Top Gear (series 12)

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Top Gear (series 12)
Top Gear Series 12 Promo 2008.jpg
Promotional poster
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 8
Release
Original network BBC Two
Original release 2 November (2008-11-02) – 28 December 2008 (2008-12-28)
Series chronology
← Previous
Series 11
Next →
Series 13
List of Top Gear episodes

The twelfth series of Top Gear aired during 2008 and consisted of 7 episodes, beginning on 2 November and concluding on 14 December. It was subsequently followed by the "Top Gear: Vietnam Special" two weeks later, on 28 December as part of the BBC's 2008 Christmas line-up, and was later followed in 2009 with four "Best Of Top Gear" specials throughout January and the beginning of February.

News Segment[edit]

Like the previous series, the News segment of Series 12 featured two running jokes. The first was a return of the previous running joke regarding the Dacia Sandero, with Clarkson making the announcements about it with feigned enthusiasm, much to utter indifference from May. The second was that one of hosts would often turn up on the segment wearing something unusual, with one of the other hosts asking if they were doing it for a bet.

Episodes[edit]

Total No. Title Reviews Features Guest Original air date UK viewers
(million)[1]
112 1 Series 12, Episode 1 Porsche 911 GT2Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 £5,000 Lorry challenge (ERF EC11Renault MagnumScania P94D) Michael Parkinson 2 November 2008 (2008-11-02) 7.74

Clarkson, Hammond and May see how easy it is to be an HGV driver, by each buying a second-hand lorry cab within a budget of £5,000 - May buys a Scania 94D, Clarkson buys a Renault Magnum and Hammond gets an ERF EC11. Heading for the "Top Gear's Secret Alpine Test Location" (in Bedfordshire), the trio undertake a series of challenges, including power-sliding their lorries, tackling the Alpine course while transporting a trailer with a valuable piece of (unsecured) cargo, seeing how fast their lorry is and attempting a hill start without breaking something precious to them. For their final challenge, they return to the test track, where they find how quickly they can brake after ploughing into an "obstacle" at high speed. Elsewhere, Clarkson is testing out the Porsche 997 GT2 and Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 on the track, and chat show legend Michael Parkinson is in "t'reasonably priced car"...

Note: While filming the 'HGV Challenge', Clarkson injured himself after driving his lorry through his obstacle in the film's final challenge.
113 2 Series 12, Episode 2 Abarth 500 Esseesse Muscle Car Challenge: (Dodge Challenger SRT8Chevrolet Corvette ZR1Cadillac CTS-V) Will Young 9 November 2008 (2008-11-09) 7.57
The team head out on a road trip from San Francisco to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, to test drive the new generation of American muscle cars - Hammond drives the new Dodge Challenger, Clarkson is in the new Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1, and May wishes he wasn't with the Cadillac CTS-V. Thanks to the U.S. State department, the trio only have visas that allow them to be factual rather than entertaining, and so must be careful not to show anything too funny or exciting, as Hammond and Clarkson race between the lights at Reno and head onto some twisty back roads to see if they can get May to like his car. Once at the Salt Flats, the trio attempt to see if they achieve a respective high speed for the cars on a one mile straight drive with an unfavourable driving surface. Elsewhere, Clarkson tests out how good a small family car the Abarth 500 Esseesse is, and the original winner of Pop Idol, Will Young, talks about his own Top Gear race as he does a lap in the Lacetti...
114 3 Series 12, Episode 3 Toyota i-REALRenault Avantime Tuning challenge: Renault Avantime • Finnish folk racing • Corvette V-8 engine blender-made smoothie Mark WahlbergMika Häkkinen 16 November 2008 (2008-11-16) 6.98
The boys attempt to see if they can modify a Renault Avantime with the remainder of a £15,000 budget provided for them, so that it can lap the test track as fast as a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, and quickly discover that it's not as easy a task as it seems. Meanwhile, Hammond heads to Toyota City in Japan to test out a "drivable" chair, the i-REAL, May prepares for his first supercar review by learning "The Finnish Way of Car Control" from Mika Häkkinen and entering a Jokamiesluokka (a rallycross race), Clarkson sees if he can make a food blender out of a V8 engine by making a 'manly' drink, and Mark Wahlberg tries to adjust to a manual gearbox and the right-handed seating position of the reasonably priced car...
115 4 Series 12, Episode 4 Pagani Zonda Roadster FBugatti Veyron Economy race from Basel to Blackpool Illuminations (Volkswagen Polo BlueMotionJaguar XJ Diesel • Subaru Legacy Diesel) Harry Enfield 23 November 2008 (2008-11-23) 7.15
The trio are on a fuel economy race to see who can make it from Basel in Switzerland to Blackpool in northwest England, on a single tank of fuel - May is sensible and selects a Subaru Legacy diesel, Clarkson thinks its pointless and arrives in a Jaguar XJ diesel, and Hammond turns up in a Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion to the scorn of his compatriots, with all three allowed to choose their own routes to the finish line. While Clarkson is interested in just running out near his home, Hammond and May show their competitive sides in this clever race, but once back in Britain, all three soon begin praying they can achieve what they set out to do, with a surprise in store for one of them. Meanwhile, May tackles his first ever power test by seeing how good the Pagani Zonda Roadster F is, the Stig finally gets to step into the Bugatti Veyron and do a power lap around the track to see how fast it is, and Harry Enfield returns to redeem his honour, as he talks about his 'Clarkson Island' sketch while hoping he did better this time in the Lacetti...
116 5 Series 12, Episode 5 Lexus IS FBMW M3 Portofino to Saint-Tropez Race: Powerboat vs. Ferrari Daytona • Best bus for British city streets Kevin McCloudTom Chilton 30 November 2008 (2008-11-30) 7.51
The Lexus IS-F is in Clarkson's hands as he sees if it can unseat the king of high-powered saloons, the four door BMW M3, while Hammond sees if motorsport and a handful of touring car legends can find the best type of bus for London's street at Lydden Hill Race Circuit - contenders include a double decker, a single decker, two bendy buses, and a compact hopper bus. Meanwhile, there's a race on the Riviera, as Hammond races a Ferrari Daytona from Portofino to Saint-Tropez against May in a £1.25 million power boat, and Kevin McCloud makes an appearance to set a time in the Lacetti...
117 6 Series 12, Episode 6 Veritas RS IIICaterham Seven Superlight R500 Did the communists make a good car? • Ford Fiesta with the Royal Marines Boris Johnson 7 December 2008 (2008-12-07) 7.33

Clarkson and May can't decide if imported Chinese-made cars will be any good, which got them thinking about whether the Communists ever historically built a good car, and are soon taking a look at a range of them, including the Lada Riva, Moskvitch 408, the East German Wartburg. Elsewhere, Clarkson decides to a proper road test like in the old days in response to a complaint, and does a "serious" review of the Ford Fiesta, while Hammond is seeing if the new, German built Veritas RS III is a better track-day car than the Caterham 7 Superlight R500, and Mayor of London (at the time of broadcast), Boris Johnson, tries to drive fast in the reasonably priced car on a wet track...

Note: For the first time in the show's history, Hammond had to do the normal "Tonight, on Top Gear..." intro, after Clarkson lost his voice to an infection before filming of the studio segments. May also had to help with introducing the guest star for this episode. Clarkson was only able to speak a little in the studio, but was able to do the voiceover commentary for the 'Communist Cars' and 'Ford Fiesta Review' films when his voice began to recover.
118 7 Series 12, Episode 7 Tesla RoadsterHonda FCX Clarity 50 years of British Touring Car racing • TG Stuntman takes on Fifth Gear's caravan jump record • Top Gear Awards 2008 Sir Tom JonesJay Kay 14 December 2008 (2008-12-14) 7.54

Clarkson puts the first electric supercar, the battery powered Tesla Roadster, through its paces on the track, while May heads to California to test drive what could be the future of motoring - the hydrogen powered Honda FCX Clarity. Elsewhere, Hammond takes a look back at 50 years of Touring Cars racing history, Top Gear Stunt Man returns to beat the record set by Fifth Gear for the furthest distance by a car off a ramp while towing a caravan, Clarkson sees if the elderly could enjoy a motorised rocking chair powered by a V8 engine, and singer, Tom Jones, is in control of the Lacetti for a lap around the track...

Note: During the News segment, the presenters revealed they had bought a Morris Marina, after a Marina Owners Club complained about them burning one in the 'Communist Cars' film. A piano was promptly dropped onto the Marina while showing it, starting a running gag by the presenters with Marinas that featured in later episodes.
119 SP "Vietnam Special" N/A Vietnam Special N/A 28 December 2008 (2008-12-28) 6.70

The trio attempt to see if they can do what the Americans couldn't in the Vietnam conflict - get from Hồ Chí Minh City (Saigon) in the south of Vietnam, to Hạ Long city, near Hanoi (Hà Nội) in the north, within eight days. The presenters are impressed to find they have been given 15 million Vietnamese đồng to buy a second-hand vehicle, but quickly discover that it amounts to US$1000 and that cars are expensive in the country. As a last resort, much to Clarkson's chargrin, all three find themselves buying a motorcycle for the journey - Hammond buys a Belarusian-built 125 ccfour-stroke Minsk, May gets a two-stroke Honda Super Cub and an unenthusiastic Clarkson purchases a two-stroke green 1967 Piaggio Vespa, with the trio learning that, should their bikes brake down and be unable to start again, the producers have provided a a 1973 Honda Chaly mini-bike as a back-up, complete with a Stars and Stripes livery and an audio system continuously playing "Born in the U.S.A.". On their journey through the country, the trio deal with monsoon weather, sample local cuisine, get silk suits, uncover gorgeous scenary, partake in a motorcycle licence test exam, before finally converting their bikes for a journey across the sea to the finish line - a floating bar within the maze of limestone islets in Hạ Long Bay...

Note: In reference to film-maker Francis Ford Coppola, the ending credits replaced the first names of the crew with the words "Francis Ford" (e.g. "Francis Ford Clarkson", "Francis Ford Hammond", etc.).

Best-of Episodes[edit]

Total No. Title Feature Original air date UK viewers
(million)[1]
120 CE-1 The Best Of Top Gear: 2008 #1 Best Moments from Series 11-12 - Part 1 1 January 2009 (2009-01-01) 2.82
A look back at some of the best moments from Series 11 and 12, including a revisit of the race between the Ferrari Daytona and the Powerboat on the Riviera.
121 CE-2 The Best Of Top Gear: 2008 #2 Best Moments from Series 11-12 - Part 2 4 January 2009 (2009-01-04) 3.27
A second look back at some of the best moments from Series 11 and 12, including the challenge of finding a good Alfa Romeo for less than £1,000.
122 CE-3 The Best Of Top Gear: 2008 #3 Best Moments from Series 11-12 - Part 3 25 January 2009 (2009-01-25) 2.05
A third look back at some of the best moments from Series 11 and 12, including Clarkson's efforts to evade his pursuers in the Daihatsu Terios, and Top Gear's battle against the presenters of D-Motor.
123 CE-4 The Best Of Top Gear: 2008 #4 Best Moments from Series 11-12 - Part 4 1 February 2009 (2009-02-01) 2.28
A fourth look back at some of the best moments from Series 11 and 12, including a revisit of the race between the Nissan GT-R and the Bullet Train.

Criticism and Controversy[edit]

HGV Challenge "Prostitutes" joke[edit]

During the first episode of the series, Jeremy Clarkson made a joke regarding lorry drivers killing prostitutes. Following the episode's broadcast, the joke drew criticism, with many believing that it alluded to the Ipswich 2006 serial murders in which a forklift truck driver was arrested and charged with the murder of five women who had been working as prostitutes,[2] though some believe it was more likely that Clarkson was referring to the Yorkshire Ripper. Ofcom received over 500 complaints in regards to the joke, but revealed that the remark had not been in breach of the broadcasting code. Meanwhile, Labour MP Chris Mole wrote a strongly worded letter to the BBC, stating that Clarkson should be sacked regarding the remarks he made.[3]

Tesla Roadster Review film[edit]

During the seventh episode, Top Gear reviewed and tested the battery powered Tesla Roadster, in which Clarkson pointed out, upon rigorous testing, that the batteries on the Roadster drained quickly and that the car suffered mechanical problems. Tesla contested these findings following the episode, and provided data logs of the cars' performances during the show to Top Gear and the BBC, which led both to revealing in statements to the media, that the cars did not in fact break down and never went below 20 percent state of charge.[4] Despite this, Clarkson wrote an article for The Sunday Times, following dozens of blogs and newspapers challenging Top Gear's portrayal of the Roadster's performance, in which he stood by the contents of the episode.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Weekly Top 10 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. 
  2. ^ "Clarkson joke sparks complaints". BBC News. November 4, 2008. Retrieved July 6, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Jeremy Clarkson - Labour Mp Calls For Clarkson Sacking Over Lorry Joke". Contactmusic.com. November 15, 2007. Retrieved May 5, 2009. 
  4. ^ "BBC: Top Gear Tesla didn't run out of juice". The Register. December 22, 2008. 
  5. ^ [1](subscription required)