Top Gear is a long-running British magazine show about automobiles and motoring. This page chiefly concerns the presenters and other characters featured on the show since its 2002 restart. For the hosts of the US version of the show, see Top Gear US.
The leader of the central trio: the oldest, tallest, and most obstreperous. He tends to be very vocal in his dislikes and self-confident to the point of arrogance. Also physically the most fragile. Given his choice of cars (and most everything else, really) he prefers sheer raw power (preferably with the noise to go with), then control, and then speed. He is also the most likely to get into hot water for his on-air remarks, the number of which is too large to get into here. When all is said and done, however, the man is genuinely passionate in his admiration of and respect for good engineering, and not just automotive engineering, he's known for being an all-round technophile, possibly because he's not that skilled at designing something from scratch, and therefore recognizes how hard it really is to do.Clarkson, who had become a celebrity in Britain for co-presenting the original format of Top Gear from 1988 to 1999, was the one responsible for successfully pitching the 2002 revival of the show to the BBC. He also writes a weekly column for The Sun, does the occasional one-off documentary, and is a semi-regular on several panel shows such as QI and Have I Got News for You.
Hidden Depths: Clarkson is a bird watcher which is sometimes mentioned in the series. During foreign road trips he can sometimes be seen watching birds. During the Botswana special, the team stops to observe the wildlife and he identifies a bird and marks it down in a field guide. He also mentions his interest in bird watching in this article about cars and the environment.
Insane Troll Logic: often comes up with theories and conclusions that make absolutely no sense. E.g. Hammond has a passion for the Porsche 911 so he wants to sleep with David Attenborough. And that's sensible for Jeremy.
Obfuscating Stupidity: will play up his TV persona and act incredibly stupid for a laugh (he will often say absolutely outrageous things for the sake of entertainment, and for those who aren't in on the joke he will say things just to see how far people will believe what he's saying). He is far more intelligent than he acts, and will own up to playing the idiot when questioned seriously.
Unless you're gardening, in which case the tool is a shotgun.
Refuge in Audacity: Constantly makes ridiculous and insulting pronouncements and revels in too-soon humor. This has gotten him and the show into trouble on numerous occasions.
Smug Snake: Clarkson believes his plans will work purely on the principle that he says they will work.
Talks like a Simile: Every other sentence of a review from Clarkson will have him compare an aspect of a car to something. Often, the connections and analogies run from "barely there" to "absolutely ridiculous."
Surprisingly, averted when he reviewed the Ford Fiesta.
Jezza: The baddies have made the classic baddie error, he's got too much power! I've got 120 horsepower in this. You don't want any more than that on marble.
Those teeth are a fairly bright white, actually.
The second in command: the youngest, shortest, and second-most obstreperous — and generally agreed to be the easiest on the eyes. note He has often been noted for his similarity in appearance to both Muse's Matt Bellamy and David Tennant. Described by the others as the toughest physically but the most fragile emotionally. Tends to be chatty and moody. Given his choice, he generally wants a fast, powerful car, especially those made by Pagani & Porsche but the love of his life is a 1963 Opel Kadett with under 50 hp. Known affectionately as "Hamster" for his size, chattiness and willingness to engage in risky stunts. Hammond is so willing to engage in risky stunts that in September 2006, he suffered a near-fatal brain injury after crashing at 288.3mph/464.0km/h during a test of a jet-powered car. Thankfully, he made a full recovery.He's also the host of the seriesBlast Lab, Total Wipeout and, formerly, Brainiac: Science Abuse. He also has his own BBC America series, Richard Hammond's Crash Course.
Ascended Fanboy: Was a fan of Clarkson and the original Top Gear before becoming a presenter in the revival.
"Hamster." Bestowed by Clarkson, but the fans have kept it alive. His independent production company is also called Hamster's Wheel.
Clarkson has also called him "Teeth" a few times.
Foreign Culture Fetish: For the USA. He apparently owns a Stetson, a classic Ford Mustang and a Harley Davidson.
Richard: "I love muscle cars. I love the fact that they're about standing quarter-miles, they're about racing away from the lights when the police aren't looking. They're about cowboy boots, work boots, denim jeans, dime stores, bars. I love that."
Hot-Blooded: The presenter most likely to throw themselves fully into the challenge and get emotional over winning or losing.
Iron Buttmonkey: As close to one as a living person can be, thanks to his accident.
Keet: The smallest and most energetic of the show's hosts.
One-Note Cook: Baked beans, as demonstrated during the search for the source of the Nile.
Picky Eater: Constantly taunted by his co-presenters for not being as open-minded about food as them, particularly during the overseas specials. They will often order something completely out there in order to gross him out.
Running Gag: Whenever he's driving very fast in a straight line on a runway the other two are sure to comment on how nervous this makes them, since he was attempting to do exactly that when he wrecked the jet-powered car.
Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Beautifully demonstrated during the competitions against D-Motor and Australia. Also often pulled on his fellow presenters during challenges.
The quiet one (relatively speaking) somewhere between Clarkson and Hammond in age and height: a picture-perfect Straight Man with an understated sense of humor and a gift for deadpan delivery. Likes physics, classical music, alcohol, light aircraft and interesting facts. Far more careful than the other two, and obsessive (to the point of possibly suffering from OCD) about details, down to the proper arrangement of his tools. He is implicitly acknowledged to be the most technically savvy of the three. As he prefers control and good handling over power and speed — and absolutely refuses to run on camera note Unless something is hurtling towards him... or it's to go yell at a lorry driver who just totaled his beloved new car — the other two have dubbed him "Captain Slow".May was also a co-presenter of the original Top Gear format, although his tenure on that programme was only for a brief time in 1999, replacing Clarkson just before the show got canceled. Aside from hostingTop Gear, May has also hosted quirky, fact-based single-series documentary programmes, as well as longer lasting ones such as James May's Toy Stories, Oz And James and James May's Man Lab.
Ambiguous Disorder: The guys do tend to joke around that he has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Asperger's due to the combination of his obsession with cleanliness and and order, and his Cloud Cuckoo Lander moments. How much of this is played-up or real is an ongoing debate.
Animals Hate Him: Jokes that his cat (a gift from Hammond) and Top Gear Dog both hate him. Also the Doves who escaped from his magic kit and proceeded to leave their droppings all over the backseats. He let one Dove out of the window to freedom... only for it to get hit seconds later by a passing lorry.
Badasses Wear Bandanas: Sports a bandana in several of the overseas specials, when the presenters run into far more difficult challenges than usual. Also rather conveniently keeps his long hair out of his face while doing such tasks.
Usually unflappable, but with his fear of heights, should you annoy and run into the back of him on "Death Road" in Bolivia, he will turn Axe Crazy.
He is extremely unhappy with cars developed on the Nürburgring and will often rant about car companies that brag on this, going so far as suggesting the Allies should have bombed the Nürburgring instead of Dresden.
Beware the Nice Ones: Good-naturedly puts up with Clarkson and Hammond's taunts and pranks, but if he gets pushed too far, he can be harsher than both of them put together.
Butt Monkey: The other presenters love driving into the back of him and expect any pranks performed (usually involving cows heads) to be directed at him in the specials, where the unofficial rule seems to be "get James eaten".
Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Seems to genuinely have this aspect to his personality, especially when it comes to directions and orientation in a physical 3-D space. Sometimes comes off as this during the news segments as well, with such Insane Troll Logic as:
If drivers slow down for deer but speed up in the cities, put the deer in the cities.
Banning cows would mean the end of eggs. It turns out his reasoning was that the milkman brings eggs.
Deadpan Snarker: Often used to smugly put down his co-presenters. Is also able to say but all of the most ridiculous statements with the straightest of faces.
On Top Gear itself, he sipped Clarkson's horrible V8 smoothie containing raw beef, Bovril, peppers, and bricks with nothing but a Delayed Reaction.
On Oz and James, he drank grape juice which he had squeezed with his own bare feet, then made wine out of other, similarly squeezed grape juice which he fermented for a week in the boot of the Jag he was driving across France. The next series of that, he still drank from the spittoon at a wine bar, even after Oz Clarke had already done so and observed that someone had stubbed out a cigarette in it.
He defeated Gordon Ramsay's challenge by drinking snake whiskey, eating a bull penis, and then trying fermented (read: rotten) shark. Ramsay reached for the bucket after the shark, but May barely even made a face.
In an interview, he claimed he was "catastrophically ill" that day not because of a weekend bender with Hammond and Clarkson in Dublin, but because he'd eaten a prawn sandwich on an aeroplane — and apparently endorses the ten-second rule, but admits a plane floor probably shouldn't count.
Subverted when he has an abrupt and fleeting bout of vegetarianism during the first American road trip, was quite offended by some garlic wine he and Oz picked up in California, and once decided that a deep-fried Mars Bar made in fish-and-chip oil was comparable to the fermented shark.
Foreign Culture Fetish: For Germany. Not as potent as Hammond's for the USA but he has shown his interests in Germany more than once. He loves German cars (especially Mercedes), occasionally speaks in Gratuitous German, likes airships, and has an interest in Germany's World War II military (an example being in the Middle East special where he took inspiration from the Afrika Korps while customizing his BMW convertible).
Hates Being Touched: Not fond of "man-contact" in the earlier days of Top Gear; even a handshake was pushing it, as shown in the Great Northern Race (although the fact that the hand in question was covered in soot probably didn't help). Seems to have relaxed this slightly, though.
I Am Not Left-Handed: Played with. He can apparently drive fast when he wants to. On curvy roads he's been shown to outpace even Clarkson. However there is a limit to what he can do in the first few years, although he does get better enough later on to do power tests.
Iconic Item: His stripey jumpers, specifically the pink and purple one.
Kryptonite Factor: Has some degree of obsessive-compulsive disorder, particularly demonstrated through Clarkson's watch bezel.
Limited Wardrobe: Always tends to test cars wearing the same striped maroon shirt. Played with whenever May needs to do some driving beyond his capabilities and we see the shirt being worn by another driver posing as "James."
Neat Freak: His tools must be in order for him to begin working on a project.
No Sense of Direction: Claims he has an electrical imbalance in his brain which leads to him visualizing the map of Britain upside-down. He once got lost on a race track. An oval race track.
Not so Above It All: While Hammond and Clarkson tend to prank him on the road trips, there's no shortage of occasion where he and one of the other two have ganged up on the third instead. In addition, he can gloat just as loudly when he wins a challenge over the others.
Precision F-Strike: His swearing is infrequent, but when he does it, it either means something has really gone wrong or he's about to run out of patience.
May: [Tonelessly] I have to have all my air vents aligned just right...and if anyone moves them...I get really angry.
Took A Level In Badass Driving: slowly over the course of the show, May has become a better fast driver. His driving lessons with two different F1 champions improved his driving quite a lot, and then he started doing power tests with the Stig or another driver doing laps or fast turns, and finally in the recent seasons he's been able to drive the fast corners in power tests by himself (which he described as "being overcome with yobbig-ness").
Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: May has a fear of heights, though that doesn't stop him from crossing the dangerous Yungas Road with the rest of the team.
Flanderization: Early on around season 4 all three of them noticeably started exaggerating and playing up aspects of their personalities, pretending to be stupider than they really were (along with some amazing deadpan delivery of ridiculous hyperbole and allegories). This increased as time went on and they added new quirks and idiosyncrasies to their personnae. More than a decade after the show started, their in-character personalities are similar but decidedly more outrageous when compared to the Real Life ones they are based on e.g. Jeremy Clarkson is not actually as arrogant and insufferable as he seems on TV but he is still highly opinionated and sharply cynical.
Vitriolic Best Buds: They will happily pull nasty pranks and laugh uproariously when terrible things happen to their co-presenters... although this tends to stop abruptly if one of them gets genuinely hurt and/or when Real Life problems crop up and they drop the fooling around. However, expect them to tease the person injured after the fact when he is fully recovered (with the exception of Hammond's accident, which was too serious for anything more than a few jokes by Jeremy about brakes to lighten the mood and became off-limits after Hammond made it clear that that's what he wanted).
Universal Driver's License: Although occasionally subverted when the challenge is purposefully something they'll have trouble with, such as Jeremy's dislike of motorcycles/scooters in the Vietnam Special.
Can also crop up accidentally such as during the Plane vs Bugatti challenge, when much to Hammond's annoyance, James is forced to land the plane at dusk because he'd not (at the time) completed the test to allow him to fly at night.
His driving speaks for itself himself.
The show's "tame racing driver," who is never seen without his racing coveralls, gloves, and (face-concealing) helmet. He is never heard speaking, though we occasionally hear about the driving advice he gives off camera. Has a variety of local cousins in the various locations the Top Gear team visits. Some say that he sleeps inside out, and that he once had phone sex with Russell Brand's answering machine... all we know is, he's called The Stig.There have been three Stigs since the show's inception. The first Stig, Black Suit Stig (Perry McCarthy, 2002-2003) was written out of the show after the BBC did not renew McCarthy's contract. The first White Suit Stig (Ben Collins, 2003-2010) was sacked for publicly revealing his identity. note Although his identity was already a "trade secret", and the book was a mere formality.
All three Stigs
Always Chaotic Evil: The Chinese Stig enjoys randomly attacking people, especially favouring the occasionally Groin Attack on whoever is nearest to him. He even stopped mid-lap to get out of the car and attack the camera man.
Badass Adorable: Between the Stig Farm, The Baby Jesus Stig, and his complete incomprehension of anything not car-related, The Stig is just... d'awww.
I'm a Humanitarian: During the 2008 National Television Awards, The Stig is the only one available to collect the award — along with a note advising to keep him away from the cast of Coronation Street, as "he seems to have got it in his head that Northerners are edible".
"Some say that he's a CIA experiment that went wrong, and that he only eats cheese... all we know is, he's not the Stig, but he is the Stig's American cousin!"
"Some say he's seen The Lion King 1780 times, and that his second best friend is a cape buffalo... all we know is, he's not the Stig, but he is the Stig's African cousin!"
"Some say his favourite ever song is 'Forever Autumn' by Justin Hayward, and that he has the world's largest collection of pornographical material. All we know is, he's not The Stig, but he is The Stig's lorry-driving cousin!"
Comes full circle with "Some say he's the Stig's Alpine cousin, but he's not—he's just the Stig!"
Legacy Character: The first (black-suited) Stig was taken office by a second white-clad iteration of The Stig, who in turn was replaced by a third incarnation also dressed in white.
Logic Bomb: Clarkson and Hammond joke that when the car comes in last place during the London Rush Hour challenge, the Stig's speechlessness is because his entire mind has just imploded and behind his helmet, smoke is pouring from his ears.
Made of Iron: The Stig's car randomly exploded because the car he was in had a noted defect of randomly exploding. He walked away.
Messianic Archetype: Parodied in the Middle East Special, where the presenters discover a Baby Stig born in a manger.
Memetic Badass: In-universe. Jeremy does little "facts" about him before every Stig lap.
Nephewism: His counterparts are always his cousins.
Nerves of Steel: He is shown sleeping while riding on Blackpool's infamous "Big One" rollercoaster.
Secret Identity: While the previous Stigs have revealed themselves, they've only done so concurrent to being dropped from the show, so the active Stig's identity will always remain a mystery (until he's dropped as well, presumably).
Universal Driver's License: Subverted, as the Stig believes everything should be driven like a car. He's easily confused by things that aren't cars, such as bicycles, the "Big Red Car" (a Bus) and the "Underground Car" (a tube Train) from the London Rush Hour challenge.
Berserk Button: He developed an "Irrational Hatred" of Rubens Barrichello, following his 1:44.3 time on the Top Gear track- the only driver in the show's history to beat his own time of 1:44.4 in the Suzuki Liana.
That time was subsequently beaten by Sebastian Vettel and then absolutely destroyed by Lewis Hamilton with a 1:42.9.
Broken Ace: The reason why he became the Stig in the first place. He was a very talented young driver with even Jackie Stewart predicting his rise to Formula 1, and then things just fell apart and he ended up in Nascar for a bit before spending most of his time doing stunt work and teaching driving for the British Army. Then the call from Top Gear came...
Early-Bird Cameo: He competes out of suit for a football match involving cars. Obviously, it's never alluded to that he's the Stig.
Before that he appeared out of costume to drive an Lancer Evo VII and a Bowler Wildcat against a mountain boarder. Again, no mention was made of him being the Stig.
And before THAT, he shows up as "Ben" and drove a Mercedes at 50 miles an hour while "Tim" parachuted into the backseat during the 9th episode of the 4th season.
Follow the Leader: When there were indications that the BBC might be looking for a new Stig, Collins decided that he might as well take the opportunity to do what the other presenters and the Black Stig had done: write an autobiography. He was fairly taken aback when the lawyers got involved and suddenly he was on the end of a lawsuit so big it got its own wikipedia page (which is why it's so important to read the confidentiality clauses in any contract you sign).
He returns in the final episode of series 17 to help train the wounded British veterans competing in the Dakar Rally.
Hammond: You know... to be honest, I am quite glad to see the old splitter back.
And he comes back again in the 50 Years of Bond special to talk to Richard about his job as a stunt coordinator for the films.
Money, Dear Boy: Wrote the book because his company was 1 million pounds in debt, his wife was pregnant with another child and he desperately needed the money, and he thought his time as the Stig was over so it didn't matter who knew his identity. Crosses over with I Was Young and Needed the Money (he was in his early thirties at the time).
Nice Guy: Is a genuinely nice guy in Real Life and very easy to get along with. One of the reasons why he was so good as the Stig, apart from his incredible driving, was that he was so patient and accommodating with the celebrities, and his companionable nature made him a brilliant teacher/instructor — even excitable and adrenaline-fueled drivers like footballer Ian Wright praised his ability to calm him down and get him focusednote to get an idea of just how nice he is, when the law suit became big news he could be found quietly serving hot tea and umbrellas to the paparazzi who mobbed his house because it was cold and raining. Yes, really. Not even our trio of indignant presenters could stay mad at him for too long behind the scenes — once he'd met with them a couple of times.
Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Third Stig aged from a baby to an adult in the matter of a month. The rapid aging is explained by Jeremy that all Stigs grow very quickly.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The Third Stig, is pretty much the White Stig with different shoes and black shoulder patches. Justified in that if he was a different colour, they'd have had to change all the White Stig's merchandise.
Top Gear Dog
A female labradoodle belonging to Hammond. She appeared in Season 8 but appears to have been phased out of the show, possibly due to the small fact she dislikes being in vehicles, frequently gets car-sick and apparently hates James May. Also known as "TG" or "Teegee."
A recurring character brought in to do occasional bits of madness which fall outside of Stig's repertoire, such as trying to reproduce movie stunts or vault over a number of cars... in reverse. Like Top Gear Dog, he has been phased out of the show.
Director of the "Top Gear Technology Centre"; this means he and his team do most of the heavy lifting when the presenters are given a challenge that involves seriously modifying a car. Became prominent in the episode where Clarkson, Hammond, May and The Stig entered the Britcar 24-hour endurance race (Series 10, Ep. 09): first, by performing most of the engine, brake and suspension modifications to convert their used BMW into a racing car, and secondly, pulling an all-nighter in order to completely rebuild the engine after it blew out during James May's nighttime practice laps. Astonishingly, Steve and his team were able to do a complete engine rebuild in roughly 12 hours, allowing the presenters to take their place in the race with literally seconds to spare. Also appeared briefly in Season 12, when the lads attempted to get a Renault Avantime up to the speed of a Mitsubishi Evo 10.
A 1963 Opel Kadett which Richard Hammond bought in Botswana during the African special. Despite "his" age and third-hand ownership, Oliver survived a one-thousand mile cross-country trip straight across the spine of Botswana, including the entirety of the Makgadikgadi Pan, the largest salt flat in the world. Hammond loved the car so much that he bought it with his own money and paid to have it shipped to Britain, lovingly restored it, and even fitted it with a vanity license plate (OLI V3R). Hammond is so fond of Oliver that he forfeited one of the challenges in the "How much Lorry can you get for £5,000?" segment in Series 12 rather than risk injuring the car. Now a featured character in Hammond's children's show, Richard Hammond's Blast Lab.
Back from the Dead: Oliver had to be dragged out of this river, Hammond worked through the night in the middle of the African bush with only spare bits in a toolbox. The next morning he was working BETTER than he had before. Hammond even somehow fixed the horn!
What a Piece of Junk: Was 40 years old and looked like scrap, but "he" got Hammond safely across Botswana.
One of the presenters from the original, 1977 to 2001 series. Now of rival showFifth Gear. Is still technically counted as a Top Gear presenter (at least when James needed to race superbike piloted by a superbike champion). Also moonlighted as "emergency Stig" after the first White Stig left for one episode where he helped train that episodes guest star in a reasonably priced car (Danny Boyle).
Badass Grandpa: Clarkson joked about having to pull him out of the retirement home.