Arguably the most memorable bits of Top Gear during its ‘golden years’ were the races. You know the score - Jeremy Clarkson in the latest, spangliest supercar, versus Richard Hammond And James May in public transport. It’d normally involve a pan-European thrash and a genuinely nail-biting end.
Top Gear is, of course, a scripted show, but the races were done largely for real, and yes, they often were as close as they looked in the show. It’s something script editor Richard Porter has noted in the past, and in this new video from VinWiki, former Stig Ben Collins has given his own insight into the practicalities of filming the epic races.
He confirmed again that the races were run for real. However, that meant the production team had no time to film all the external footage they needed - that all needed to be sorted separately. It was Collins’ job on the Bugatti Veyron vs. Cessna 182 aeroplane race to drive back the other way (London to Turin) over the course of several days, retracing the route to shoot all the required B-roll (the film industry’s term of supplemental footage). And yes, that included high-speed autobahn stuff.
That means if you look carefully, you’ll see an ‘unmasked’ Stig behind the wheel - one of a few moments we unknowingly saw Collins sans helmet during his time as the ‘tame racing driver’.
In the video, Collins also talks about the fuel economy challenge that was run from Basel, Switzerland, to Blackpool to switch on the famous Blackpool Illuminations. There were apparently real concerns none of the presenters would make it, so stacks of B-roll was shot of Collins as the Stig “having a wonderful day out” just in case the episode required padding. We don’t know about you, but we’d rather like to see all of those shots now…