davies and Jimmy Carr, rock stars Rick Wakeman and Justin Hawkins, footballer Les Ferdinand, and actor Trevor Eve who topped the time at 1 minute 47.0 seconds. Jimmy Carr, who held second place in the Liana behind Ellen MacArthur, spun off while doing his timed lap and got the slowest time ever around the track at 2 minutes, 8.91 seconds.
On 28 January 2007, Jamie Oliver posted a time of 1:47.70 in melted snow and standing water. Given the rivalry Oliver felt towards fellow celebrity chef, and then-lapboard leader, Gordon Ramsay, Oliver asked that the 4-second allowance normally granted for wet laps be used to put him at the top of the leaderboard "just for a day".
Actress Billie Piper posted a time of 1:48.3 but was deemed by The Stig to have failed to complete a lap properly, as she failed to negotiate some corners. The Stig suggested a three second time penalty, but after Clarkson consulted the audience, it was decided to let the time stand, which her Doctor Who co star, David Tennant, tried to overturn on the 23 December 2007 show, at the end of the following series. Clarkson remarked that if Tennant had worn a see through top (like Piper for her interview), he "would have been faster than Simon Cowell".
In the 11 November 2007 episode, Simon Cowell retook his status as the holder of the fastest lap with a time of 1:45.90 - the Stig apparently claimed that the consistency of his lap times, on both appearances, marked him out as someone who had a natural ability. However, Cowell was knocked off the top spot in Series 11 by Jay Kay, who now holds the fastest time in the Lacetti, although Clarkson selected the fastest of Jay Kay's times rather than the last run, which was slower than Cowell's time, seemingly due to a dislike of Cowell (he claimed earlier in the episode that Cowell had been at the top of the leaderboard for too long).
Clarkson has referred to the part of the board with times of 1:51 and over as the 'Thespian Zone' due to the propensity for classically-trained actors to post slow times.
Series 11 featured a slight change to the format, with two 'Stars' per episode instead of the previous one (although there had been a couple of editions in previous series' with more than one guest). Each of the pair are professionally associated with their fellow guest, usually both either act in or present the same TV show. Unlike previous episodes where two stars have appeared, the stars drove individual laps without the other present in the car. The Lacetti was destroyed by being placed under one of the 550ft chimneys at Lafarge Cement's Northfleet Works , both chimneys were blown up on 28th march 2010. The car was flattened and then taken away on the back of a lorry to be placed in the Top Gear studio.
Lacetti leader boardEdit
In the last episode of the fourteenth series of the show, Clarkson revealed that they were thinking about getting a new Reasonably Priced Car for the next series. It is currently unknown what this car will be, except that it will, of course, be "reasonably priced". On the Top Gear Magazine it is said that the next reasonably priced car will be the Chevrolet Cruze.
Sometimes an additional term is written next to the time (such as Hot). This indicates that The Stig and the Top Gear team consider that the prevalent weather conditions have affected the lap time or car's performance. The time on the board is not adapted: e.g. 1:50 MM (Mildly Moist) is deemed to be equivalent to 1:48 on a normal dry track. The following list describes how many seconds it costs a car or gives a car an advantage. These deductions are also not suitable for Formula 1 drivers.
|HOT||Track surface or car performance affected by high temperature or humidity||-2 seconds|
|Mildly moist (MM) / Damp (D)||Track surface slightly damp with some dry patches after light rain or drizzle||-2 seconds|
|Moist (M)||Track surface slightly wet due to shower of rain||-3 seconds|
|Wet (W) / Melted snow (MS)||Track surface wet due to light rain or melted snow||-4 seconds|
|Very wet (VW)||Track surface wet (with large puddles) due to heavy rain||-6 seconds|
- TopGear.com map and guide to the test track
- Stig's eye view of the test track
- Audio walkthrough of the track, for use with games
Appearance in gamesEdit
On 24 October 2007 it was announced that the PlayStation 3 game, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, will be able to download episodes of Top Gear within the game, and that the test track will be one of the included circuits when the full game (Gran Turismo 5) is released. A very basic yet driveable version of the track appeared around 2003 for the PC hardcore racing simulation Grand Prix Legends. There's also a version of the test track for the realistic PC racing simulation rFactor, produced with permission from Dunsfold park. Top Gear have also added a basic version of the test track on the games section of their own website, with the title of "Be a star in our reasonably priced car". A Top Gear mobile phone game also features the track.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Top Gear". Series 1. BBC 2. 2002-10-20. No. 1. Richard Hammond: "Naught to sixty times? Absolutely meaningless. Top speed figures? Totally meaningless. What really matters is how fast a car can lap a test track and fortunately, we've got our own test track for that very purpose. Just under two miles of fast straights and tricky corners, designed by the test drivers at Lotus."
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Vijay, Pattni (2007-10-30). "Ultima GTR smashes Top Gear lap record". www.autotrader.co.uk. Trader Media Group. http://www.autotrader.co.uk/EDITORIAL/CARS/news/37372.html. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- ↑ The Big Book of Top Gear 2009. ISBN 978-1-84607-463-9
- ↑ "Driving the Top Gear test track feature - Features - Top Gear". Top Gear. 2007-10-24. http://www.topgear.com/content/features/stories/2007/10/stories/09/1.html. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Top Gear Power Laps". http://www.topgear.com/us/assets/tracktimes.html. Retrieved 2009-06-16. In order to qualify for the power laps board, a car must be road legal and be a car. For this reason the F1 car (0:59.0), Aston Martin DBR9 (1:08.6) and Sea Harrier (0:31.2) do not appear.
- ↑ "Top Gear". Series 12. BBC 2. 2008-12-07. No. 6, season 12.
- ↑ BBCWorldwide, YouTube. Top Gear - Ariel Atom - BBC (February 09, 2007)
- ↑ BBCWorldwide, YouTube. Top Gear - Jeremy Clarkson tests Koenigsegg CCX - BBC (February 20, 2008)
- ↑ "Top Gear". Series 8. BBC 2. 2006-05-28. No. 4, season 8. Jeremy Clarkson: "This, 1:20.4, the old Koenigsegg lap, we don't need it anymore."
- ↑ Top Gear - Lexus LFA Top Gear website lists the Lexus LFA with condition "w" (wet) even though the presenter Richard Hammond says in the show at 1:53 that "it's wet, very wet."
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 "Top Gear". Series 6. BBC 2. 2004-07-17. No. 8. 14:20 minutes in.
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 Top Gear Magazine, September 2009 Issue
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 "Top Gear". Series 2. BBC 2. 2003-06-15. No. 6.
- ↑ Top Gear Series 7, Episode 2 2005.11.20 – Jeremy Clarkson: "You know we put it around the track this morning, with the Stig driving it, OK, 1:25-point-something." – Actual lap not shown. Also Clarkson said that the RS4 is "more than a second quicker than the Cayman [S]", so the RS4 is at least 1:25.7 around the track.
- ↑ "Top Gear". Series 5. BBC 2. 2004-11-21. No. 5.
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 "Top Gear". Series 4. BBC 2. 2004-05-30. No. 4.
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 17.2 "Top Gear". Series 6. BBC 2. 2005-07-24. No. 9. at 58:00
- ↑ Time from series 7, episode 2 at 09:26. Current (2008/12/1) Top Gear web site Power Lap Time is incorrect.
- ↑ "Top Gear". Series 5. BBC 2. 2004-11-14. No. 4.
- ↑ "Top Gear". Series 4. BBC 2. 2004-07-11. No. 7. at 56:45
- ↑ "Top Gear". Series 6. BBC 2. 2005-06-12. No. 3. at 28:25
- ↑ Top Gear - BMW M3 CSL Jeremy Clarkson says at 10:00, "near slicks, in the damp, so we'll put that as a wet lap."
- ↑ "Top Gear". Series 7. BBC 2. 2005-12-11. No. 5.
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 "Top Gear". Series 1. BBC 2. 2002-12-29. No. 10.
- ↑ "Top Gear". Series 3. BBC 2. 2003-12-28. No. 9.
- ↑ "Top Gear". Series 6. BBC 2. 2005-06-26. No. 5.
- ↑ 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 27.4 27.5 "Top Gear". Series 5. BBC 2. 2004-12-05. No. 6.
- ↑ "Top Gear". Series 5. BBC 2. 2004-12-12. No. 7.
- ↑ "Top Gear". Series 1. BBC 2. 2002-12-08. No. 8.
- ↑ "Top Gear". Series 4. BBC 2. 2004-06-06. No. 5.
- ↑ "Top Gear". Series 1. BBC 2. 2002-11-24. No. 6.
- ↑ BBCWorldwide, YouTube. Top Gear - Renault Clio 182 - BBC (February 09, 2007)
- ↑ Top Gear Series 5, Episode 4 2004.11.14 – Richard Hammond: "Where does it compare to the old one?" Jeremy Clarkson: "It's at 1:36.2 but it was the wettest day we've ever had so you can't do anything about that..."
- ↑ 34.0 34.1 34.2 "Top Gear". Series 3. BBC 2. 2003-11-02. No. 2.
- ↑ Top Gear Series 12, Episode 4 2008.11.23
- ↑ Top Gear Series 8, Episode 2 2006.05.14 – Jeremy Clarkson: "After the accident, Stig said he reckons this car would be 4 seconds faster than it was if it had a big wing on the back."
- ↑ Svensson, Gunnar. "Koenigsegg får Top Gear-vinge", Bilsport, 2006.06.05. Retrieved on March 12, 2007.
- ↑ 38.0 38.1 Top Gear Series 5, Episode 8 2004.12.19 - Renault R24 Formula One car. Jeremy Clarkson: The thing is though, this is only for cars with ashtrays and noses that you can get over the... uh, speed bumps, it's only for road cars.
- ↑ 39.0 39.1 Top Gear Series 3, Episode 3 2003.11.09 - BAE Sea Harrier. James May: "The pilot did go a bit wide in some of the corners, didn't he?" Jeremy Clarkson: "He did say, with a Harrier, it would be possible to actually follow the confines of the track and it would still be faster than the car. But we said no no no, go for it."
- ↑ Top Gear Series 5, Episode 9 2004.12.26 - Ariel Atom. Jeremy Clarkson: You can use it on the road because... the test that we have for our Power Board, 'cause only road cars can go on this, is whether they can get over a speed bump."
- ↑ 41.0 41.1 Top Gear Series 6, Episode 6 2005.07.03 - Aston Martin DBR9. Jeremy Clarkson: "You can't buy this car so it has no place on our board." James May: "But he's right though, those are the rules."
- ↑ 42.0 42.1 Top Gear Series 10, Episode 5 2007.11.11 - Caparo T1. Jeremy Clarkson: "You know the rules James, if a car can't get over a sleeping policeman it can't go on that board. Look at that nose. Never mind a sleeping policeman, you'll rip that off if you run over Gandhi"
- ↑ Top Gear Series 10, Episode 9 2007.12.09 - Ascari A10. Jeremy Clarkson: "Now because this has a hydraulic lifting nose, which we can see here, it is able to get over speed bumps and that means it is a road car and that means it can go on our board."
- ↑ 44.0 44.1 Top Gear Series 13, Episode 2 2009.06.28 - Ferrari FXX. Jeremy Clarkson: "We subsequently discovered he was doing that on slick tyres. Now we have rules on this Power Board here, ok? You can't use slicks, so this time is coming off."
- ↑ http://www.evo.co.uk/news/evonews/243778/ultima_claims_top_gear_lap_record.html
- ↑ Agency Republic. "Dunlop - Injection, Episode 11". Injection.tv. http://www.injection.tv/site.php?domain=uk. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- ↑ "Ultima Sports Ltd". Ultimasports.co.uk. http://www.ultimasports.co.uk/laprecord.html. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- ↑ "Programme One - Sunday 20th October 2002". BBC. http://web.archive.org/web/20040715213526/www.bbc.co.uk/topgear/prog1/index.shtml. Retrieved 2009-07-03.
- ↑ Top Gear Series 8, Episode 1 2006.05.07
- ↑ Top Gear Series 2, Episode 8 2003.07.06 - Original time of 1:48 was prior to recording fractional seconds. Jeremy Clarkson to Jodie Kidd: "We don't have points on this, but actually you were point three of a second faster than Jay Kay."
- ↑ Top Gear Series 5, Episode 9 2004.12.26 - Jeremy ACTUALLY wrote 1:46.1, but placed her in the right place. (look for it at the 25 minute mark.)
- ↑ Top Gear Series 10, Episode 5 2007.11.11
- ↑ "Top Gear Celebrity Laps". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/topgear/show/celebritylaps.shtml. Retrieved 2008-11-12.
- ↑ "Top Gear Series 13". BBC. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Gear_(series_13).
- ↑ "BBC Top Gear goes virtual on PS3". BBC News. 24 October 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7059887.stm. Retrieved 2007-10-24.
- ↑ "Top Gear on GT5". TopGear.com. 24 October 2007. http://www.topgear.com/content/news/stories/2368/. Retrieved 2007-10-24.
- ↑ "Top Gear track permission". 6 March 2008. http://www.rfactorcentral.com/detail.cfm?ID=Top%20Gear%20Test%20Track. Retrieved 2008-03-10.
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