From humble beginnings as a 1970s motoring show, Top Gear has achieved world domination. Reaching a peak in the 1990s thanks to presenter Jeremy Clarkson, the original series faced the axe in 2001 but Clarkson and producer Andy Wilman successfully pitched a new format to BBC bosses and Top Gear returned to become the irreverent, funny and often controversial show we now know and love. The addition of Richard Hammond and James May completed the Top Gear dream team and ratings soared as viewers tuned in to see the latest Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, arguments over the Cool Wall and Power Laps by the mysterious Stig.
Recent series have been defined by their madcap challenges with predictably hilarious results. Hour-long specials such as the 1000-mile journey across Africa in cars bought for only £1500, and a race to the magnetic North Pole in which Clarkson and May became the first people to drive a motor vehicle to the Pole, have cemented Top Gear’s reputation as much more than just a motoring show. But the show’s most shocking moment came in 2006, when Hammond suffered serious head injuries while driving a Vampire turbojet drag racing car at over 300mph.
This is the full story of the unstoppable rise of Clarkson, Hammond, May and The Stig and how they created one of the most famous and best loved TV programmes of the 21st century.