Top Gear

Top Gear challenges are a segment of the show where the presenters attempt to prove or do different things.



Novelty/stunt challenges

Novelty challenges and short stunt films are typically based on absurd premises, such as a bus jumping over motorcycles (as opposed to the more typical scenario of a motorcycle jumping over buses) or a nun driving a monster truck. These features have become much less prominent over the life of the programme (they were much more regular during the first four series), being replaced or superseded in later series by the "How hard can it be?" and "Cheap car" challenges which are much larger in scope.

Challenge reviews

A common theme on Top Gear is an approach to reviewing cars which combines standard road tests and opinions with an extremely unusual circumstance, or with a challenge to demonstrate a notable characteristic of the vehicle.

How hard can it be?

A recurring feature on Top Gear involves the hosts undertaking a number of bizarre challenges involving cars. The segments involving the challenges are usually preceded by Clarkson, Hammond or May asking the audience and viewers: "How hard can it be?"

Lap the Nürburgring in less than 10 minutes... in a diesel

Clarkson took a diesel Jaguar S-Type to the Nürburgring with the aim of completing a lap in less than 10 minutes. Clarkson was being coached by Sabine Schmitz, a noted German racer. After consecutive unsuccessful tries, Clarkson managed to lap the Nürburgring in 9 minutes and 59 seconds, with Clarkson celebrating enthusiastically and showing the results proudly to his coach. Schmitz was still unimpressed, proclaiming that she could do that time in a van. She then proceeded to do a lap in the Nürburgring 47 seconds faster than Clarkson's time, using the same Jaguar S-type diesel Clarkson drove earlier. Series Five, Episode Five

Lap the Nürburgring in less than 9 minutes and 59 seconds... in a van

Hammond went to the Nürburgring to see if Clarkson's mentor from the previous Nürburgring challenge, Sabine Schmitz, could do a lap in a diesel Ford Transit van in less than 9 minutes and 59 seconds. Despite all the modifications done to the Ford Transit van (removed the passenger seat, spare tyre, tools, windscreen wipers, etc.), Schmitz was not able to do a lap time of less than 10 minutes, achieving a lap time of 10 minutes and 8 seconds. Series Six, Episode Seven

Convertible people carrier

The presenters were set the task of building a convertible people carrier. They succeeded in removing the roof from a Renault Espace and replaced it with a canvas fold-down top. The resulting vehicle was able to travel at 100 mph without losing its roof, and was driven through an animal park without any incident. However, a trip through a car wash resulted in the brand-new million-pound wash facility catching fire. Series Eight, Episode One

Present a drive time radio show

The presenters tried to host a drive time radio show on BBC Southern Counties Radio in Brighton, but ended up with many complaints from the listeners. This was mainly because Clarkson's travel bulletins focused on hounding motorists he could see dawdling on CCTV, rather than issuing the more normal information on the location of problem areas and how to avoid them. Series Eight, Episode Two

Amphibious vehicles

Jeremy Clarkson's amphibious Toybota pickup.

The presenters were set the challenge of building amphibious cars, and using them to get to, and across, a two mile reservoir. May, using the rig of a Mirror dinghy, turned a classic Triumph Herald sports car into a sailing boat, Hammond transformed a Volkswagen camper van into a narrowboat style "damper van", and Clarkson attached an outboard motor to a modified Toyota Hilux pick-up truck, which he dubbed the "Toybota". Series Eight, Episode Three

Car interior design

Clarkson bought a 1996 Mercedes-Benz S280 and designed his perfect interior based upon his house. The car, dubbed "Anne Hathaway's Cottage", features a wood-burning stove, kitchen chairs, a flagstone floor and wood with a cement base (weighing approximately two tonnes), even plastered insides of the doors. James May and Richard Hammond then tested the car. No seat belts and unsecured seats meant they tumbled around inside the car. Eventually, with May holding Hammond's seat, a 0–60 time of 35.4 seconds was established. Series Eight, Episode Four

Improve your lap time by 20 seconds

Jackie Stewart claimed that he could cut down any of the presenters' driving time around a race circuit by 20 seconds, so James took him up on the offer and they used a TVR Tuscan at Oulton Park. Series Eight, Episode Five

Caravan holiday

Clarkson, May and Hammond went on a caravan holiday in Dorset to try and find out more about caravanning. The trio unsuccessfully tried to have fun and caused numerous traffic jams, May crashed the caravan into a bollard, Hammond and the Top Gear dog were "kidnapped" by an elderly female fan, and Clarkson "accidentally" set the caravan and its neighbour on fire whilst trying to cook chips.[5] Series Eight, Episode Six

Kit car race

The presenters, based at Knockhill Racing Circuit in Fife, were set the task of building a Caterham Seven Kit car from scratch, faster than the time it would take The Stig to reach the track from the Caterham showroom in south London using a pre-built Caterham Seven Kit car. The presenters won the challenge because The Stig was arrested for speeding. Series Eight, Episode Seven

Roadies van challenge

The team decided to test some vans by being roadies for The Who. May picked a Renault Master, Hammond chose a Ford Transit, and Clarkson selected a Volkswagen T30 TDI 174 Sportline. After The Who's concert at Hyde Park, Clarkson, Hammond and May took some of their equipment 90 miles to the site of their next show. They concluded that the cheapest van for the task at hand should always be used. Subsequently, Clarkson admitted that the feature was not the greatest of ideas. After this challenge the presenters were then set the challenge of buying a van for £1000. Series Eight, Episode Eight

Road works in 24 hours

The presenters decided to speed up the road works on the D5481 near Bidford in Warwickshire. According to the County Council it would take an entire week but the Top Gear team achieved it in just one day (although they did have 32 men working with them). According to the film Clarkson prevented them from having proper lunch breaks and instead fed them on the fruit berries growing on the bushes by the side of the road. However for tea, Hammond fetched fish and chips for all the work men. The film shows that the team worked through the entire day and night to get the job done. Series Nine, Episode One

Reliant Robin Space Shuttle

Hammond and May tried to convert a Reliant Robin into a space shuttle. They were given 12 days to build it[6] and help from the British Amateur Rocket Society. Eight tons of thrust were required to launch the Robin — the largest non-commercial rocket launch undertaken in Europe. The Reliant Robin took off, everything seemed to be working until a release bolt attaching the Robin to the fuel tank failed to detach. The combined result spiraled out of control and crashed in a massive explosion on a nearby hillside. Series Nine, Episode Four

Growing petrol using tractors

The presenters decided to grow their own environment-friendly petrol by planting rapeseed in a field. For this challenge, each presenter needed to research and acquire a tractor. Each presenter then took part in a series of challenges at the airfield, including a 'drag race', in which they raced each other while dragging something found around the airfield. In the end, it was discovered May had ordered the wrong type of seed, so they ended up with 500 gallons of Biodiesel which was later used for the Britcar 24-hour endurance race. Series Nine, Episode Five

Stretch limos

The presenters were sent out to buy normal cars that are available in Britain, then turn them into stretch limousines. Once the presenters had built their limos, they had to chauffeur three celebrities across London to the Brit Awards. Hammond chauffeured Jamelia in the MG F "Sports Limo", arriving with a stuck throttle. Clarkson chauffeured Chris Moyles using a greatly lengthened, dual rear axle Fiat Panda, arriving with only half a car after it split in two before reaching its destination (he had been required to shorten it to comply with the maximum length of unarticulated car allowed on a British road, and subsequently the join in the middle wasn't very strong). James May attempted to chauffeur Lemar in the "Salfa Romeaab" (a cross between an Alfa Romeo 164 and a Saab 9000), who ultimately got frustrated and got out of the car after May repeatedly got lost. Clarkson claimed victory as he got one photograph of his celebrity published in a newspaper. However, as his co-presenters pointed out, the image appeared in Clarkson's own newspaper column in The Sun (to which he responded that they both also have newspaper columns that they could have used). Series Nine, Episode Six

Polar race special

Main article: Top Gear: Polar Special

In April-May 2007, Clarkson and May teamed up to race Hammond from Resolute, Nunavut to the North Magnetic Pole, taking the route set out in the Polar Challenge. The terrain in between is some of the toughest in the world - a mix of mountainous land masses and jagged sea ice where temperatures can drop to minus 65 degrees Celsius (minus 85 degrees Fahrenheit). Jeremy and James used a specially adapted Toyota Hilux pick-up truck, while Richard used a sled pulled by a team of ten Canadian Inuit dogs, driven by American explorer Matty McNair. In the end the truck won, although the sled overtook them at one point while they were crossing the first of two fields of ice boulders. Polar Challenge Special

Amphibious cars: redux

James May's amphibious Triumph Herald.

The presenters made a second attempt to use amphibious cars — this time to cross the English Channel. Clarkson created an amphibious Nissan pickup (the "Nissank"), Hammond built a new Volkswagen Transporter; May upgraded and used the same Triumph Herald he had used in the original challenge. Series Ten, Episode Two

Driving a Formula 1 car

Hammond sets out to complete two laps around Stowe Circuit at Silverstone driving the Renault R25 Formula One car, which took both the driver's (with Fernando Alonso) and constructor's championship titles in the 2005 Formula One season. Series Ten, Episode Eight

Britcar 24-hour endurance race

Richard Hammond driving Top Gear's diesel BMW 330d in the Britcar 24 Hours.

In the previous series, the presenters planted their own biofuel crop, which was rapeseed. Having harvested the crops and extracted the oil from it, they accidentally made 500 gallons worth of biodiesel. In order to dispose of it they took part in the Britcar 24-hour endurance race at Silverstone Circuit using a modified BMW 330d. Arriving at the event, the team discovered that it was not an event for novices, as they had expected, but it was a fully professional endurance race and the team would be competing alongside actual 200mph supercars. However, with help from The Stig, they eventually finished 3rd in class and 39th overall, despite only just making the start, several fuel leaks, and Hammond crashing into a Mosler. Series Ten, Episode Nine

Renault Avantime tuning challenge

The presenters were challenged to make an ordinary car lap the track as fast as a Mitsubishi Evolution, which has a time of 1:28. They initially did not know what car they would have to work with. Despite May's prediction of a Hyundai Accent 3-cyl diesel, the car was revealed to be a 2002 Renault Avantime. Despite various modifications, including wheels, tyres, brakes, and a wooden front splitter (which caught fire), the presenters were unable to beat the Evo's time. Series 12, Episode 3

From Basel to Blackpool on a single tank of petrol

The presenters were challenged to drive from Basel to Blackpool on a single tank of petrol, in order to switch on the Blackpool Illuminations. Each presenter chose a car: Jeremy used a Jaguar, and in spite of using every feature in the car, and driving uneconomically, managed to complete the journey. He was however beaten by Richard Hammond driving a Volkswagen Polo Blue Motion, driven economically. James May failed to reach Blackpool in time to switch on the lights, however he succeeded in completing the journey.

Cheap cars

The presenters are given a budget (typically around £1,500, but it has been between £100 and £10,000 depending on the type of car) to buy a used car conforming to certain criteria. Once purchased, the presenters compete against each other in a series of tests to establish who has bought the best car. The presenters have no prior knowledge of what the tests will be, although they generally involve:

All three are highly competitive; vandalism and sabotage are common place, and any presenter whose car breaks down during a challenge will typically be abandoned to make their own way to the designated destination.

So far Clarkson has won the most cheap car challenges with four victories along with May and Hammond sharing three victories each. Some challenges remain unclear however, such as the £10,000 mid-engined Italian supercar challenge where no presenter actually made it to their goal destination to Slough although May came the closest. The winner of the £1000 police car challenge remains unjustified as a result of Hammond eating the final results of Clarkson's Fiat thus to declare himself the winner.

£100 Car Challenge

The presenters were given £100 to buy a car that was road legal (had current tax and MoT). This was to prove that a car could be purchased and driven from London to Manchester and back again for less than it would cost on the train (around £180), even including the price of the fuel. Clarkson bought a Volvo 760, Hammond bought a Rover 416GTi and May an Audi 80. The challenge included reliability and lap time testing. Clarkson won the challenge, despite having many minuses in the challenges, as his car was bought for £1. Winner: Clarkson Series Four, Episode Three

Cheap Porsche Challenge

The presenters were given £1,500 to buy a Porsche. Clarkson bought a 928, Hammond bought a 924 and May a 944. The challenge included driving from London to Brighton and modifying them for judgment by the Porsche Owners' Club. Clarkson won the challenge (despite bringing the most unreliable of the three cars) when he earned more by breaking down his car and selling it in parts. Winner: Clarkson Series Five, Episode Six

Cheap coupés that aren't Porsches challenge

Following the previous challenge (Clarkson: "We proved that you can't buy a Porsche for £1,500" Hammond:"Well, not one that you can actually drive, anyway") the presenters were sent to buy coupes that weren't Porsches for £1,500. Clarkson bought a Mitsubishi Starion, Hammond purchased a BMW 635 CSi and May a Jaguar XJS. The challenge included testing for reliability on the Millbrook Proving Ground, driving from Millbrook in Bedfordshire to Oxford, and an endurance race. Winner: May Series Six, Episode Two[7]

Italian mid-engined supercars for less than a second-hand Mondeo challenge

The presenters were given £10,000 to buy a 1970s supercar, the requirements being that the car had to be mid-engined and Italian. Clarkson bought a Maserati Merak, Hammond bought a Ferrari 308 GT4 and May a Lamborghini Urraco. Various challenges included a lap of the Castle Combe Circuit and driving from Chippenham to Slough. In the end none of the cars survived the final journey, with the Merak's engine blown to bits, the 308's electrical system gone, and the Urraco's petrol tank empty with just 1 mile to go to the finishing point. No winner Series Seven, Episode Four

White van man challenge

From the same show that had the three presenters working as roadies for The Who. As punishment for the poor reviews of the vans tested, they were given £1,000 to buy a van and face a series of challenges. Clarkson bought a Ford Transit, Hammond a Suzuki Super Carry and May an LDV Convoy box van. Tests included how long it took to load then unload various items, replacing their driver's side doors, length of time for a burglar to unlock their rear doors and trying to outrun a police patrol car around their test track. Clarkson won the latter event, which also featured a spectacular roll-over by Hammond trying to achieve the Scandinavian flick whilst cornering. Hammond, however, still won the overall challenge. Winner: Hammond Series Eight, Episode Eight

Road trip special — used American car for $1000 challenge

The presenters wanted to find out if it was easier to buy a car for a holiday rather than rent one, so each of them was given a budget of $1000 to purchase a car which they would take on a road trip across four US states, From Florida to New Orleans, Louisiana. Clarkson bought a Chevrolet Camaro, May got a Cadillac Brougham Sedan, while Hammond ended up with a Dodge Ram pick-up truck. During their journey they were given a series of challenges, which included the cars being driven around a track by The Stig's overweight "American cousin", doing 0 to 50 to 0 without over-running the track and crashing into a river full of alligators, and camping a night in a field eating only roadkill. They also had to paint slogans on each other's car in order to get them shot at or arrested as they drove across Alabama. When they pulled into a gas station to refuel, a gang of 'rednecks' attacked them with stones, and chased them out of town. Winner: Unknown Clarkson declared himself the winner Series Nine, Episode Three

£1,500 two-wheel drive African cross-country car challenge

The presenters were sent to Botswana to buy a car that was not an off-road vehicle and had only two-wheel drive which they would drive across the country, from the eastern border of Zimbabwe to the western border of Namibia (approximately 1000 miles). The challenge included a drive over the Makgadikgadi Pan, which left Clarkson and May's cars filled with dust after they had been stripped of excess weight as to try to prevent their cars sinking through the thin surface, and The Okavango Delta. This was to prove "to the people of Surrey that they don't need 4x4s in case there are leaves on the road". Unlike other challenges, this one included a new rule that stipulated that if any of the presenters' car were to break down beyond repair, they would have to complete the journey in a Volkswagen Beetle (the Beetle being the presenters' unanimous choice as the worst car). Clarkson bought a Lancia Beta Coupé, which was the most unreliable car of the lot, Hammond bought a 1963 Opel Kadett, which he named Oliver (consequently becoming the butt of jokes of the other presenters), while May bought a Mercedes 230E. Hammond felt such affection for his car that he subsequently had it shipped to the UK (and was made fun of because of that). All three made it to the Namibian border, and Clarkson declared the Beetle as the winner, since it had no documented mishaps during the trip, much to the shock of Hammond, with which May answered "No, He [Clarkson] Has a Point!". Winner: Hammond (best of the presenter's cars) Series Ten, Episode Four

British Leyland did make some good cars after all challenge

In an argument with the producers of Top Gear, the presenters claimed British Leyland did produce some good cars after all. So, they were given a budget of £1,200 (of their own money) to buy a BL car in which they would face a series of challenges, for which, instead of points, they would earn money back. Clarkson got a Rover SD1, Hammond bought a Dolomite Sprint, whereas May acquired an Austin Princess. After all the challenges, Clarkson summed up the points and declared May the winner of the challenge, as not only did he get back all that he had paid, he made a £20 profit. Winner: May Series Ten, Episode Seven

Make a police car for a lot less money than the real police spend on their cars challenge

The presenters were all given £1000 to buy a car and turn them into police cars able to surpass the Police's standard-issue Vauxhall Astra Diesels. Jeremy bought a 1998 Fiat Coupé 20V Turbo for £900, painted in Italian Polizia di Stato livery, and fitted with Boudicea wheel covers;. James bought a 1994 Lexus LS400 for also £900, which he painted in a traditional 'jam sandwich' livery, fitted with an air siren from an ice cream van, and armed with paint sprayers at the back. Richard bought a 1994 Suzuki Vitara for £750, and equipped it with light bars and a self-deploying stinger on the front. The presenters' cars were then put to test around the Top Gear track, which included beating the Stig's lap in the Vauxhall Astra diesel (coupled with extra points for flamboyance), clearing a crash site in less than two minutes, and then stopping the Stig in a police chase (the latter driving a BMW 7-Series). All three cars were subsequently on display at the British Motor Show 2008. Winner: Hammond (un-confirmed)[8] Series Eleven, Episode One.

Jeremy Clarkson's Fiat Coupé 20V Turbo. Jeremy Clarkson's Fiat Coupé 20V Turbo. Jeremy Clarkson's Fiat Coupé 20V Turbo.
Jeremy Clarkson's Fiat Coupé 20V Turbo.
James May's Lexus LS400.
Richard Hammond's Suzuki Vitara.

Can you buy an Alfa Romeo for £1000 or less without it completely ruining your life all the time challenge

The presenters' Alfas when the challenge ended. From left to right, Hammond's Spider, Clarkson's 75 and May's GTV.

The presenters were challenged with proving to the show's producers that in order to be a true "petrolhead", you need to have owned an Alfa Romeo. So, they were each given £1,000 to buy an Alfa Romeo. Clarkson bought an Alfa Romeo 75 (for £450), Hammond bought an Alfa Romeo Spider (for £1,000), and May bought an Alfa Romeo GTV (for £995). The cars were put to a series of tests, which included participating in a track day at Rockingham Circuit, featuring their cars on a calendar which they must sell at a newsstand, and then lastly entering a Concours event for Alfas, traveling as far as 80 kilometres to get to the event area.

In the end, despite Clarkson and Hammond being given the lowest scores in Concours history (23.5 & 9 respectively) Clarkson was declared the victor, which pleased him greatly due to it being his first victory in cheap-car challenges in three years. Winner: Clarkson Series Eleven, Episode Three

Mercedes-Benz 600 vs Rolls-Royce Corniche Coupé challenge

Clarkson and May attempted find out which of their classic luxury limousines, Clarkson's Mercedes-Benz 600 "Grosser" or May's Rolls-Royce Corniche, was best. So they brought their cars to the Top Gear Test Track for a series of challenges. This was not a real "Cheap Car Challenge", as Hammond didn't participate, and the cars were their own prior to the challenge. Series Eleven, Episode Five

How much lorry do you get for £5000 challenge

Unable to understand how truck-driving can be so hard, the presenters each bought a second-hand lorry for under £5000. May bought a Scania, Clarkson bought a Renault Magnum and Hammond bought an ERF. They were then put through a series of challenges. Winner: May Series Twelve, Episode One

Vietnam road trip

For the full challenge details please see: Top Gear: Vietnam Special

The three presenters went on a trip to Vietnam where they were each given 15 million đồng to buy a car to be able to drive 1000 miles from Ho Chi Minh City in the south, to Halong Bay in the north. However due to the car prices and the money they were given, the task was completed using cheap motorbikes. The goal was essentially to do in 8 days what the Americans failed to do in the 10 years of the Vietnam War. Series 12, episode 8.


  1. ^ Top Gear Series 2 Episode 4 2003.06.01
  2. ^ "BBC stumps up for tree stunt". BBC. 2004-02-21. Retrieved on 2006-01-09. 
  3. ^ "ScooterMan". Retrieved on 2008-01-26. 
  4. ^ Top Gear. BBC Two. 2008-07-27. "James May: Alan Partridge once said that Lexus is Japan's Mercedes-Benz, in which case the Mitsuoka Galue could be, but this is only a hunch, Japan's Rolls-Royce.". 
  5. ^ Daily Mail: BBC admit Top Gear caravan blaze was a fake
  6. ^ Bellicoso, Louise (2007-02-15). "Amazing space launch for ...Delboy's motor!". Buxton Advertiser. Retrieved on 2007-02-21.  While the show alludes to a 12-day build, in reality, it took over 4 months to build the final product.
  7. ^ On points, May won the challenge, but claimed that The Mitsibushi was the best car, it was just Clarkson that ruined it. So James offered Clarkson the win if he claimed he was a clot by ruining the best car of the three.
  8. ^ During the results, Hammond claimed that Clarkson got 98 points (if he had 100 he would win the challenge), and eating the paper saying Clarkson had '98 points', suggesting Hammond was hiding something. Clarkson claimed "Since i am NOT prepared to go through your stools in the morning, we have to conclude that the best car here is a Suzuki Vitara with a doormat on the front"