Top Gear: Series 12, Episode 4

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  • James drives the Pagani Zonda F Roadster in his first ever supercar test.
  • The boys have an economy race from Basel in Switzerland, to Blackpool in England on a single tank of fuel.
  • The Bugatti Veyron is finally on the Top Gear test track for a Power Lap
  • Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Harry Enfield.

Episode Guide

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Jeremy opens the show by explaining that both he and Richard were unavailable to test the latest supercar on the market and that only left James for the job.

James arrives at the Top Gear test track in his Fiat Panda and is rambling on about how he doesn’t want to be test driving a 2 door Italian supercar. Much to his dismay, he finds the new Zonda F Roadster waiting for him. The latest offering from Pagani now boasts 650hp, a 0-60mph time of just 3.6 seconds and will reach 100mph in less than 10 seconds. Equally matching the acceleration are the carbon ceramic brakes, allowing the car to go from 125mph back to 0 in only 4.4 seconds. The big problem however is the price tag – £825,000. James mentions that the original Pagani Zonda featured in the first episode of season 1 back in 2002 and that whilst it was well liked, there was always a feeling that Pagani were just going to be another supercar wannabe. But Pagani are still around, and still taking it to the big names like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche. Richard said back in the very first episode that the Zonda is popular because it brings out the boy in a man, it looks like the kind of car you had a poster of stuck to the wall in your bedroom, and James totally agrees with him, though he feels there is another reason. “It’s actually a very, very good car”. He explains that the entire shell of the car is made out of carbon fibre, and despite making you look like a bit of an idiot, the car remains extremely strong despite the roof being removed. Unlike most convertibles that have added weight to keep the cars characteristics in order, Pagani have managed to keep the weight of the F Roadster to that of the original Zonda. James tells that the office had another car for him to test and that it was only a Volkswagen. Again, much to his dismay, it turns out to be the Bugatti Veyron – appearing on the Top Gear test track for the very first time after 2 years of waiting. James believes a drag race is in order and lines the F Roadster up against the Veyron, James takes the Roadster and The Stig takes the Veyron. Despite weighing over half a tonne more than the Roadster, the Veyron murders it in the drag race. Back to the studio and Jeremy congratulates James on a job well done, James then announces that The Stig will indeed be taking the Bugatti Veyron around the track later in the show. Jeremy then decides to humiliate James a little by showing some of the outtakes from his first supercar test. James claims that his hair was to blame and that by putting on The Stig’s white helmet, it kept his hair out of his face… nice try James. Jeremy however thinks that it was because he got out of his Fiat Panda and straight into the Zonda, which he describes as “weening a baby off breast milk and straight on to port”. Richard shares his fondness of the Zonda while Jeremy and James tell us the reason for not being able to take the Zonda for a power lap time was because it was blowing smoke the moment it arrived at the test track. Jeremy does say that they have mechanics looking at it and it may actually get to do a lap later on.

The boys move on to the news and Richard shows pictures of the Peugeot Partner Tepee. Jeremy tries to top Richard and shows pictures of the Peugeot Expert Tepee. James tells us that the European Car of the Year for 2008 is the Vauxhall Insignia.

Richard explains that earlier on in the summer, the boys from Top Gear were invited to switch on Blackpool’s famous Christmas lights. Jeremy says however, that it only takes one person to flick a switch, and as such, the producers had organised for them all to have a race to Blackpool. The first one to arrive would be the one to flick the switch. James says that the starting point would actually be in Basel, Switzerland, 750 miles away from Blackpool. Richard chimes in and says that there was one stipulation, each of them would get to choose any car, but would only be given one tank of fuel to do the race.

James was the first to arrive in a Subaru Legacy Estate Diesel, Jeremy followed shortly after in a Twin Turbo Jaguar XJ6 Diesel and Richard came along with a Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion 3 cylinder Diesel. Jeremy and James point and laugh and Richard’s choice of vehicle, Richard fires back by asking them how many miles to the gallon their chosen cars get. Jeremy says 35, James says 50 and Richard proudly boasts his as 74. Jeremy then asks how big the Polo’s fuel tank is, Richard responds with 10 gallons, Jeremy quickly concludes that even if Richard does get 74 miles to the gallon, his total range will only be 740 miles, not enough to make it to Blackpool. James’s expected range was 706 miles and Jeremy boasted a range of only 655 miles.

The following morning they all met at a service station and began filling their tanks with fuel. Richard checked his tire pressure to make sure he would get the most mileage and James was using tape to mask up all the panel joins to make his legacy a little more aerodynamic. Jeremy on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less and simply had breakfast instead. Jeremy and Richard decided to play a practical joke on James and had filled his Legacy with old car parts and scrap metal to weigh it down. The race starts and whilst James bores us all with numbers, Richard explains that it’s a very clever experiment that will prove the balance between fuel efficiency and getting there on time. “There’s no point getting there when James has already said I declare these lights on”.

Jeremy says that each of them had chosen a different route to get to Calais, Richard had chosen the shortest route which would take him through towns, villages and the Vosges Mountains, 755 miles in total. James opted for a route 30 miles longer than Richards, but this would allow him to avoid the Mountains and most of the traffic. Jeremy decided to stick to the Motorways, which made his total route 836 miles. Jeremy was confident that he was going to run out of fuel, and judging by the range on his display meant that he would do so only 10 minutes from his house. By this time, Richard was only averaging 64.6mpg, which simply wasn’t enough, James was seeing much the same and Clarkson was depressed about his fuel economy increasing rather than decreasing. So to combat the issue, he put his foot down and turned on the air conditioner, the heated seats and the radio. Further down the track, Hammond had joined the motorway along with Clarkson and May, though Jeremy was still well ahead. Hammond was getting 78mpg out of the little Bluemotion, but as a consequence of economical driving, his speed was suffering and he simply wouldn’t make it to Blackpool on time, averaging only 34mph.

The producers were well aware of the possibility that none of the boys may even make it to Blackpool and had sent The Stig as a backup to flick the switch just in case. However, all three of the boys were actually on target for a change, James getting 68mpg, Richard had 74mpg and Jeremy still claimed to be well on target with only 29mpg. By now, Richard had no choice but to sacrifice his fuel economy for more speed, James was in the same boat and so began what James called “the dullest duel in history”. Jeremy was the first to reach the Channel Tunnel and was loaded onto the train 30 minutes before Richard and James arrived, this meant Jeremy had grabbed an earlier train and would arrive in Folkestone first with only 1/3rd of a tank of fuel remaining. Once on the train, Richard finally got his toilet break and James was still trying to shed more weight and even asked a fellow passenger to take care of his spare wheel for him.

Back to the studio and Richard and James introduce the latest concept from Lamborghini. The Estoque, if put into production, will have a front mounted engine and 4 doors, leaving plenty of space for a proper boot and 2 seats in the back with plenty of leg room.

Jeremy introduces the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, Harry Enfield, who just so happened to be the very first guest in the new format Top Gear back in 2002 and did a terribly slow lap. Harry redeemed himself with a 1:49.70. Also, even if your not a fan of the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment, this is a must watch interview as there is a video clip from Harry’s comedy show where he imitates Jeremy Clarkson.

Back to the fuel economy race and Richard and James had just left the Channel Tunnel train and were both a little worried about the amount of fuel remaining. Once again, all three of them decided to go separate routes. Hammond chose to use the M1 and the M6 freeways, James stuck with the M1 for most of the journey, jumping on the M62 near Leeds to avoid the traffic jams on the M6. Jeremy was still confident in running out of fuel early and decided to stick to the M40, because it’s closer to his house in Chipping Norton.

Jeremy was not pleased, after 660 miles of “abusive driving”, the Jaguar’s display still had a range of 135 miles remaining, and to make matters worse, Jeremy could only get further away from his house, shattering his hopes of an early night. Jeremy decides that if he can’t get what he wants and that he is still in the competition, he is going to be in it to win it. He turns off the air conditioner and the heated seats and begins to drive at a more economical pace. Jeremy’s pace was slowed even further by traffic, a bittersweet feeling for Jeremy, “People slowing down to look at a caravan. Rightly so, I mean I’d want to slow down and look at an overturned caravan, there’s nothing funnier”.

It wasn’t looking good, all three of them had dilemmas. Jeremy and James had very little fuel left and Hammond was trying to decide if he should speed up to overtake Jeremy or just wait for him to run out of fuel. Hammond’s plan was put into action and on the M6 he eventually got the better of Clarkson as he overtook him. As a result though, the Bluemotion, if correct, was indicating that Richard would run out of fuel 40 miles out of Blackpool. It wasn’t far off, 36 miles out of Blackpool, the Bluemotion was reading 0 on the range display, but was still going none the less. Jeremy started experiencing the same thing, with 10 miles left to Blackpool his gauge also read 0.

With 2 miles left to go, Hammond called Jeremy to boast about a police escort that he managed to swindle. With the extra help, Hammond made it to their destination first with Clarkson pulling up behind him only a minute later. Jeremy and Richard made their way to the stage with the crowd counting down. As they reached zero, Richard insisted that Jeremy pull the switch, and Jeremy insisted that Richard pull the switch. James was still no where in sight. The Stig got bored of waiting for Jeremy and Richard to decide who was going to turn on the lights and decided to flick the switch himself.

Back in the studio again and James pointed out that he did eventually get to Blackpool, even though it was 40 minutes after the ceremony had finished. He did manage to get 63mpg out of his Subaru Legacy by the end of the race however. Richard’s VW Bluemotion managed a staggering 80mpg, not bad from a car that costs £7,000 less than a Toyota Prius and uses less fuel. More so impressive was Jeremy’s twin turbo V6 Jaguar, averaging 53mpg. Jeremy says that after the race they examined the fuel tank and found enough fuel to get a further 120 miles out of the Jaguar.

James moves on and announces the long awaited power lap from the Bugatti Veyron. Not quite living up to the hopes of Jeremy, the Veyron managed to lap the track in 1:18.30, 1.2 seconds slower than the Gumpert currently leading the board. Richard enquires whether or not the Zonda F Roadster was fixed in time for a power lap and Jeremy reluctantly says yes. Much to Hammond’s delight, the Zonda F Roadster gets the lap done in 1:17.80, landing it just above the Veyron on the power lap board.

Some say…

[James May] – “Some say he has a stripey top, just like mine……..”

Stig Power Laps

Bugatti Veyron
1:18.30
Pagani Zonda F Roadster
1:17.80

Star in a Reasonably Priced Car

Harry Enfield
1:49.70

Screenshots

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Rating: 8.6/10 (61 votes cast)
  • Nikita

    I really enjoyed this episode. It may be a bit more boring than other episodes but I love their interactions and humor as they are attempting to maximize the fuel efficiency of each car.