Top Gear (2002 TV series)/Series 1/Episode 1

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Episode 1 (third pilot)

TG 2002 S1E1 - Zonda Sideways.jpg The Pagani Zonda goes sideways.

TG 2002 S1E1 - Ford GT Concept.jpg Richard Hammond peers into the Ford GT40 Concept.

Prod. code GFGA001W
No. 1 (since 2002), 550 (since 1977)
Runtime 58:57
Viewers 2.43 million
Next ep. Series 1, Episode 2
Airdate Flaguk.png 20th October, 2002
International Airdates

Flagfk.png 27th October, 2002
BBC World Logo Flag Small.png 6th November, 2002 (Part 1)
BBC World Logo Flag Small.png 13th November, 2002 (Part 2)
Flagnl.png 26th September, 2003
BBC Prime Logo Flag Small.png 9th November, 2004
Flagpl.png 19th February, 2005
Flagru.png 28th April, 2005
Flagbe.png 22nd July, 2006 (BBC Prime)
Flagfi.png 4th January, 2007
Flagau.png 23rd February, 2008
Flagko.png 3rd May, 2008
Flagcz.png 3rd April, 2009
Flaghu.png 15th June, 2009

Dates may not be 100% accurate.

Series 1, Episode 1 of Top Gear aired on the 20th October, 2002. It was the first episode of Series 1; the 1st episode of Top Gear since the show's 2002 reboot and the 550th episode overall, including compilations. It was the 541st episode since Top Gear entered national broadcasting in 1978, and was the 2nd programme to air in 2002 out of a total 11. Series 1, Episode 1 was originally broadcast in 576i at a 16:9 Widescreen aspect ratio on British television channel BBC Two. The episode was presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Jason Dawe, and Richard Hammond, alongside The Stig. Harry Enfield was the Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car.

This episode marked the revival of the Top Gear name following the 2002 Top Gear Awards special in February. For the first time since 1998, the episode starred Jeremy Clarkson in the role of lead presenter.

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

As narrated by Jeremy Clarkson:

  • I put two supercars head to head.
  • Jason Dawe on what to do when car dealers attack.
  • Richard Hammond will try to beat a speed camera.
  • And there's a Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car.

Jeremy Clarkson starts off with two family hatchbacks, the Ford Focus, represented with a high-performance ST170 model, and the Volkswagen Golf. These cars are quite pricey for their segment, but are not out of the ordinary for cars of this status and level of equipment. However, Clarkson believes there is a cheaper option that will appeal the more frugal motorist.

Citroën Berlingo Multispace[edit | edit source]

Unabridged article: Citroën Berlingo Multispace Film
Enter the Citroën Berlingo Multispace. This vehicle is even cheaper than a Focus or Golf, and though it may be based on a van, that isn't a reason to discount it as viable family transport. To put its credentials to the test, Clarkson decides to drive it down the M20 Motorway towards Folkestone, so that Clarkson can drive it back home. Taking the Eurostar, he loads the Berlingo into a train car and travels to France, before disembarking at Calais. He then takes the Berlingo to a "Cash and Carry" warehouse by the name of EastEnders, operated[1] by David West. Him and Clarkson discuss why these duty-free warehouses are so popular with British day tourists, before the latter mentions that the police are cracking down on resellers by having their cars crushed. To avoid this, he purchases and places a single bottle of Blue Nun in the Berlingo's rear hatch, despite its ability to carry so much more.

Back at the studio, Clarkson, along with new host Jason Dawe discuss the Berlingo and its alternatives, with Dawe's role as the show's car-buying expert. There's the Fiat Doblò, Renault Kangoo and Ford Tourneo Connect, but these all pale to the Berlingo, either in terms of value or performance.

Ford GT40 Concept[edit | edit source]

Richard Hammond is introduced to the series for the first time by taking a look at the Ford GT40 Concept, which Ford are to put into production[2] 2 years later. This includes a brief overview of why the original GT40 was created and raced to defeat Ferrari at Le Mans, before showing off the concept's various automated electronic parts such as its rear engine cover, and automatic fuel filler cap. Hammond believes the car resembles its inspiration so much that he deems it an enlarged copy of the original.

The News[edit | edit source]

Unabridged article: The News (16th October, 2002)
In the very first edition of The News, Jeremy and Richard discuss how the British government pledge[3] to spend £145 million improving the road network for the next 5 years, which works out at a rate of 3 and a half miles every year. This is followed up by talking about Fiat's bleak near-future, where the company was then losing[4] close to £2 million every day. To try and stem this tide, they have launched an estate version of the Fiat Stilo. There's also a look at cut-price roadsters in the forms of the Nissan Micra and Smart Roadster, before dedicating the rest of the segment towards Formula 1, in light of Michael Schumacher dominantly winning[5] that year's season with still a third of the races left to run. Clarkson and the audience place blame on the increased electronic aids, where cars can be tuned wirelessly from the pit garage, and vow for Formula 1 to strip these out for future seasons.

Track Test: Murciélago vs. Zonda[edit | edit source]

Unabridged article: Murciélago vs. Zonda Film
In the world of Italian supercars, there's a new name; Pagani. With its jet-fighter styling, the company's Zonda is an unbelievably quick supercar powered by a 7.3 litre Mercedes-Benz engine prepared specifically[6] by the latter's AMG firm. Clarkson thinks the car is fantastic, considering it came from nothing, but must stack up against arguably one of the most fierce opponents imaginable; Lamborghini's newest flagship V12 halo car, the Murciélago. The latter is the first ground-up vehicle produced by Lamborghini since its acquisition[7] by Volkswagen in 1998, and there were worries the new car wouldn't feel like a traditional Lamborghini. However, with its radical styling, trademark scissor doors and screaming V12, the car more than fits the archetype set by its immediate predecessors, with the only hints of German engineering making the car easier to drive. Clarkson freely powerslides both cars across the Top Gear Test Track, before holding a drag race between the two Italians. Despite the Murciélago's blinding quickness, it is beaten by the upstart Zonda, much to Clarkson's amazement.

Power Laps[edit | edit source]

And the surprises don't stop there. In order to better evaluate the potential performance of cars such as the Zonda and Murciélago, they need a tamed racing driver to put them through their paces. Enter The Stig. A voiceless, anonymous racing driver clad in an all-black racing outfit. He is introduced by Clarkson as having a small brain and worthless opinions; doctors allegedly call this condition Mansell Syndrome. However, in spite of this mental deficiency, The Stig is very good at his main job; driving cars fast.

Position Car Time Track Conditions
1 Pagani Zonda 1:23.0 Moist[8]
2 Lamborghini Murciélago 1:29.0 Moist

The Zonda sets a lap time which is a full six seconds quicker than the Lamborghini, in spite of Clarkson claiming the latter to be faster through the corners on top of having the advantage of all-wheel drive as opposed to the Zonda's rear-wheel drive. Clarkson believes a lap time that quick won't be beaten for the rest of the series, and offers viewers the chance to prove him wrong by sending in their own cut-price and modified cars.

The Stig vs. A Speed Camera, Part One[edit | edit source]

Unabridged article: Speed Camera Challenge
Around the time the episode was produced, there was a persistent rumour that if a car is able to go fast enough, it can bypass a speed camera's detection system. To put this to the test, Richard Hammond has brought the programme's new Stig and a Honda Civic Type-R to a deserted strip of runway along with a speed camera and appropriate measuring equipment to verify if this is true or not. The Stig is able to get the Civic Type-R up to a velocity of 129 MPH (207 KPH), which is not fast enough to evade detection from the camera.

Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car, Introduction[edit | edit source]

Further investigation must be put aside for the time being, as it's time to introduce another new type of film; the Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car, where a celebrity will take the show's very own Suzuki Liana out for a lap around the track. This week, the special guest is Harry Enfield. Jeremy Clarkson introduces Enfield by mentioning the typical car history enjoyed by successful comedians, mentioning Rowan Atkinson and his McLaren F1 for instance, with Enfield instead opting[9] for a Vauxhall Cavalier convertible, a car which he still owned at that point and Clarkson pulled a shiny tarp from to reveal in all its glory.

Airing history[edit source]

For a concise, detailed report on this episode's international airing history, see Airing history.
As Top Gear was not yet as successful as it would eventually become, broadcasts of this episode were very limited, especially in its original 59 minute form. In addition, after the later success of host James May, episodes from Series 1 would become undesirable and as a result, would be pulled from the BBC World Sales Catalogue after 2009. This was likely due to the fact there were now more than 100 other episodes available for syndication.

United Kingdom

Series 1, Episode 1 would premiere on BBC Two on the night of the 20th October, 2002. Unlike later episodes of Top Gear, the episode would not be repeated following its initial airing, though it would be edited down into a 45 minute version by Red Bee Media for usage on UKTV channels such as UK Horizons, where the episode began airing approximately 2 weeks after its premiere on BBC Two.


Internationally, the episode would first premiere on BBC World on the 6th of November, 2002, 2 weeks after its UK release. In the Falkland Islands it would premiere even earlier, on the 27th of October, 2002. It would then be shown in the Netherlands on Veronica from the 26th of September, 2003, 11 months later, before appearing on BBC Prime in November 2004, and then the likes of TVN Turbo in Poland and NTV in Russia during 2005, the latter in a similarly cut-down form to how the episode was shown on BBC World. The episode would be reshown in a handful of countries thereafter, but would not premiere in many Baltic and Balkan nations such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Estonia until as late as mid-2009, a full six and a half years after the episode was first shown in the United Kingdom.

Further reading[edit source]

This article is intended serve as a basic summation of all the content depicted within Series 1, Episode 1, and deliberately omits or abridges certain details in order to ease reading comprehension and reduce overall page length.
For a fully detailed, in-depth analysis of this episode, please visit Top Gear (2002 TV series)/Series 1/Episode 1/Unabridged.

References[edit | edit source]

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