Top Gear (1977 TV series)/Series 23/Episode 1

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Episode 1
TG 1977 S23E01 End Card.jpgLouise Aitken-Walker celebrates on the podium.
Prod. code NBMN306A
No. 199
Runtime 30:11
Prev ep. Series 22, Episode 11
Next ep. Series 23, Episode 2
Airdate 27th March, 1990

Series 23, Episode 1 of Top Gear aired on the 27th March, 1990. It was the first episode of Series 23; the 199th episode of Top Gear overall, including compilations. It was the 190th episode since Top Gear entered national broadcasting in 1978, and was the 1st programme to air in 1990 out of a total 18. Series 23, Episode 1 was originally broadcast in 576i at a 4:3 Standard aspect ratio on British television channel BBC Two. The episode was primarily presented by William Woollard, Tony Mason, and Sue Baker, with additional segments presented by Chris Goffey.

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

As narrated by William Woollard:

  • Scotland's Louise takes on the world's best at Monte Carlo;
  • How to reduce the number of children killed on our roads;
  • The cars of the '90s on show at Geneva.

Top Gear ushers in the 1990s with a brief stay at Duns, the place where famous racing driver Jim Clark grew up and home of the Jim Clark Motorsport Museum. It is also the birthplace of rallying legend Andrew Cowan. The museum contains some of the trophies Clark won during his short but illustrious racing career.

Monte Carlo Rally[edit | edit source]

Though few British drivers have entered the event in recent years, the Monte Carlo Rally is as important a rallying event as ever, and Tony Mason was there to investigate. He takes a look at Louise Aitken-Walker, one of the event's two female entrants, who has been practicing throughout the entire winter period. Together with Swedish co-driver Tina Thörner, Louise aims to do well in this event with her Group A Vauxhall Astra. Miki Biasion in his Lancia Delta would lead the rest of the entrants at the start of the rally, with team-mate Didier Auriol storming ahead[1] during the early stages. Louise manages to maintain a decent pace in her Astra, due to an unusual lack of snow, and leads Paola de Martini at the end of the first night, placing 13th[2] overall. Though Louise would experience some problems on the second day of the rally, she comfortably maintained[3] her early pace and wound up finishing 11th overall, ahead of de Martini, winning the Coupe des Dames. Didier Auriol would keep the lead[4] in the Lancia Delta, narrowly fending off Carlos Sainz in his Toyota Celica.

Child Pedestrian Safety[edit | edit source]

Woollard wraps up the prior segment by stating that things didn't go well for Louise Aitken-Walker following her triumph at the Monte Carlo Rally, as she had a big wreck[5] the following event at Portugal where her Astra tumbled down a cliff before landing on its roof in a lake. Both Louise and Thörner escaped, and have since recovered. This segues into the following segment by means of accidents that happen closer to home, particularly traffic incidents where children were the victim. In 1988, 267 children were killed[6] as part of 5,000 road fatalities, alongside 23,000 injuries. It is shown that much of this is down to the child's lack of care, but with road safety taught in schools, why are so many children not taking the lessons on board? Along with Dr. James Thomson[7] of Strathclyde University, Woollard surmises that children aren't actually shown how to physically apply their teachings so that they can practice road safety. Since 1954, France has had a much more comprehensive and developed junior road safety scheme, which 2 million children passed through in 1989. This has resulted in France having a lower child accident rate despite more cars on the road. Towards the end of the segment, Woollard also explores alternatives, such as road bulges in the London estate of Ealing, which have been a success in The Netherlands, and shallow road humps, in an attempt to get drivers to slow down and reduce the accident rate on the whole.

1990 Geneva Motor Show[edit | edit source]

The episode's final third concludes with a visit to that year's Geneva Motor Show, with Sue Baker and Chris Goffey on-scene to provide a report. Admittedly, there wasn't much European presence, with the Alfa Romeo Spider looking "familiar" and concept cars from American and Japan such as the Chevrolet Corvette CERV III and Mitsubishi HSR-II overshadowing them. Perhaps the most important car to be launched at this show was the Fiat Tempra, a saloon adaptation of the company's earlier Tipo. Despite sharing its floorpan and much of its mechanical layout, the Tempra has a surprisingly spacious boot at 18 cubic feet[8] and will be priced from £8,000 - £12,000 when it launches in July 1990, placing it in direct competition with the likes of the Ford Sierra and Vauxhall Cavalier. Fiat boasts that the Tempra has the smallest exterior dimensions but the largest interior[9] Elsewhere in the show, Ford's Zig and Zag concept cars explore[10] how possible it is to make two completely different cars that share as many common components as possible, and could be a sight on the UK's roads in a matter of years. The Italdesign Kensington, a significantly redesigned Jaguar XJ, has been causing a stir[11] with senior Jaguar executives, whilst the offerings of the Honda NSX, Mitsubishi 3000GT and Toyota MR2 are set to attract sports car buyers. Land Rover would choose Geneva as the place to launch their Discovery off-roader, as 4x4s accounted for 1 in 6[12] car purchases in Switzerland at the time. Their Range Rover was also the best-selling[13] luxury vehicle in the country, so the company aimed to build their success from there.

After a brief look at some environmentally-friendly prototypes, what is perhaps the show's star attraction is the Lamborghini Diablo, the long-awaited successor to the Countach. Priced at £150,000, the Diablo is set to be powered by the same 5.7 litre V12 unit that powered its predecessor, and will be capable of a top speed of 200 MPH with a 0-60 time of 4 seconds. Unlike its contemporary rivals, the Diablo will keep electronic driver aids to a minimum.

Rally Quest '90[edit | edit source]

For the third year in a row, Top Gear is running its Rally Quest programme, which allows a viewer of the show to enter in the Lombard RAC Rally completely free, with a car provided for them. Details on how to enter are contained on page 80 within the then-current issue of Radio Times, and must be returned by the 10th of April, 1990 in order for an entrant to be eligible. Will Brown, a 24 year old RAF technician, would reign supreme[14] over 10,000 other contestants, 20 of which he bested during a series of tests held at Donington Park Circuit.

Soundtrack[edit | edit source]

Series 23, Episode 1 contained the following tracks:

▶️ The Allman Brothers Band - Jessica: Plays during the title sequence.
▶️ Jimmy Somerville & June Miles-Kingston - Comment Te Dire Adieu: Plays during the Monte Carlo Rally segment.
▶️ The Primitives - Way Behind Me: Plays at the beginning of the Geneva Motor Show segment.
▶️ Propaganda - Jewelled: Plays during the Rally Quest '90 segment.
▶️ Elton John - Out of the Blue: Plays during the closing sequence.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • This is the first episode of Top Gear to air in the 1990s.
  • The episode survives in a wholly intact form thanks to early digitisation efforts made in the mid-2000s.

References[edit | edit source]

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