By on January 29, 2009

Writing in the Telegraph, Top Gear presenter James May says The Stig is a “harmless fairytale.” So much for the autoblogosphere’s paroxysms of go-faster gossip. The fact that most of Top Gear’s readers and viewers will continue to agitate themselves about the Stig’s “real identity” says a lot about their preference for theater over reality. As is often the case, the truth is far less glamorous than fiction. At least in this example, it’s no less interesting. Let’s start with this: if you take the Stig’s “Power Lap” times as reasonable statistics with which to compare the performance of two different cars, you’ve been seriously misled.

The TG lap times are recorded year-round on a track subject to various extremes of heat, cold, and precipitation. The gap between the Volkswagen R32 at 1:30.4 and the Lancer Evo X “FQ-300″ at 1:28.2 is just over two seconds. In fact, it’s not uncommon for lap times at a track of this length to vary by two seconds or more, as the track “rubbers in” and then “washes out” over time.

I remember absolutely obliterating the lap record for my class at Mid-O last year. I shaved almost 1.7 seconds from the record during morning warmup. Later, I had to knock another four tenths off just to qualify in the front row of a regional sprint race. A big IRL test a few days previous had left a fantastic amount of high-quality rubber bonded to the track surface. Simple as that.

Applying a “surface factor” to Top Gear’s lap times, the R32 could be just as fast as the Evo around that track under identical conditions… or it could be as much as four seconds slower. Depending on conditions, the Enzo could have been the fastest car ever tested by the Stig, or it could have been slower than the Corvette Z06.

Power Lap times are like calls to Dionne Warwick’s Psychic Friends Network: use them for entertainment purposes only.

And then there’s the “Stig factor”: the difference in driving skills between one Stig, or two Stigs, or half a dozen different Stigs. Only there isn’t one. It doesn’t matter if the Stig is Ben Oliver, Damon Hill or Lewis Hamilton. The lap times will be roughly the same.

Surely Lewis Hamilton would be much faster around the test track than an older F1 driver, or a Touring Car winner, or even (gasp) a regular old American club racer like yours truly? Nope. The main gap between the best drivers and the regular Joes is minimal.

This is particularly true in relatively undemanding vehicles like street-tire, street-alignment street cars. The talent and experience required for a fast lap in something like a Corvette or GT-R can be found in literally thousands of drivers across the Western World. The difference between the very best street-car time-trial driver in the world and a mildly competitive Spec Miata racer might be half a second, if that.

As we’ve already seen, that half-second gap is much less than the potential variation in track conditions. It’s also less than the improvement possible with careful tire pressure selection and an extra session of familiarization in the car. Which reminds me: the “very best street-car time-trial driver in the world” mentioned in the previous paragraph isn’t Lewis Hamilton, Perry McCarthy, or anybody famous. It’s probably some introverted, Tilley-hat-wearing, weekend-warrior “nobody” in NASA’s Time Trial program or one of the overseas “time attack” deals.

Real racing drivers aren’t obsessed with extracting the very last tenth of a second possible in a single lap. It’s assumed that any race driver can put in about the same max-effort lap. Strategy, car conservation, traffic skills, on-track positioning… that’s where the superstars shine.

There are a few guys out there who could probably turn a faster single lap in a Ferrari F430 than Michael Schumacher. But Schumi will be within a fuel-adjusted two-tenths of a second for every lap in a forty-lap session, he’ll monitor and report effectively the car’s condition, and he’ll be aware of the position of every other driver on the track, even if he can’t see them. That’s the job of a racing driver.

If Top Gear wanted to provide serious, repeatable performance numbers, they would find and hire that aforementioned time-trialer cubicle rat, run all the cars under the same conditions on the same day, and rigorously enforce everything from tire pressure to oil temperature. In other words, they’d do what National-caliber autocrossers do when they conduct tire testing.

But if you’ve ever attended a National Solo event, you know there’s nothing sexy, interesting or impressive about that kind of process. It looks like a Star Trek convention without the fake ears or the fun shiny outfits.

Nobody would watch it. So instead we get an imaginary android, lurid powerslides and a “Power Lap” board to sit next to the “Cool Wall.” It’s a fake. But let’s be honest: isn’t that what you want?

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52 Comments on “Editorial: The Truth About Stigs...”


  • avatar
    James2

    So instead we get an imaginary android, lurid powerslides and a “Power Lap” board to sit next to the “Cool Wall.” It’s a fake. But let’s be honest: isn’t that what you want?

    Pretty much. Top Gear is entertainment, pure and simple. Actually, I just like the part where Jezza says, “Some say…” even if it’s some British in-joke that I don’t necessarily get, to me it’s funny.

  • avatar
    AKM

    Thanks for the article. Very interesting insight on a world I know only through TV and Forza videogames.

  • avatar
    threeer

    This really warranted a review? Guys, TG is for entertainment…pure and simple. I mean, come on…launching an old Jag with a trailer attached to it over a pile of cars does nothing to advance the cause of automotive knowledge (unless you just HAD to know how far an old XJ could go with a few thousand pounds strapped to it’s ass). I watch for the sheer pleasure of seeing Clarkson, Mays and Hammond yuck it up.

    The Stig’s laps are also a part of the fun factor. Do I take his laps as gospel? Are you kidding? The conditions in England change almost every hour, so speaking from a purely logical standpoint, there are way too many variations in the “experiment” to ever make it valid. This is the worst DOE known to mankind, but it sure is fun to watch (whomever it is) the Stig whip exotics around the test track.

  • avatar
    netrun

    Yes! Yes! and Yes! I want it! I want it!

    Can I be the next Stigs, p-p-please?!

  • avatar

    Top Gear wasn’t always like this…

    I long for the Top Gear that would perform valid performance testing AND tell the truth about cars AND be entertaining.

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    True, true Jack Baruth!

    That is why I feel that “Best Motoring” style track tests with multiple cars simultaneously on track running 4-5 lap races are way more enjoyable to watch.

    Top Gear is for the masses, so even a your grandma can whatch it and feel she’s a bit car nut and discuss previous episode of TG with her girlfriends. It’s a very good show for popularizing more passionate attitude towards cars to wider audience. In short “We are not driving just appliances” attitude. In the end its good for the market, knowledgeable buyers demand better cars – manufacturers need to develop their products accordingly etc.

    But to a serious enthusiast TG is like a to-be-taken-lightly comedy show.

    Fifth Gear is a good alternative to TG, although fun, but with a bit more down to earth approach.

  • avatar
    sean362880

    You’re right of course.

    But, I think the TG fast lap segment is useful when they compare 2 or 3 similar cars back to back on the same day.

    A viewer can compare how the cars handle at the limit, and even though the lap time is inconsequential, they might prefer one car’s handling vs. the other. You’re not going to try powersliding on a test drive, so how else can you find that information?

    Obviously you’re not going to base your purchasing decision on a TG lap time, but it’s entertaining and useful information regardless.

    Here’s an RX-8 vs. Alfa Brera vs. TT video. Is a TT really faster than an RX-8? Who cares?

  • avatar
    8rings

    Geez, I think we are getting wrapped around the axle on this one. Even if they tested every car on the same track-same day we would still have variables to gripe about. More rubber on the track, temp change, different tires, etc…
    Why don’t we just call Top Gears laps what they are… fun! I don’t think anyone would argue that there is anything scientific about them, hell they run laps in the rain.
    You guys can waste your time writing long editorials if you want and hey even post up the stats from that “fair” tire test. That will make for an entertaining read!
    I’m going to keep watching Top Gear.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    How many times can you listen to the same jokes? TG is all about an aging loudmouth who desperately wants to be a center of attention. It’s like the Family Guy without the baby – entertaining from time to time, but not particularly intelligent.

  • avatar

    People didn’t already realize this? Judging by the discourse over Top Gear from the forums I read it seems like the people who watch the show regularly already know this.

    There are plenty of boring, statistic-obsessed car review outlets that exist already in print and on television. Top Gear is not one of them, it’s a rare and entertaining gem as it is.

    We watch it to see three guys obsessed with cars and what they really think of them, stastics be damned, and the fun they have along the way. It’s the same reason I listen to Car Talk every weekend. I don’t need to know how to fix the weird noise in my car. I’m listening to two goofy mechanics poke fun at the problems, at the callers cars and situations, and mostly at themselves.

    The humor and fun personality is what makes these shows great and that’s why people love them.

    Those of you obsessed with cold hard facts or rigorous testing standards can already get that from any number of magazines or learn about repairs from a Chilton manual. But that’s not something many people are going to want to watch or listen to.

    When Jeremy is powersliding a car around the track and talking about it what he really likes and doesn’t like about it seems to hit more at home with many people. And when you think about it Jeremy is like a good chunk of people out there. He likes what he likes, just like we all have our opinions and likes of different cars no matter how slow, or fast, or reliable, or unreliable, or ugly, or beautiful they might be.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    @RF,

    low culture drives out high culture: the first rule of the public arts

    Of course, Mr. Baruth’s criteria for valid comparison testing – not that they are illogical – would certainly require moving TG to someplace with less variable weather, else it would take three years to complete one year’s worth of tests.

  • avatar
    Tommy

    RF: sounds like there is definitely a need for a TTAC television show.

    Brock_Landers: Best Motoring’s races are really short. 5 laps? Might as well do 1 lap. I do agree that Top Gear is for grandmas.

    The Stig, like your standard shopping mall Santa Claus, is much better anonymous.

  • avatar

    Your May link to the Telegraph 404s.

    As for the rest of this piece.. meh, who cares? We already KNOW all of the above. TG is all about car-obsessed entertainment. We don’t watch it to fine TRUTH, we watch it to get a smile, or even a laugh. I don’t come to TTAC to find laughs or entertainment. I come here for insight, reasoned debate, and truth. I watch Top Gear to see things I would not ordinarily see and enjoy a good laugh. The characters and brands are well established. TG is very true to its brand. As such you should be applauding them, not condemning them.

    I could care less who The Stig is under his helmet. That isn’t the point.

    “Some say that his tongue is made of Gates rubber and is filled with Prestone. Others say that his heart was transplanted from an Elk run over by Jim Hall at Road America in 1966. All we know is that he’s called… The Stig.”

    –chuck

  • avatar
    puppyknuckles

    I”m a fan of TG. And I thought this article was interesting and well written, Mr. Baruth. Thanks!

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    Porsche,

    Isle of Man,

    Rain.

    Top Gear

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    That being said, Lewis Hamilton did come within a hair of beating Stig’s dry time in the wet in their “stars in a reasonably-priced car” segment. And I doubt the Stig was trying to conserve the reasonably priced car.

    I read that at early in the new-format of the show they tried to hose down the track so as to default to always wet conditions (it is England), but it was too impractical. Once they gave up on wet vs. dry I think it was obvious to anyone that the times are for entertainment purposes only.

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    Yes, it is exactly what I want. There’s nothing wrong with entertainment. I go elsewhere when I want fact and truth, but I watch Top Gear when I want to laugh. The Stig is fun as a character; personally I couldn’t care if it were the janitor under the white suit.

    I don’t understand how anyone can take TG seriously. While there are nuggets of truth and insight now and then, it’s mostly just for kicks. To me that’s obvious and taken into consideration when I watch. Taking TG to task for not being scientifically rigorous is like chastising Paris Hilton for not being able to work a farm tractor properly. It’s an irrelevant waste of bandwidth. If TG was ever trying to be at all rigorous, it might be a worthwhile conversation. But back here in reality, it’s not.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    Well stated Jack!

    I enjoy the show enough to dedicate ~25GB worth of storage to it (yes every episode I could get my hands on) but I enjoy the show mainly for reviews of obscure cars, their willingness to land a punch here and there and the subsequent bursting of bubbles.

    It isn’t the show that bothers me with the power laps… okay some of the comments by Clarkson make me wish I could mute him and just listen to the engine/tire audio track. What bothers me is how everybody cares who the stig is… maybe this is the blogosphere on reverb self perpetuating the importance of this myth which has an all too long half life. I agree with Jack that it really it makes no difference as long as he/she/it is a decent driver and there are plenty of those to go round.

    If anybody wants the full tilt weekend warrior (weekday sometimes with HPDE) experience then watching TG is nothing but a placation for an insatiable itch, it just helps get me through the time spent between tracking/AXing and or karting.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    Err, yeah! That is exactly what I want… and I knew that already. Any car guy knows that track times vary on conditions. That’s not really the point though. Why take it so serious? It’s entertainment and it’s damn good entertainment. I watch the show all the time. I laugh when Clarkson makes fun of Americans or anyone else. I don’t even know how you could take him seriously.

    I watch the show for several reason’s, none of which have to do with hard facts:
    A. They show cars and places I don’t get to see most of the time.
    B. They have passion and it’s entertaining to hear about their likes/dislikes even if I disagree with them (and I often do).
    C. They have good voices. I actually just like hearing them talk. Kind of like listening to NPR, sometimes it doesn’t even matter what the content is.
    D. They feature some amazing cars. They are very good at relating the experience of driving them. That is the main reason I watch (and I think most everyone else as well), to live vicariously through them.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Top Gear wasn’t always like this…

    Yes, and Toyota used to make sports cars. The reason for the current state of affairs is the same.

  • avatar
    eamiller

    Robert,
    Old TG may have been slightly more factual (perhaps more truthful in certain situations), but most of what they showed was not what I would call empirical. The cars were never tested in anything resembling a scientific fashion. Usually they just spouted manufacturer specs with some “driving impressions” sprinkled in for good measure. The only thing remotely entertaining were the motorsport segments (Tiff segments), and some of the only tangentially car related segments (many Clarkson segments). At least PBS’ Motorweek puts the car on a dragstrip for some real numbers (a show often taken to task by TTAC, though somewhat deservedly).

    Let’s face it, early TG wasn’t watched by anything resembling “enthusiasts” because they were so bloody boring. The only people watching it were the same tweed wearing folk that hosted the show (parking the car in front of a regal looking house drives that point home).

    Watching the old TG shows today is really only interesting from a historical point of view. As in “look at the morally high grounded ‘environmental’ Europeans who didn’t even put catalytic converters as standard on their cars until the 90s”. Or, “look at how crappy the cars of the 80s and 90s were”.

    I have found that most of the people who have a problem with new TG are either
    A) missing a sense of humor
    B) live for being nitpicky (aka uber nerds)
    C) doing it wrong
    D) some or all of the above

    Being a white American who has a sense of humor, I find “white” jokes and “American” jokes (a la Clarkson) to be extremely funny. But, then again, I have what I consider and extremely honed sense of humor.

    Let’s face it, even though the BBC is taxpayer funded, they still live on ratings (unlike PBS who pays no attention to such things). How many women watched old TG? Probably 2 if that. The new show has an amazing female viewership ratings for a “car” show, and for good reason. It is good entertainment, full stop.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Good points, we’re all probably aware of the variables around here but it’s nice to see a first hand account of the time differences that you got on a single track. As far as Top Gear goes, I’m in it for Jeremy’s colonist jokes…that prick.

    I have to say though, I feel like I can get a lot of info just watching the Stig tool a car around the track. It’s geeky as hell, but picking out where a car under and oversteers in the Stig’s hands is a good indication of what kind of ride it is (Clio V6 and new WRX are good examples I think). Although it’s certainly not any kind of standard.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    Top Gear wasn’t always like this

    When TG originally started it was a stuffy review and article show. Nowadays it’s the motoring equivalent of Professional Wrestling; staged for entertainment purposes only.

  • avatar
    Blunozer

    Why can’t people just sit back and enjoy it?

    The pictures are pretty and jokes are funny. Best of all, its all about cars and car culture.

    Jezzy is on par with Benny Hill. Learn to deal.

    If you want dry, controlled, road tests, might I suggest Motorweek?

  • avatar
    qfrog

    Blunozer: Don’t discount the editing efforts extolled on what is filmed at the track by TG. Watching in car video is great during a classroom session at a HPDE but otherwise it gets boring quick. Perspective cams, panning, editing and such done at a quick pace give life to what for most is a boring subject to view. I’d be willing to bet that if you filmed a trip around the block or to the grocery store and edited it in the style used by TG it would be watchable to many.

    What I’m getting at… is that if you filmed an autocross and put forth the effort the BBC does to make it watchable and entertaining… there is a damn good chance of success.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Are laps around the Nurburgrung any more valid? But, we still like to argue over whether that GTR really was running on stock rubber, was it specially tuned for the Ring, etc. It’s fun. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t waste so much time trying to hunt down the current seasons episodes on the web.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    Frankly, I ‘m with the rest in saying that this is all for fun. For the record, I believe their lap times to be every bit as scientific as their Cool Wall. I just view it as three guys you might meet at a local auto-X making jokes on video. Besides, how else am I supposed to figure out which supercar is most economical when tracked. Personally, I enjoy the challenges the most.

    As for the Stig, I think Hammond summed it up nicely on a recent episode:

    “…Others say that I haven’t done this in a while and forgot to make up a second thing. All we know is he’s called…The Stig”.

  • avatar
    Eric Bryant

    My day job is as an advanced product development engineer in the auto industry. I autocross and drag race on the weekends. All of these activities are very rigorous, and often they’re much too serious. Watching Top Gear is fun, and I hope that Clarkston and Crew never lose that in favor of a bit more Power Lap time accuracy.

  • avatar

    Oh, another reason I love TopGear? My car is considered so cool, that they had to create a new category: Sub-Zero.

    “Now though they’re even better. They’ve become passports to a world so cool the people there burn Guardian Furniture supplements – just to keep warm!” — J. Clarkson

    Gotta love that.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    ckb

    Does anyone actually use TopGear to decide what to buy? Do they even claim to be a good source for car shopping? Every time they get a letter about reviewing too many super cars, they call the sender an idiot and begrudgingly look at a ford festiva…and race it against a black corvette through an indoor shopping mall to see if you could escape from baddies!

    That’s why I watch the show. For the episodes where they drive a Toyota to magnetic north, use homegrown bio-diesel in a 24 hour endurance race, drive across unpaved Africa in $1000 2wd beaters. If you want bland no-nonsense reviews, you can still watch motorweek.

  • avatar

    I think most of TTAC’s sensible, reasonable members would be absolutely shocked to hear how often “Power Lap” times (or EVO magazine’s laptimes) are used uncritically to argue on behalf of a particular vehicle.

    With this article, I was hoping to put to rest the idea that one “Stig” might be measurably better than another.

    Many people think that because Joe The Club Racer laps their local track fifteen seconds faster than they do, that Lewis or Montoya would be worth another fifteen seconds, or even five.

  • avatar
    TomAnderson

    “Top Gear wasn’t always like this

    When TG originally started it was a stuffy review and article show. Nowadays it’s the motoring equivalent of Professional Wrestling; staged for entertainment purposes only.”

    There’s still a show like that here in the states. Its name? Motorweek.

    Different strokes, etc.

  • avatar
    thoots

    All I can say is that if you like Top Gear in any way, but you haven’t seen or heard of Fifth Gear, go to YouTube and search for Fifth Gear. Watch some of that, and I think you’ll enjoy it — UK-style car-centric television gets a whole lot better without Clarkson hogging up the screen….

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Motorweek is certainly less entertaining, but it is in no way more objective. That guy never met a car he didn’t like. If he described a lump of dog crap to you, you’d think he was talking about a diamond.

  • avatar
    skor

    What? Top Gear not real? What’s next? You gonna tell me the girls in porn vids aren’t really having orgasms?

  • avatar
    Banger

    Some very good points have already been made, and I won’t rehash them, except to say this:

    My wife– who never met a televised sport- or automotive-themed program she couldn’t switch off– has finally met her match. Watching the Sunday replays of TopGear on BBC America has become something of a tradition in our house, and she loves each and every new show.

    My guess is that, dammit, it’s entertaining! Even she can see that. She’s in no way concerned with factual, fair and balanced testing of these machines. She had a ball watching the boys’ mums drive around in the three little hatchbacks, and her interest only deepened once I explained the tiny Renault was actually the Nissan Versa she sees in abundance here. She’s hooked! A miracle for my motorsport-starved living room television set.

    Edit: Oh, and Skor: I hate to be the one to burst this bubble for you, but professional wrestling? Yeah, well…it’s sorta just a soap opera. (And similarly, I can enjoy a good wresling show now and then, too. Imagine, people who like to be entertained instead of nit-picking every detail!)

  • avatar
    WhatTheHel

    Oh no. Does this mean I should try to get my deposit back on the Koenigsegg CCX?

  • avatar
    Kiwi_Mark_in_Aussie

    You’d have to be a bit silly to take anything said on Top Gear as an absolute fact – or any of the lap times as meaningfull…the show – ever since its relaunch – has only been about entertainment – and damned entertaining it is…one of my favourite shows…but I certainly wouldnt follow their advice about any car…

  • avatar
    niky

    We’ve known for years that there wasn’t just one Stig… and Top Gear laps are more useful for description than as an objective measure.

    What I miss about the old Top Gear was the fact that they actually had good drivers on the staff (Vicki Butler Henderson and Tiff Needell) and some segments included some balls-out racing between the presenters… something that is sorely lacking in the current format (the presenter-to-presenter “races” nowadays are mostly gimmicks because of the three current presenters, only two can actually drive).

    For actual serious car-to-car comparisons, Vicki and Tiff still do that on Fifth Gear… two cars back to back on the same track, same driver, with graphic overlays showing how the cars match up through certain corners.

    I still watch Top Gear, though… just to turn off my brain for an hour or so.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    what?!? the powerlap faked???? next you’ll be telling us you can’t land a Ford Fiesta with the Royal Marines, in a combat zone.

  • avatar

    it’s easy for in-the-know pistonheads to mock people who view Top Gear as a trusted authority. But that doesn’t make it right. To mock them, I mean. Or doubt that such people exist.

    As a journalist with a keen eye for– and love of– the absurd, I think it’s important to draw the line between Top Gear’s “pure” entertainment segments and their reportorial pieces.

    Admit it: the show does attempt to provide reputable criticism. (Ish.) The Tesla Roadster faked dead batteries push is a good example of TG cloaking itself in the mantle of journalism, yet failing to live up to the standards implicit in that pursuit.

    Jack is pointing out information that I hadn’t considered. And I’m not blinded by the need to dress-up information with entertainment (a.k.a. “infotainment”). His piece is thoughtful, interesting and valid, in both concept and execution.

    Those commentators who suggest that TG is fine as brain-off entertainment are correct. Those who suggest that hard-hitting reviews– the sort TG once provided– must be boring are misguided.

    Telling the truth about cars and attracting eyeballs aren’t mutually exclusive goals. TG has abandoned the former for auto-burlesque and Clarksonian self-absorption, bombast and bluster. I may be alone in lamenting the change, but I’m glad Jack underlined the loss.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Anyone who buys a car because it was faster around the TG track gets exactly what he paid for. I suppose a few of those guys exist, and I suppose it would be a real crying shame for the “loser” except there are so many folks playing this game that it likely evens out.

    At any rate, I was fascinated to learn that Baruth has time for Trek conventions along with all his auto interests.

  • avatar

    Those who suggest that hard-hitting reviews– the sort TG once provided– must be boring are misguided.

    I do actually consider some of their reviews to be valid to a degree, in that they drive the cars and provide a personal opinion of them. I don’t think a review in this sense is intended to be an objective comparison, whether “hard-hitting” or not.

    I doubt a factual, statistically valid, technical comparison, to the level a piston-head would appreciate anyway, would make good television. To do so would require more time on testing equipment than on a track. Not even the Speed channel would air that.

  • avatar
    Antohn Crispin

    To Mr. Baruth: isn’t the anonymity of the Stig kept to eliminate the driver from a comparison between two cars? That the Power Lap board results fail to meet rigors of the scientific method, what does one expect? Can anyone claim to run every car ever made 100,000 laps and then do it again on 100,000 different days and then do that again by 100,000 different drivers? I refuse to fault Top Gear for the idiocy of its audience. That’s like arresting a confidence man for the greed of his mark. Oh, wait…

    To Mr. Farago: I haven’t watched the “original” Top Gear but to my stomach, the “modern” Top Gear tastes like mother’s own cooking. Not gourmet, not scientifically perfect, but the very best motoring television one could want. Something to make young boys grow up straight and tall. Top Gear has quietly conceded that most modern cars are all essentially the same and reviewing them year after year amounts to eating the same cereal day after day. Though, I must say, I died a little when the show sold out for that ratings grab they call “How hard can it be?”

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    (the presenter-to-presenter “races” nowadays are mostly gimmicks because of the three current presenters, only two can actually drive).

    Which two would that be? Hammond is okay based on the episode where he worked his way up to eventually trying to take a Formula 1 car around the track. Which of the other two presenters can drive? Clarkson is really bad. He’s like the teenage street racer who likes doing burnouts and donuts, except he’s middle aged and overweight. Generally entertaining though. James May. Captain Slow. He may do well on a driving test (though I doubt even that), but I can’t imagine him taking a car around a track with anything approaching competence.

    Oh wait, maybe you meant only two had a license. But, believe all three own cars so that couldn’t be it.

    P.S. My favorite episode was the indestructable Toyota Helix.

  • avatar
    niky

    I’m still wondering myself why I picked that arbitrary number… I should have said “one”, and each of the three would have 1/3rd the competence of a regular track driver.

    Clarkson is a hoon. While he does know how to drive high-powered machinery, his skill set lies in applying full power before the apex, correcting the resultant slide borne of his overexuberance and lunging for the next corner. That he described the T1 Caparo as a horrible understeerer tells you much about his approach to corner entry.

    Hammond can drive, but I fear for his sanity. And it’s hard to take a guy seriously when he looks and acts like a hyperkinetic little school-boy, despite being damn near forty years old.

    Captain Slow is aptly named. The out-takes from his Zonda test-drive were hilarious. And many of those spins were probably quite unintentional. He does know how to drive, but whether because it’s a running joke or because he really isn’t interested in track work, he never seems to get into the races… despite the fact that he has driven faster in a straight line than most of us ever will (Veyron). That said, I quite enjoy May’s writing in the magazine, though. Very insightful.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    I sometimes enjoy an episode of D Motor. They often have segments of Sabine or Tim Schrick racing against some unknown club-racer guys, or one of them comparing a bunch of cars on identical tracks.
    It doesn’t help that Sabine is NOT funny, yet thinks she is. And Carsten von Ryssen is an idiot.
    Tim Schrick is funny and can drive though.
    http://www.dmax.de/dmotor/

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    Lumbergh21

    the indestructible Toyota is a Hilux

  • avatar
    dgduris

    The identity of TS must remain a secret.

    TS represents what – I submit – most of the readers here and watchers around the world want to be: some unknown guy who can show up at any time and any place, drive the balls off any car, then return back to their regularly scheduled life…unknown, but self-satisfied.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    I will say this. For all of his antics, Clarkson can drive fairly well when he wants to. If I recall correctly, he managed to keep up with Sabine Schmidt pretty well in the German challenge and with Vicki Butler Henderson in a few of the old Top Gear episodes.

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    I don’t expect that the majority of mock thrown about around here was ever aimed at non petrolheads. More likely, and for my part at least, chiding those who take TG seriously is meant in the context of this site, as from one car-nut to another. Surely mocking one of your gear-kin, regarding some commonly held knowledge, is fair game.

    Without doubt, non-car people exist in this world. No one is an expert in everything, and one certainly can’t expect a petro-layperson to tell the difference between good car data and bad. Still, non car people get their bad info from a variety of sources of ill repute; my local newspaper’s so called ‘auto’ section would be a good example. Certain buff books could be another, but to me these sources are all the more insidious because they pretend to be serious and unbiased. Top Gear is no better or worse when it comes to truthiness, but it is at least so grossly biased towards entertainment as to be obvious to anyone in-the-know (and many of those not-in-the-know I would expect). People mostly watch because it’s good fun. If they serve as the bait that gets non-car folk interested enough to do some further research, then all the better.

    I did actually like the article. I thought it was an interesting insight in to the world of real motor racing, highlighted nicely by contrast with Top Gear’s decidedly less than rigorous methods.

    My pound of bovine flesh is with what people seem to expect Top Gear to be. Some seem to want it to be something it’s not, when what you are really looking for is in fact staring you right in the face. As others have already noted, for those who lament the passing of the ‘old’ Top Gear, the show “Fifth Gear” is exactly what you are looking for. Top gear didn’t change, it just changed names. Indeed, Fifth Gear was intended as a re-release of the original format of Top Gear, with Tiff, Vicki et al., minus Clarkson. It was even supposed to be called Top Gear, until the BBC said bugger off. Where Top Gear went a different way, Fifth Gear stayed the course. If Fifth Gear didn’t so glaringly exist as such, I might understand all the cries of mourning.

    The majority of complaints seem to be with the format of the new show and/or with Jezza himself. Well, again, the original format of Top Gear, sans the middle aged bigot = Fifth Gear. There is no need to get hung up on the name. Let Top Gear be what it is, for those of us who enjoy it, and rejoice that the original format of Top Gear still lives on in Fifth Gear. Personally I like them both, watch both, and am entertained by both, but for entirely different reasons. I could even see TG acting as a bridge, using the power of entertainment to entice and lead non petrolheads to the Valhalla of truth about… well you know. Like that first fruity rose, that in time leads to the love and appreciation well aged and full bodied reds.

    I could understand taking TG to task for being bad entertainment, but journalistic integrity went out the window as soon as that bus tried to jump a row of motorcycles. Reputable criticism, as far as TG goes, is limited to witty, tongue in cheek, sensationalized, and opinionated editorials, edited for the best possible audience effect. And what a successful effect it is.

    Those who think that Captain slow can’t drive should check out the segment where he lead foots a TVR around a race track with Jackie Stewart in the side seat. He may not be a natural behind the tiller, but after some instruction from the ol’ scot, he actually gets ‘round rather well. Though he may be all left feet when it comes to power slides and hooning about, but I reckon that Captain Slow can indeed shed some rubber when pressed.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    TM of many sensors beats driver assessment. Cold hard facts in time sequence. Driver sensation essential too. Get the order right.


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