Top Gear (series 18)

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Top Gear (series 18)
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 8
Original channel BBC Two
Original release 28 December 2011 (2011-12-28) – 11 March 2012 (2012-03-11)
Series chronology
List of Top Gear episodes

The eighteenth series of British motoring programme Top Gear began on BBC Two and BBC HD, on 29 January 2012, preceded by a Christmas special on 28 December 2011, with the usual presenting team of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and The Stig.[1] One segment that was due to appear in the series, which featured May driving a jet plane around the test track, was not broadcast for unknown reasons, although it appeared in the Challenges 6 DVD and it showed it would have been part of the Saab feature in the series.


Total No. Title Reviews Features/Challenges Guest Original air date UK viewers
139 - "India Special" None Dabbawala delivery in Mumbai, motorsporting in Jaipur, and trade fair in Delhi: (Jaguar XJSRolls-Royce Silver ShadowMini Cooper) None 28 December 2011 (2011-12-28) 6.61[nb 1]
140 1 Series 18, Episode 1 None "Supercars Across Italy": (Lamborghini AventadorMcLaren MP4-12CNoble M600) 29 January 2012 (2012-01-29) 6.21[nb 2]

Supercar Shootout: A road trip through Lecce in Italy, attempting to find which mid-engined supercar besides the Ferrari 458 Italia is best. Hammond chose a Noble M600, May a McLaren MP4-12C and Clarkson a Lamborghini Aventador. The team began by trying to find out how fast they dare to go to the top speed of their car, along with finding out their fuel consumption at such a speed by performing some high speed runs at the Nardò Ring. While Clarkson and May had help from the makers of their chosen cars, Hammond had to do his own work for his Noble, where upon doing the run, they found out that Hammond did 204.8 mph, Clarkson got 204.3 mph, and May reached 201.6 mph. Of the three, May had managed to get the closest to his car's top speed. The trio then headed to Rome to find a restaurant at the central of the city, while seeing who could get to it first, a challenge that May won as Clarkson had to find a parking space and Hammond's car had failed during the drive through the Italian countryside (even being replaced with another Noble, but of a different colour, when it couldn't be fixed).

Finally, to determine who had the best car, the trio took part in a time trial challenge, set at the Imola Grand Prix track, Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, which they had to drive around. The Stig's "Italian cousin", driving in a Ferrari 458, set a benchmark for them to beat - 1:56.6. After learning the track and having a brief contemplation of the dangers of the fast, narrow circuit as well as noting the Formula One drivers that had accidents or even died there, the trio began their time trial the next day. Through various mishaps and tumbles, the three all completed their best timed lap at the end of the day. Of the three, May was the slowest, posting a time of 2:06.4, Hammond was next, with 2:03.3 as his best, and Clarkson was the fastest, with a time of 1:59.1.

News: The boys look at highlights of cars to expect in 2012. They also tell everyone what happened to the cars from the India Special. The trio then talk about a man who has failed the theory part of the British driving test 92 times, which causes Clarkson to pull out a book on said topic, quoting various trivial questions in it. Alfa Romeo and Maserati are both about to reveal their new cars. Clarkson then quotes a report stating that one's driving ability would diminish whilst suffering a flu, and driving whilst taking flu medication "is the same" as driving under the influence of cocaine. After rebuking claims that driving while doing something else is difficult to such a point that one cannot concentrate, the trio then trades off various quips about doing something else whilst driving, up to saying that a woman who has been pulled over for "causing herself to have pleasure" while driving.

Star In A Reasonably Priced Car: Black Eyed Peas frontman, who set a time of 1:49.4, with an automatic car, in the wet.
141 2 Series 18, Episode 2 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster Jeremy and James examine China's car industry in Beijing • Richard learns about NASCAR racing in Texas Matt LeBlanc 5 February 2012 (2012-02-05) 6.25[nb 3]

Feature 1: Hammond travels to the Texas Motor Speedway for the AAA Texas 500[3] race to explore the world of NASCAR racing and to explain why he thinks NASCAR deserves more international credit than Clarkson believes it deserves, interviewing drivers Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Juan Pablo Montoya, and a riding along in a NASCAR stock car racer with Kyle Petty. Despite agreeing with Hammond, and after having repeated his accusation that Hammond is a secret American, Clarkson determines that NASCAR is only able to make sporting events much more exciting than it deserves to be on their own merits, adding that Formula One could learn a lot from them about how to make their racing more entertaining.

Review: Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster (Clarkson). An interesting if characteristically flawed, typically Clarksonian defence of a supercar which, in comparison to a lot of other machinery similar in kind, he inevitably concludes is more alluring than the establishment principally because it is expressly for people who don't want to be sensible about their enjoyment of the open-top motoring experience. All in all, a modern, flawed, crazed, X-factor German roadster much in the vein of 1960's and 70's-era American muscle cars --- fun because it's just like a wild horse—the challenge is taming it. The SLS Roadster set a lap time of 1.19.6

News: The Boys do a slight rehash of some of their jokes from the previous week about how health and safety authorities are sticking their noses in and claiming driving is too difficult under any potentially distracting or unideal circumstances, in response to a new and illogical campaign statement about parking safety. After having a laugh at the darkened outline of a photograph of the new 2013 Dodge Viper, remarking that Chrysler must not have been confident enough about its styling to release any detail, they show photos of a Prius with a ghastly roof attachment for camping purposes. Following this comes a discussion off of the announcement of Renault's new electric car, of all the typical practical jokes that motoring enthusiasts play on unsuspecting car owners as kids, and whose sense of humour, in various forms, carries through to adulthood, like unplugging batteries and turning small cars around in parking spaces to confuse owners about their positioning upon their return.

Feature 2: James and Jeremy head to Beijing to explore the emerging car industry in China, in response to the assertion that everyone will be driving Chinese cars in five years. Interestingly, some car manufacturers, namely luxury marques such as Audi, are producing market-specific models for sale only in China, whereas ultra-luxury or performance marques like Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and Aston Martin enjoy record-breaking sales there, despite the recession. And quite amazingly, national car production levels in China exceed that of all European output combined. The automotive populace increases in size by 38,000 cars every day, having attained a current figure of 85 million now, compared to just 1 million about 35 years ago. The laws changed in the early 1990s to accommodate large-scale, affordable car ownership. However, they discover that there is not much to offer, even now, that seems a match for potential European competitors. In fact, some of the better cars available from the Chinese market are oddly-named, facsimiles of popular car designs such as the BMW X5, the Mini, and the Toyota Aygo. The Stig's Chinese cousin, who apparently enjoys randomly attacking people more than driving, takes two of the more modern offerings, including the equivalent of the forthcoming MG5, around a track for a spin. May and Clarkson themselves drive the two cars around Beijing and conclude that these cars seem to be much closer to what they should be compared to previous offerings, but still not up to standards in developed markets. At the end of the test, for a gag, Chinese Stig attacks James by kicking him in the "plums." To end the show, 3 unknown Chinese presenters finish the show with the bit the boys usually do themselves in the UK. However, it is a chuckle to realise that "bombshell" does not quite translate into Mandarin.

Star In A Reasonably Priced Car: Former Friends cast member and car lover Matt LeBlanc, who set a time of 1.42.1, breaking the previous record of 1:42.2 held by Rowan Atkinson, and setting the fastest celebrity lap time yet recorded.
142 3 Series 18, Episode 3 Vauxhall Corsa VXR NurburgringFiat Panda Creating the climactic car chase for The Sweeney (Jaguar XFRFord Focus) Ryan ReynoldsRay WinstonePlan BNick Love 12 February 2012 (2012-02-12) 6.16[nb 4]

Review: May reviews the Vauxhall Corsa Nürburgring Edition. He praises the handling of the Corsa, but then claims that the ride was awful and continued the rest of his review with the new Fiat Panda, much to Clarkson's dismay. The Corsa went round the track in 1.31.0 (as fast as a Porsche 911 996 Turbo).

Feature/Challenge: Clarkson and Hammond are asked to help direct a movie car chase for the remake of The Sweeney, with Ray Winstone and Plan B. While Clarkson focused on using dyanamic camera usage, and timed moves, providing some good segments, Hammond chose to do rather unrealistic stunts, including resurrecting the "car cannon" from the Car Darts challenge to launch (and subsequently wreck) a Ford Focus ST for a stronger jump, while having Clarkson do a power slide into one caravan, blowing up another a caravan and damaging one of the Jaguar XFR. However, their action has made director Nick Love so furious that he sprayed the word "Scum" on Hammond's Porsche 911 Carrera S and "Tosser" on Clarkson's Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series. Although the segment was a spoof, the Top Gear production team and presenters assisted with planning and filming the real car chase scene from the film.[4][5] And to prove it, the rushes of their work were shown to the audience, proving their good work.

  • Clarkson, Hammond and May were credited in the film as stunt performers.
Star In A Reasonably Priced Car: Ryan Reynolds does a 1:43.7, faster than Tom Cruise.
143 4 Series 18, Episode 4 Ferrari FFBentley Continental V8Fisker Karma Build and test off-road mobility scooters in the countryside Michael FassbenderBrian Johnson 19 February 2012 (2012-02-19) 5.28[nb 5]

Review: James May travels to Florida to test the latest sports Plug-in hybrid car, the Fisker Karma; however, during his review, he visits AC/DC front man Brian Johnson and ends up driving "Thunder Guts", his 1928 Bentley Vanden Plas LeMans Tourer. Johnson and May end up creating an "old cars vs. new cars" drag race, which May wins by a long distance.

Main Review: Clarkson visits Arjeplog in Northern Sweden, where he pits the Ferrari FF against the Bentley Continental GT in a race on an ice replica of the Silverstone test track. While he likes the Ferrari's performance, he couldn't work out why Ferrari had gone to great lengths creating a 4WD system that shuts off in or above fifth gear - hence making its handling 'twitchy' -, while the Bentley offers a better control on slippery surface, especially with the normal automatic gearbox. He also criticises the styling of the FF, with May declaring it 'not their [Ferrari's] finest effort' and Clarkson suggesting that it should be called the Ferrari 'India Special' (referring to the Top Gear India Special, which ended up in chaos on the media.) The Stig arrives in a hovercraft to test both cars, and around the 'Icy Silverstone', the Continental V8 is 13 seconds faster than the more powerful and lighter FF.

Car Creation Challenge: The trio are tasked with creating their own off-road mobility scooters for rambling in the Welsh countryside. Clarkson builds an eight-wheeler with two engines from two electric scooters, with lawnmower wheels. May makes an electric wheelchair and Hammond creates his machine from a mobility trike and a petrol powered builders' wheelbarrow, with a single wheel at the front and crawler tracks at the back. They begin by testing their scooters in Abergavenny town centre, which results in James May crashing inside a branch of Greggs; Hammond ruining a stand of merchandise in a branch of Waterstones and then racing a woman down the high street; and Clarkson annoying buyers in an indoor market hall. The task ends with a race in the countryside against three wounded soldiers. Only Hammond manages to finish the race, with Clarkson's scooter falling down a hill into a set of trees, and May aborting the mission and getting stuck outside a pub near Crickhowell.

Star In A Reasonably Priced Car: Michael Fassbender laps in 1:42.8 on ice, becoming the equal third fastest time ever.

  • Due to scheduling issues, the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment, to feature Matt Smith for S18Ep5, had his test run and interview by Jeremy Clarkson, all done during this episode's taping. Michael Fassbender was taped and interviewed a week earlier.
144 5 Series 18, Episode 5 Maserati GranTurismo MC StradaleMercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series Retrospective on Swedish car maker SaabRally-spec Škoda vs jet-powered flying man. Matt SmithYves RossyToni Gardemeister 26 February 2012 (2012-02-26) 6.12[nb 6]

"Car Vs. Something" Race: Hammond and Finnish world rally driver Toni Gardemeister race Yves Rossy, the world's first jet propelled man, in a Skoda Fabia S2000 around an eight-mile special Welsh Rally Stage. Yves wins the race by a matter of seconds. Note: This feature has been taken from Top Gear at the Movies.

News: Jeremy discusses food at Little Chef. The trio discuss the new French law which states that drivers must have a breathalyser in their cars, show a photo of James's Fiat Panda parked in the loading bay at the BBC, and finally Jeremy and James show the footage of their "do-while-you-drive" race around the test track, in which Clarkson attempts to sew on a button while driving, May attempting to complete a lap whilst in a sleeping bag in a Suzuki Swift.

Review: Clarkson tests the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Edition and the Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale. He claims that whilst both cars are good fun on track, but on the day-to-day basis, the Maserati's gearbox is awful in auto mode, the racing harnesses are too tight 'as if it was taken from S&M Catalogue', while the abysmal ride of the Mercedes ruined the whole car. The Maserati set a time of 1.23.1 and the Mercedes C63 Black, despite its tendency to kick its tail out, set a faster lap time of 1.21.0

Feature: Clarkson and May pay a final tribute to Saab Automobile as a send-off to sixty years of production, where they looked at some of the bad ideas the company made (including useless features and a mad advertising campaign), to some very good ones, including an emphasis on safety for their car's potential occupants, with the latter reason, alongside a few others, being the reason that they loss money with each car they made. James ended the feature by pointing out that despite the carmaker being finished, a company was being set-up to cater to anyone who still owned a Saab.

Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Matt Smith completes a lap in 1:43.7.
145 6 Series 18, Episode 6 "Aero-engined" Bentley, Brutus Three stripped track cars in Donington: (KTM X-BowMorgan Three WheelerCaterham R500) Alex James 4 March 2012 (2012-03-04) 5.81[nb 7]

Car Review Challenge: Jeremy, Richard and James hit Donington Park in three stripped out track cars - the KTM X-Bow, the Morgan Three Wheeler and the Caterham Seven, in an attempt to show which is the better track racer. They test the cars in a series of challenges, including a drag race, best doughnut attempt, and fastest entry through a hairpin corner. During the news section, they sent the KTM and Morgan round the track. The KTM set a time of 1.27.0 and the Morgan went round in 1.40.4. The trio are later challenged to drive to work in their track cars - but soon discover that none of the cars are ideal for speed bumps, or strong winds, heavy rain, and cold weather conditions. They also end up stopping on the way to buy some weather-suitable outfits, much to the amusement of a group of bikers.

Review: Clarkson creates his own version of the 'Battle of Britain' using a model of a classic 1920s Bentley that has a WW II-era tank engine (Petersen Meteor Bentley) and a home-made German car made using an aeroplane engine called Brutus. Both cars are then driven round the track, setting the two slowest times ever (1:50:3 and 2:02:5).

'Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Alex James of Blur completes a lap in 1:45.2.
146 7 Series 18, Episode 7 BMW M5 Rallycross cheaper than playing golf? (Toyota MR2, Citroen Saxo, BMW 328i) • James's childhood dream car: Ferrari 250 GT California. SlashKimi RäikkönenChris Evans 11 March 2012 (2012-03-11) 6.15[nb 8]

Review: Hammond reviews the BMW M5 F10. He compares it to a BMW M1 and discusses the advances made between both models. Due to time constraints, the M5's lap is not shown, but Clarkson informs the audience that it completed a lap of the test track in wet conditions in 1:29.2.

News: Clarkson discusses a new Bentley 4x4 which he believes is ideal for the premiership footballer, the trio discuss the new Lamborghini Aventador J, which has no roof or windscreen, and Clarkson expresses his outrage on how loud emergency sirens can be.

F1 Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Kimi Räikkönen talks about his return to F1, and then completes a wet lap of the track in the Suzuki Liana in 1:46.1.

Feature/Review: May's childhood dreams come true when he is given the chance to drive a £5.6 million Ferrari 250 GT California, which is owned by radio DJ Chris Evans. He takes it for a drive in Windsor Park, and claims that after all the years he has waited, driving it was not a disappointment.

Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Ex-Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash (Jeremy introduced him and said, "I need to Slash, unlucky forgotten that one, he's over there!") completes a lap of the track in 1:49.8 (slow, according to Clarkson, but actually a relatively fast time in the wet).

Challenge: The trio attempt to prove you can go Rallycross motor racing for less than it costs to play golf. Clarkson invests in a BMW 328i, Hammond a Citroën Saxo VTS and May a Toyota MR2. Hammond is the most successful out of the three, coming third in two heats and coming second in his final. Clarkson finishes last and second last in his two heats, before winning the first final and being allowed to take part in Hammond's final, where he finished third after a battle with Hammond. May is the least successful, coming last in his two heats and finishing third in his final.

  • Owing to this being the last episode of the series, Slash was present at the end of the show, and stood upon the Toyota Hilux plinth playing the series out with his version of the Top Gear theme song.

Special episodes[edit]

Total No. Title Features Guest Original air date UK viewers
"50 Years of Bond Cars" None Guy Hamilton, Sir Roger Moore, Ola Rapace, Michael G. Wilson, Ben Collins, Daniel Craig 29 October 2012 (2012-10-29) 5.48[nb 9]
Features and challenges: Richard examines the best of the Bond cars to celebrate the film series' 50th anniversary, and the release of the latest film Skyfall.[7]
"Children In Need 2012 Special" None Bill Turnbull, Sophie Raworth, Fiona Bruce 16 November 2012 (2012-11-16) 8.22
Features and challenges: Three BBC newsreaders take part in a Children In Need special edition of 'Star In a Reasonably Priced Car'.[8]


  1. ^ Top Gear Series 18 Episode 1 - YouTube
  2. ^
  3. ^ Red Carpet - Events - BBC Top Gear Richard Hammond
  4. ^ Lewis, Simon (18 August 2012). "'I nearly pulled out. I didn't want to be a Batman and Robin sidekick': Plan B joins Ray Winstone in the big-screen remake of The Sweeney". Daily Mail. 
  5. ^ "The Sweeney (2012)". Kent Film office. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Wilman, Andy (November 2012). "Live and Let Dive". Top Gear Magazine (236) (Immediate Media Company, BBC Magazines). 
  8. ^ Wilman, Andy (November 2012). "BBC Children in Need 2012 – the stars of Appeal Night revealed". TBBC Media Centre (236) (BBC, BBC Magazines). 
  1. ^ 5.76 million on BBC Two, 849,000 on BBC HD.
  2. ^ 5.18 million on BBC Two, 1.03 million on BBC HD.
  3. ^ 5.29 million on BBC Two, 963,000 on BBC HD.
  4. ^ 5.13 million on BBC Two, 1.03 million on BBC HD.
  5. ^ 4.30 million on BBC Two, 982,000 on BBC HD.
  6. ^ 5.25 million on BBC Two, 872,000 on BBC HD.
  7. ^ 4.83 million on BBC Two, 978,000 on BBC HD.
  8. ^ 5.13 million on BBC Two, 1.02 million on BBC HD.
  9. ^ 4.71 million on BBC Two, 768,000 on BBC HD.

External links[edit]