The ever-expanding popularity of Top Gear lends itself to a number of factors, including it’s overall template as a car show, the presence of three popular and irrepressibly funny presenters and their ’tame’ race driver, and the endless stunts that go on in the show on a weekly basis.
The stunts that go on in the show are one of the most popular elements of Top Gear, especially when three middle-aged men with thinning hair partake in these stunts without fear of the ramifications that go with their daredevil exploits. But as is the case with most shows, there’s an element to Top Gear that viewers aren’t privy to, and according to the British tabloid, Daily Mail, the show isn’t exactly on the up-and-up when it comes to the stunts that headliner Jeremy Clarkson participates in.
As it turns out, or at least according to the Daily Mail, Clarkson doesn’t always perform his own stunts and he has professional racing drivers do the chores for him. The paper even cites two unnamed sources who presumable spilled the beans on this little secret.
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The prevalent use of professional drivers on the show is being done because of the tight schedule and enormous budget that goes on with filming an episode. Having the presenters, most notably Clarkson, perform these stunts, is counter-productive when these guys have so many things on their plate while filming an episode.
“It’s been going on for years,” said one of the unnamed sources. “The fact is the presenters on Top Gear are presenters, not professional drivers. So why would you get them to do a job than an expert can do better, faster and in one take?”
While there’s certainly some validity to that statement, BBC2, the channel that carries the show, quickly refuted those comments issuing a statement saying that Clarkson "performs all of the challenges you see him perform on Top Gear."
"On power tests, the speed at which Jeremy is seen driving is the speed at which he drove the car, so to suggest otherwise is untrue,” the statement added.
The allegations don’t stop there. According to the Daily Mail’s sources, one of which was once an employee of the show, Top Gear uses professional driver far more times than a lot of people think. "Top Gear rely on professional racing driver a lot more than the show would suggest," the source said. "I would say 80% of the driving on the show is done by pros but is made to look as if it’s done by Jeremy”.
To this, BBC2 spokeswoman Tara Davies denies that this occurs far more frequently than it’s being brought out to be. “If you see Jeremy, Richard or James driving a car around a track it is them driving," she said.
"Jeremy would have driven the car and got it to 207mph. Then, when they wanted a camera shot of the speedometer going up to 207mph they would have got a different driver to do that. For just the shot of the speedometer, it may have been another driver but Jeremy absolutely would have driven the car at 207mph.”
So is there any truth to this? It’s really a case of ’he said-she said’ so it’s hard to determine which one’s telling the truth. But if you really get down to it, does it matter? Sure, we enjoy watching these guys drive the wheels off whatever car they’re testing and we’re pretty sure that they’re going to have opinions of the cars they drive whether they drive "all of the time" or "some of the time."
At the end of the day, Top Gear is still Top Gear, and whatever controversies they manage to get involved in, one thing will always remain true about the show: everybody’s going to keep on watching.