Top Gear Test Track
|Top Gear Test Track|
Overhead view of the test track.|
The Top Gear test track is a permanent circuit located on the site of the former Dunsfold Aerodrome for the television series Top Gear, which it has served in the role of since 2002. The track was designed by Lotus engineers as a vehicular gauntlet that tests a car's road-holding, straight-line speed, and cornering abilities. Traditionally, the circuit favoured lightweight, low-powered vehicles, which frequently dominated the Power Lap leaderboard for its first few years. However, during the 2010s, as technology improved, higher-powered supercars such as the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport and Pagani Huayra got the upper hand. Towards the end of the decade, the zeitgeist shifted yet again, favouring lower-powered supercars due to their lower weight and blisteringly quick acceleration.
Since 2004, there have been persistent rumours that the track will be imminently demolished for housing development over noise complaints from local residents, however, as of 2022 the track remains operational.
Corners[edit | edit source]
The Top Gear test track has 8 corners, with the circuit spending half the lap on the thinner disused taxiway before making use of both runways. The circuit forms a rough "figure of eight", with two crossover points in the middle of the track.
Start/Finish Line[edit | edit source]
All timed Top Gear laps begin with a standing start at the start/finish line, which is situated immediately outside of the studio hangar.
Crooner Curves[edit | edit source]
Often erroneously referred to as "Crooner Curve", the first two corners form a light, gentle right-left chicane before leading into the first corner; Willson Bend. Though not named after anyone in particular, these corners are soft, much like their namesake.
Willson[edit | edit source]
Named after ex-Top Gear presenter Quentin Willson, the first bend leads into the crossover section of the track. It is commonly misspelled as "Wilson" due to a lack of international familiarity with the former host.
Chicago[edit | edit source]
Often nicknamed the "Steady State Corner" by presenter Jeremy Clarkson, Chicago, named after the eponymous American rock band, is a hairpin corner which leads towards a long straight section.
Hammerhead[edit | edit source]
The tightest, slowest corner of the whole lap is Hammerhead, a very tight, kinked hairpin which can make or break a quick lap time if taken in the correct manner. It is unknown whether the corner derives its name from the tool or the shark. Corner cutting is possible here, and there have been a few documented instances of this occurring.
The Follow-Through[edit | edit source]
After the Hammerhead complex, a gentle right turn sends the driver back towards the crossover section, this time at speeds approaching (and often surpassing) 100 MPH. For a fast lap time, a driver must decide whether to "follow-through" and take the corner flat out, or lift off the throttle to keep the car on the racing line, away from the tyre barrier and losing a few tenths in the process. Its name is a double entendre; if one decides to take it flat-out, they might, metaphorically or literally, "follow through", although no-one has actually collided with the barrier despite several close calls.
Bentley[edit | edit source]
Coming out of the Follow-Through, Bentley is a gentle left-hander which leads back towards runway 07 for the final part of the lap. Rather than the British car manufacturer, this corner is named after ex-Top Gear producer and presenter Jon Bentley, who gave Jeremy Clarkson and James May their first screen-tests for the show in 1986 and 1992 respectively and recommended them as hosts.
Bacharach Bend[edit | edit source]
Named after composer Burt Bacharach, this corner is one of two 90 degree corners which end the lap. With a braking zone situated immediately before it, this is often a point where laps can be ruined should the car veer onto the grass, as it is used to position the car for the final corner. Though occasionally mentioned by name, the corner has a far more commonly-applied descriptor of "second-to-last" corner.
Gambon[edit | edit source]
The final corner is a slower 90 degree left turn which ends the lap. It is named after Sir Michael Gambon, who in 2002 clipped the inside of the corner, briefly causing the Suzuki Liana to lift onto two wheels. Until that point, the corner was named Carpenters Corner, after the American musical duo of the same name, who often worked with Burt Bacharach hence its original name.