Top Gear: Series 15, Episode 5

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  • Richard tests the new Volkswagen Touareg.
  • James goes for the land speed record in a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.
  • Jeremy looks at why Ayrton Senna was the best driver of his generation.
  • Stars in a Reasonably Priced Car: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz.

Episode Guide

Watch this episode on Amazon Instant Video

This episode opens with Richard going to Riksgränsen, Sweden, to the world’s northernmost ski resort – he is there to race the new Volkswagen Touareg against two extreme snowmobile riders. Richard introduces the new Touareg and reports that VW have managed to turn what was previously a half arsed car into quite a good one. Improvements include being able to see out of the rear window, a smoother ride and a much faster shifting 8-speed automatic gearbox. The styling of the Touareg has also changed – it now looks more like the Golf and comes with more equipment as standard, such as satnav, electric leather seats, climate control and a 10 speaker stereo system. The Touareg Richard is driving has a 2.5L V6 turbo diesel engine which can do 0-60mph in 7.8 seconds and go on to a top speed of 136mph. But this is not the Touareg Richard will use for the race, instead he goes with the Dakar rally version of the Touareg, which is a very different beast. It has a carbon fiber body, bionic suspension and a 300hp twin turbo diesel engine. The race between the Touareg and the snowmobiles begins at the very top of a ski run, before continuing down the mountain and eventually finishing at a ski shop on the other side of a frozen lake. Richards route weaves down the mountain sticking to the ski routes, while the snowmobiles take a more direct route – firing themselves over jumps as they make their way down. The snowmobiles build a lead as they go through a forest section however Richard catches them up as they cross the ice lake – due to the Dakar Touareg’s ability to do 130mph across almost any terrain, compared to the snowmobile’s 90mph top speed. Richard arrives at the ski shop first, followed shortly by the snowmobiles who finish by back flipping over the shop’s roof.

In the news, Jeremy mentions that they’ve all been discussing when is the most dangerous time of the year to drive. Most people imagine it is the winter, with its dark nights, fog and slippery roads. However the boys have decided that the summer is more dangerous – due to sunny skies, light breezes and girls wearing short skirts. Jeremy moves on and announces that Citroen have appointed a new sales director, named “Charles Peugeot”. A video is also shown of Richard driving a pedal powered Porsche around the test track, eventually doing a full lap in 18 minutes and 37 seconds.

James moves on to the next segment by looking back at Top Gear’s history with the Bugatti Veyron; “If you look back at all the amazing things we’ve done with the Bugatti Veyron, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s the fastest car on the planet. The fact is though, is isn’t. Because this car will do 253mph, but there’s now a car in America called the Shelby Ultimate Aero which will so 256mph, so that officially is the worlds fastest production car.” Bugatti were not pleased, so behind closed doors they created the Veyron Super Sport – to become the undisputed fastest production car in the world. The Super Sport has the same 0-60mph time of 2.5 seconds is the same as the regular Veyron, but after that everything is utterly different. 0-100mph takes just 4.5 seconds and will go on to an alleged speed of 258mph. To achieve this extra 5mph, the Super Sport needs an extra 200bhp – bringing the total to 1,200bhp. The Super Sport also has a more slippery carbon fiber body and a price tag of £1,600,000. To attempt to reach the top speed, James goes once again to VW’s test track, Ehra-Lessien, in Germany. The test track features a 5.5mile straight – one of very few places in the world where you can max a Bugatti Veyron. The engineers do their final check on the car and James ventures out onto the track. James drops down the gears gradually as he proceeds around the banked turn before entering the main straight at 125mph in third gear. The car is fitted with an accurate speedometer which measures in kph, so it reads 200kph at this time. He plants his foot and within seconds reaches 270kph, and 340kph a few seconds after. Within moments James reaches 400kph (248 mph) – and soon passes the top speed of the original Veyron, 407mph. To reach the Super Sport’s top speed of 258mph, he would need to hit 415kph. James reached this speed and then went further to finish at 417mph (259mph). Back in the studio, James reveals that one of Bugatti’s test drivers went out after him to have a try. To get the official speed record, the Super Sport had to be run in both directions and then the average between the two speeds is used. Bugatti’s test driver set a record of an incredible 431kph, or 267mph. The Super Sport is then handed over to The Stig, to try break another record. The Stig smokes all four tyres off the line in a very aggressive dry lap, returning a time of 1:16.80 – the new fastest car ever around the Top Gear Test Track.

Next, Jeremy introduces Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise as the Star(s) in a Reasonably Priced car. On a dry track, Cameron manages a 1:45.20 – going straight to the top of the lap board. Tom then laps a 1:44.20 and goes to the top of the lap board again, putting Cameron in second place.

James changes the mood a bit, “Had he lived, Ayrton Senna would have celebrated his 50th birthday this year.” Jeremy then looks at what made Ayrton Senna the best driver of his generation. Jeremy starts by interviewing Lewis Hamilton, who remembers the moment he found out the Senna died. “I think I was 9 years old, and I was racing that weekend. I just came in from a heat and my dad’s working away on the car and I remember him telling me… I remember going around to the back of the car and just balled my eyes out.” The Brazilians remember Ayrton Senna as a sporting hero who gave away millions to help under-privileged children, elsewhere in the world though he is remembered for his incredible racing skill. Ayrton raced in F1 from 1984, right up until his death at Imola GP in 1994 and won the world championship 3 times. Jeremy continues, “The figures suggest that Schumacher and Fangio were better, but the people who know, they tell a different story”. The vast majority of both current F1 drivers and also those who raced with him name Senna as the greatest F1 driver. Jeremy then talks with Martin Brundle, who raced against Senna for 11 years and is well qualified to explain why he was the ultimate driver’s driver. Martin sums it up “He had a god given talent that I haven’t witnessed anywhere else.. a sixth sense of where the grip was, before he turned into a corner.” While watching a video of Senna driving a Lotus which is squirming side to side under hard acceleration and also as it is pushed through corners at speed, he comments “You look at these and you think, I can’t do that.”

Senna was so good at last minute qualifying laps that he won an incredible 65 pole positions over his career. Jeremy goes on “In Monaco 1988 he out-qualified his team mate, the great Alain Prost, by a scarcely believable 1.5seconds.” But Senna was also known for being ruthless, says Brundle. “He often used to put us in a position that, you were going to have an accident and he would leave it up to you to decide whether to have that accident or not.” But even the giants from Senna’s era respected his toughness. Jeremy speaks to Nigel Mansell next, who says “I don’t think there was any qualifying session or any race that he went in to where he wasn’t prepared to put it on the line. He was the toughest driver and the most ferocious driver ever to protect his area or space.” Jeremy sums up this ruthless trait, “This will to win reached its peak at the Japanese Grand Prix in 1990. Here Senna would be world champion providing his arch rival Alain Prost, now at Ferrari, failed to finish. So at the first corner, he made sure Prost failed to finish.” Footage is shown of Senna coming up on the inside of Prost on the first corner, with Prost turning into him, creating an accident which caused both cars to spear off into the sand trap. Senna showed no contrition in the post race interview, “When there’s a gap, you either commit yourself as a professional racing driver which is designed to win races, or you come second, or you come fifth. And I’m not designed to come third or fifth, I race to win – and if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver.” Despite this, Senna was a devout Christian and was capable of extremely compassion – when Eric Comas crashed at Spa in 1992, Senna stopped and risked his own life running across the track to help him. As a person then, Senna was hard to fathom.

Senna won 8 races and his first world championship in a McLaren MP44 – a car which had very little downforce, a manual gearbox and 1,200hp – 450hp more than the F1 cars of today. Senna’s number one fan, Lewis Hamilton has always dreamed of driving Senna’s MP44 and he now has his chance. Lewis takes to the track for a few nervous laps, and after eventually coming in he sums up the experience. “That’s amazing, it’s so much.. it’s nothing like the car I drive nowadays. To know the commitment and to get used to driving this car on the limit, I just couldn’t imagine it. ”

Jeremy sums up the film with a reflection, “I’ll be honest with you. I was never a Senna fan, I always thought Gilles Villeneuve was the greatest racing driver of them all. But, to make this film, I’ve watched hours and hours and hours of footage, and the thing is.. Villeneuve was spectacular on a number of occasions… Senna, he was spectacular every single time he got in a car.”

Some say…

“Some say the Scottish released him a little bit too soon, and that he spent all week pushing an effigy of Rubens Barrichello through his desk fan. All we know is he’s called the Stig.”

Stig Power Laps

Bugatti Veyron Super Sport
1:16.80

Star in a Reasonably Priced Car

Tom Cruise
1:44.20
Cameron Diaz
1:45.20

Screenshots

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Rating: 7.0/10 (3 votes cast)

3 COMMENTS

  1. It was cut out from TV repeats and also the online versions due to the licensing costs to show F1 footage. Apparently it costs a bomb and they’d have to keep paying it each time it was shown. Such a shame because it was an amazing segment.

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