- Richard drives the Porsche 959 and Ferrari F40.
- Jeremy races the new Jaguar XJ against the sun.
- James goes to the USA to drive NASA’s latest Space Exploration Vehicle.
- Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: John Prescott.
Tonight’s episode begins with Richard camping out at the Top Gear test track. He camped to ensure that he is there on time to drive his two childhood heros – the Porsche 959 and Ferrari F40. Richard mentions that Top Gear has been trying to get these cars together for a long time and he gets straight into it by looking at the Porsche 959 first. When the 959 came along in 1986, it was far and away the most high tech car ever made – featuring adjustable suspension, tyre pressure sensors, magnesium wheels with hollow spokes and a complex 4-wheel drive system which could adjust the amount of power being sent to the front or rear wheels depending on how hard you were cornering. Richard starts gushing – “I’ve owned 911’s from this period and this thing just feels like so much more.” The sheer amount of technology on the 959 meant that it actually cost Porsche £300,000 to build each car – which they then sold to customers such as Bill Gates for £150,000. The 959 packed a punch too – the twin turbo 2.9L flat-6 produced 444bhp and a top speed of 197mph – which in 1986 made it the fastest production car in the world. However it’s reign as the speed king was short lived…
In 1987 the 201mph Ferrari F40 was launched. Richard gets behind the wheel and pokes fun at the top speed, “It’s the ‘1’ that gets me – not ‘200’. Two-hundred and one. It’s like when kids say ‘anything you say plus one!” Richard lines up beside the 959 for a drag race – feeling confident because the F40 is some 250kg lighter and has 478bhp. The flag drops and the race is on – Richard is less than slick with the gear changes meaning the 959 pulls ahead and wins the race by a car length. It is revealed after that had Richard shifted properly, both cars would have been neck and neck. The two cars however are very different. The 959 is all about technology and luxury, whereas the F40 is a bare-bones stripped out racer with only just the basics. The F40 was the first car to be made entirely of carbon fibre – couple this with it’s high power output and the result meant it was pretty hairy in the corners – with handling like a go-cart. Richard concedes that the handling on the Ferrari is much more sharp and alive. Richard sums up both of them, “Choosing between these two is like choosing between shirt or trousers, it’s pointless. But I will say this – we wouldn’t be where we are now without them.” Back in the studio, the Stig attempts to take both cars for a lap but both of them break down.
In the news, James mentions the cancellation of the Bahrain GP and Jeremy suggests they use the TG Test Track instead. Jeremy mentions the reduced 30mph speed limit on the Westway in London, before showing us a preview of a new Senna movie. The new Aston Martin Virage is announced and James & Richard show us a Peugeot concept car called the EX1.
Jeremy moves on with an ambitious race. He will race the sun – from sunset at Land’s End (west side of Britain) and attempt to get to Lowestoft (Britain’s most easterly point) before the sun rises the next day. Clearly he would need a very serious car – the new Jaguar XJ. However Jeremy must choose between the fast and thirsty supercharged V8 model, or the economical diesel model which could easily do the trip on half a tank. He goes for the fast one. As the sun sets, Jeremy sets the scene – “This is it then, for your Sunday night delectation, a big Jag VS God. It’s like Songs of Praise… with a supercharger.” The sun sets and Jeremy fires the Jag into action. The sun will rise at 4:30am, giving Jeremy 6 hours and 54 minutes to cover 432 miles. Jeremy must average over 60 mph and immediately gets stuck behind a slow driver. As the road straightens out Jeremy musters the power of the Jag and overtakes the car and a series of lorries. But almost immediately he is hit with average speed camera enforced roadworks. The help sooth his nerves , Jeremy tries out the seat massage settings and the 1200w sound system. Jeremy takes the A303 as it is shorter and more fun – and sets about chewing up the miles. Jeremy struggles with boredom after he hits the M3, and tests out the dynamic cruise control – which can “hook” onto the back of the car in front and match its speed perfectly. Soon the sun had arrived at Amsterdam meaning Jeremy had just 12 minutes remaining before it reached the east coast of Britain. Jeremy reaches Lowestoft and is hit with a red light as he tries to find the most easterly point. He arrives at the pier just a few minutes before sunrise – winning the race.
Back in the studio, Jeremy introduces John Prescott as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. After a fiery interview, John laps a very slow 1:56.70 on a wet track.
The cool wall makes a return for Series 16. Jeremy reveals that certain BMW’s have been swept up the board to ‘Sub Zero’, with the exception of the 5-Series GT which is down the board with all the Audi’s. The Nissan Juke is ‘Seriously Uncool’ along with the Renault Wind Gordini and the Toyota Yaris Verso. The Morgan 3-wheeler causes a ‘Mexican Standoff’ as Richard picks up a chair and Jeremy gets a sledge hammer.
In the next segment, James heads to the USA to check out NASA’s new Moon Buggy. The original Moon Rover (or “Buggy”) cost £25,000,000 in 1971 – back when a Jaguar E-Type cost £3,500. The Moon Buggy meant that astronauts could explore more areas of the moon and generally get a better understanding of where the universe may have come from. In 1972 the Moon missions were scrapped, meaning that for the last 39 years the only Moon Buggy you could see was in a museum. Until now – the new Moon Buggy Mk II. James gets behind the wheel and takes it for a spin around the grounds at NASA. The Mk II version has a top speed of just 10mph. While James is alone in it, he was being tailed by some NASA heavies who could remotely shut it down if he did anything stupid – since it cost $4,500,000 to build. The Moon buggy has 6 motors which power 6 pairs of wheels – each can be turned individually or even raised and lowered (automatically via sensors and computer control) to pass over rough terrain. The new buggy even has sleeping quarters and a built-in toilet. It also features a unique exit system where you climb out into the suit directly and then detach from the buggy. James sums up this amazing machine, “This is the most fabulous vehicle I’ve ever drive, ever. But there is a problem with it – not a technical problem.. it’s The President. He’s canceled all the funding for the next moon mission.” It seems that this new Buggy will never make it to the moon at all.
“Some say that his favourite disease that he had when he was a child was Gout, and that he was very surprised this week when he was able to pick up some remarkably cheap tickets to the Bahrain Grand Prix. All we know is he’s called the Stig.”
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Star in a Reasonably Priced Car