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).
Many people were surprised when the former Joey Tribbiani was announced as one of the main presenters of the new Top Gear since he's had no TV hosting experience and is an American to boot (not to mention a well-known motorcycle aficionado). Nevertheless, he easily stepped into the role and quickly established himself as a highly popular presenter, leading to the BBC locking him into a multi-year contract. After Series 25, he announced that Series 26 would be his last as lead presenter.
- Badass Biker: He's a huge motorcycle fan in real life and enjoys racing them and tinkering with their mechanics. When racing to Venice against Sabine and Chris, he chose a Honda Goldwing touring bike, and took a Ducati 1299 Superleggera against Chris in the Bugatti Chiron.
- Badass Driver: LeBlanc's first introduction on Top Gear was his turn as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, during which he posted a lap time of 1:42.1, which ended up being the fastest time by any star in any of the Reasonably Priced Cars during the Clarkson/Hammond/May run of Top Gear. (Even the Formula 1 drivers never matched that time, although they ran their laps in the less-powerful Suzuki Liana instead of the Kia Cee'd that LeBlanc used to post his record time.)
- Borrowed Catchphrase: He took over introducing The Stig for power laps, keeping Clarkson's format of two non-sequitors and "All we know is...he's called: The Stig!"
- Deadpan Snarker: In a twist on national stereotypes, he, the American, has the most understated sense of humor whereas his British and German colleagues are much more animated.
An motor journalist and race car driver who almost exclusively handles the show's hypercar segments. He has also taken over training celebrity guests for the new "Star in a Reasonably Fast Car" feature. As of Series 27, he succeeds Matt LeBlanc as lead presenter.
- Insufferable Genius: He knows a lot about cars and loves showing off his pedantic knowledge, especially if it means getting to correct somebody.
- Stern Teacher: In the early episodes of Series 24, he would constantly berate the celebrities he was coaching for their timed laps around the test track. Then Tamsin Greig, using her best mom voice, passive-aggressively told him to cut it out and he subsequently became much nicer for the rest of the series.
A motor journalist who, alongside Matt LeBlanc, handles the show's more "normal" reviews, particularly those about cars that the average viewer could actually afford to purchase.
- Adorkable: He was one of many thousands who auditioned simply because he loves cars and the show so much and his enthusiasm is obvious in all of his appearances.
Sabine SchmitzA German race-car driver best known as a caretaker for the famous Nürburgring race-track that surrounds her hometown of Adenau. She first appeared on Top Gear in 2004, where she taught Jeremy Clarkson how to drive around the track, greatly impressing him with her knowledge, brash attitude and humor. Famously, she drove so fast in the Jaguar that he had brought with him that the film crew had a tough time keeping up with her — and she had never driven that car before. She appeared on the show several more times over the years, and her name had long been kicked around as a potential regular contributor because of her popularity with the hosts and audience. When she was announced as a co-host, she was arguably the least controversial choice of them all.
- Badass Driver: To the point where she had her own, Top Gear-esque show for a while in Germany called D-Motor, which was largely an excuse for her to drive cool cars extremely fast.
- Badass Boast: On her first time on the show, and after Clarkson did a 9:59 around the Nürburgring Nordschleife in a diesel Jaguar, Schmitz declared "I do that lap time in a van!" When given the chance she failed but was so close that she didn't harm her reputation as a Badass Driver; He did a 9:59, while she did a 10:08 (again, in a van. Around the Nürburgring.)
- Deadpan Snarker: Quite famously out-snarked Clarkson in her first appearance.
A former race team operator and Top Gear's resident crazy uncle. He is a semi-regular presenter who usually comes on to take a coach/mentor role in races between presenters.
- Beware the Silly Ones: He normally comes across as friendly and quaint with a tendency to ramble at length, but he is all business when it comes to racing and can be downright terrifying when chewing someone out for not following his instructions.
- Drives Like Crazy: He had to be barred from driving during a race in Africa when it became apparent that his unfamiliarity with the car he was driving made him a liability.
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
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.
- Badass Arm-Fold: His default posture when not behind the wheel. For the Race Across London in series 10 he's wheeled to the starting point on a Hannibal Lecter-style guerney so he won't have to break his pose.
- Badass Driver: Currently provides the page quote.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: There's a great deal of rumour about the Stig's biology. All that's quite clear is that he isn't human.
- Blood Knight: His Chinese cousin, a.k.a Attack Stig. Jeremy even says that his favourite activity is attacking people.
- Buffy Speak: Due to his belief that all vehicles are cars, he refers to trains as "Big Underground Cars".
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: In a car, he's one of the best drivers many people have heard of. Outside of one, he gets distracted by cat pictures, browses books by dropping them on the floor one by one, and has little idea what to do at a crosswalk.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Many of the things said about him imply this.
- Distracted by the Sexy: In the Top Gear vs. Fifth Gear show, he stopped to stare at Vicki holding a paintball gun.
- Ensemble Dark Horse: Invoked by the producers, as no one expected the Stig to be as popular as he became.
- Everyone Calls Him The Stig
- Fun with Acronyms: Stig can be read as "Stunt Technician In Gear" or "Speeding Turn Is Great".
- The Faceless
- Fish out of Water: When he's not behind the wheel, Stiggy becomes this, often with humorous results.
- Genius Ditz: He's good at driving, but thinks of every other vehicle as a car (utterly bemused as to how to get on a bicycle).
- Groin Attack: The Signature Move of Chinese Attack Stig.
- He Who Must Not Be Heard: Never speaks on camera, although the presenters occasionally report comments that he's made off-camera about the cars he's driven. He also speaks to the celebrity guests while coaching them for SIARPC.
- 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's decided that all Northerners are edible".
- Inexplicably Identical Individuals: His many cousins. Most of them tend to be rather unflattering stereotypes.
- "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!" note
- "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!" note
- "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!" note
- "He's not the Stig, but he is the Stig's vegetarian cousin!" note
- "He's not the Stig, he's the Stig's German cousin!" note
- A Communist Stig also appeared in the extended version of the Communist Cars Challenge on the DVD and in the Director's Cut of the Vietnam Episode. note
- "He's not the Stig, but he is the Stig's Italian cousin! note
- "Some say he's the Stig, but he's not. He's the Stig's Chinese cousin!" note
- "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome... the Stig's Yorkshire cousin!" note
- There's also a female with a Stig helmet on shown when the actual Stig is vacationing during an episode filmed in Spain. Whether or not this is another Stig or just a woman trying to flirt with him is debatable.
- The Stig has a teenage cousin, too. note
- The Stig even has a digital cousin. note
- Apparently, there is a Stig farm where Stigs are raised in the event Top Gear needs a replacement Stig. They come in many colours such as yellow and neon pink, and essentially behave like cattle down to the point they are kept in a pen and when let out, graze like cows.
- 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.
- Little Known Facts: Some say that this trope comes up before the presenters mention his name.
- 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.
- No Name Given
- Phrase Catcher: The introductions.Clarkson/LeBlanc: Some say that he [something improbable], and that he/his [something equally improbable if not more so, often Ripped from the Headlines]. All we know is, he's called The Stig.
- Real Men Wear Pink: The Pink Stig, who is implied to be rather camp.
- Red Baron
- 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).
- Shrouded in Myth
- Spell My Name with a "The":Clarkson: Some say that his first name really is "the".
- The Other Darrin: The Black Stig was replaced by the White Stig, who was replaced by the Third Stig.
- The Nth Doctor: The other potential Stigs in the Stig-Farm.
- The Stoic
- The Voiceless
- 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.
- 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.
The Presenters Collectively
- Big Guy, Little Guy: Clarkson and Hammond
- Fan Nickname: the "Top Gear Three" or "TG3" for short.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Occasionally, in more than one road trip special.
- 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.
- Freudian Trio:
- Clarkson: Id
- Hammond: Ego
- May: Superego
- Heterosexual Life-Partners
May: I like it, it's romantic.Hammond: Don't say things like that! I'm in the same bed as you!
- With a good dash of Ho Yay that they frequently spoof, such as this gem from their caravan holiday;
- Jerkass Façade: All three of them play up the Jerkass angle. In Real Life behind the scenes, however, they're a bit different.
- Odd Couple: Clarkson (brash and out-going) and May (quiet and sensible).
- One Head Taller: Clarkson (6'5") and Hammond (5'7").
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork
- True Companions: Clarkson did not get his contract renewed after punching a producer. The other two were offered huge salaries by the BBC to continue without him, but quit instead. The three, along with producer Andy Wilman, have now got another show in the works with Amazon. Perhaps May said it the best:May: "Much as I think he's a knob, I quite like working with Jeremy."
- 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.
Jeremy Clarkson (198899, 2002-15)
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.
His contract was terminated in March 2015, after a fracas with a producer (involving punching said producer in the face.)
- Always Wanted to Say That: "Back to the studio". The first time he tries saying it, May cuts in.
- A-Team Firing: Perfectly summed up by May:May: The great thing about Jeremy's shooting is that you are perfectly safe just as long as you stand right in front of the target.
- The Big Guy: His height, an impressive 196cm (6'6" if you're American) is the frequent butt of jokes, and he often winds up getting stuck with the small cars for comedic purposes.
- Brief Accent Imitation: generally of Americans or of Hammond.
- The Captain: The unofficial leader of the three. The visiting Germans from D-Motor refer to him as "Top Gear Boss."
- Caustic Critic: Clarkson pulls no punches when it comes to cars (or anything) he reviews, and will call vehicles out on things he finds wrong. He's angered quite a few car companies this way.
- Crazy Awesome: Invoked by (and about) Clarkson frequently, who does things simply because he can.
- Deadpan Snarker: He's particularly good at delivering patently ridiculous lines in a serious, authoritative tone. He's almost always is the one to recite the ridiculous the Stig facts.
- Dramatic Pause: Practically tied with William Shatner as the living personification of this trope.
- In-Series Nickname: "Jezza" and "The Orangutan."
- Epic Fail: While all the presenters have their shares of failures, in any challenge it is all but guaranteed that what ever Jeremy comes up with either crash, break down, not start, or get set on fire. Or possibly set itself on fire.
- 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.Clarkson: I want to talk about magpies...Hammond: This is a car show, Jeremy!
- Hoist by His Own Petard: On occasion, Clarkson's fondness for power can override any other concerns about a vehicle, meaning, as in the case of one of the races, he might choose a car with great power, but awful fuel-economy.
- Idiot Ball: He was repeatedly told by BBC executives to change his attitude, or he'd be sacked. He didn't listen and indeed did not have his contract renewed in March 2015 after punching a producer.
- Incoming Ham: Often Jeremy will be heard long before he's seen.
- 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.
- Insufferable Genius: He knows a lot about cars, and won't hesitate to tell you so.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He sent Hammond's wife humorous texts every day for the five weeks that Hammond was hospitalized after his crash in order to keep her spirits up.
- Large Ham: Loud voice, dramatic gestures, overemphasis on certain words, and larger-than-life analogies. "Subtle" is definitely not a word used to describe Clarkson.
- Lethal Chef:
- His V8 Smoothie gave even James May pause. Ingredients included a few pounds of raw beef, bovril, and a brick.James: I've got the name for it: the Bloody Awful.
- There was also the time he tried to see if an engine could cook a dish, and presented it to Gordon Ramsey.
- s20e3, in Spain, he's cooking dinner while they talk about their cars.Hammond: Would it interfere with this debate if I were suddenly and violently sick?
- His V8 Smoothie gave even James May pause. Ingredients included a few pounds of raw beef, bovril, and a brick.
- Mad Scientist:
- Some of his inventions include the V8 Blender, the V8 Rocking Chair, and the "Hammerhead Eagle-i Thrust".
- He once treated a remote controlled high powered ex-military minesweeper as if it was a dog.
- No Indoor Voice: you can hear him a mile off. Shouting.
- 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.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Very hesitantly admitted that one Porsche could do with a bit less power.
- Percussive Maintenance: Thinks a hammer is the only tool you will ever need.
- 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 humour. 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.
- When they (inevitably) fail, he will insist that it's Never My Fault
- 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."
- Tim Taylor Technology: Devoted to the principle that power is good and more power is even better.
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.
- Surprisingly, averted when he reviewed the Ford Fiesta.
Richard Hammond (2002-2015)
The second in command: the youngest, shortest, and second-most obstreperous — and generally agreed to be the easiest on the eyes. note 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.
After Clarkson was released from the series, Hammond made the decision to depart alongside his co-presenters, saying on Twitter he was "not about to quit his mates."
- Ascended Fanboy: Was a fan of Clarkson and the original Top Gear before becoming a presenter in the revival.
- Berserk Button: Has at least two:
- "I have NOT had my teeth whitened!"
- Later specials (Beginning with the second USA Road Trip) has his outright hate for Genesis. This gets exploited a lot (particularly by Clarkson), as exemplified with this bit from the India Special:(Upon hearing Genesis' "I know what you like", particularly after the chorus...)
Hammond: AAARGAAARGHAAAAAARAGH!!!! I HATE THAT BIT! IT'S THAT BIT!!!!
- Book Dumb: Not keen on deeply educational things, but far from outright stupid.
- Brief Accent Imitation: The most likely to do this, particularly during the news segments.
- Cargo Ship / Companion Cube: Invoked with "Oliver," a 1963 Opel Kadett A.
- Catchphrase and Lampshade Hanging:
- In the more recent series; when Clarkson asks "How hard can it be?", expect Hammond to reply "Don't say that!" or similar.
- "That's not gone well!"
- Cluster F-Bomb: In particular, his bike section of the "Public Transport vs. a Car vs. a Boat vs. a Bike across London" challenge
- Does Not Like Spam: He's a picky eater but hates fish of all descriptions especially.
- Embarrassing Nickname: He isn't fond of his nickname "The Hamster"
- Mr. Fanservice: The most conventionally good-looking of the three. Was also the first presenter to be Heat magazine's "Weird Crush" of the year.
- Hidden Depths: Despite his Book Dumb tendencies, he's actually a trained artist, being an alumnae of Harrogate College of Art and Technology. Most prominently shown during the Top Ground Gear Force special, where he drew the entire plan for the garden by himself.
- In-Series Nickname:
- "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."
- Hollywood Midlife Crisis: Admits to having gone through one for several years as his hair and clothes became flashier with each passing series of Top Gear. He eventually went back to having shorter, more manageable hair and more conservative clothing, but still dresses in louder colors than he did before the crisis began.
- Hot-Blooded: The presenter most likely to throw themselves fully into the challenge and get emotional over winning or losing.
- Iron Butt-Monkey: 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.
- The Lancer: To Clarkson
- Made of Iron: He made a full recovery from his 2006 accident, and has nary a scar.
- Manchild: He keeps the cardboard boxes of large appliances and plays pretend with them.
- The Napoleon: The shortest presenter, as well as the most prone to losing their temper.
- Never Live It Down: Invoked about his declaration of "I AM A DRIVING GOD!!!"
- 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.
James: "Well you're coming to the wrong country."
- The food doesn't even have to be particularly exotic either. He won't eat classically British dishes like Fish and Chips because he dislikes seafood and is completely put off by the sight of traditional Spaghetti Bolognese (which he claims is his favorite dish) because the sauce includes sausagenote
- This causes some problem during the GT-R vs Shinkansen episode. Since Japanese foods is dominantly seafood; during a trip to the supermarket whilst waiting for the train, Hammond almost can't buy anything because the foods that are sold are dominantly seafood or fish.
- Extreme Omnivore: On the other hand, he's devoured pictures and sheets of paper to prevent Jeremy discovering something on them or using them in any way.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: One of his tooth-whitening denials echoed off of nearby mountains.
- 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.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: The normally fearless and daring Hammond is terrified of insects.
James May (200315)
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 — 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 hosting Top 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.
On April 23rd 2015, James announced that he would not be returning to the show following Clarkson's dismissal. However, he's also been the only one of the three presenters to keep working for the BBC after their departure, hosting the new programme James May: The Reassembler from 2016 to 2017.
- 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 Cloudcuckoolander moments. How much of this is played-up or real is an ongoing debate.
- Animals Hate Him: Jokes that his late cat Fusker (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.
- Berserk Button:
- 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".
- "Oh... cock."
- "Now as you'd expect, I've done this properly."
- "Bloody Nora!"
- 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.
- Drunken Master: Manages to defeat Gordon Ramsay during The F Word's cooking challenge despite knocking back several glasses of wine while making his deceptively simple fish pie.Ramsay: James, do you always drink like this when you're cooking?May: Dulls the horror of the food that I'm going to eat later on.
- Extreme Omnivore:
- 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.
- In the Burma Special, the three break out the liquor while taking a break from bridge building and James takes a swig from a bottle labeled "White Spirit." After choking and apparently spitting out the liquid, James reveals to Jeremy and Richard that the "White Spirit" wasn't a high proof grain alcohol but mineral spirits as in the kind used in paint thinners.
- In-Series Nickname: "Captain Slow" note , "Captain Sense-of-direction"
- 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).
- The Good Captain: His nickname is a Lampshading of this.
- Good with Numbers: The one most likely to use maths and use them correctly.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: He does more with "Oh, cock!" than most people could with The Angry Video Game Nerd's vocabulary.
- 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 Outfit: His stripey jumpers, specifically the pink and purple one.
- Ironic Nickname: "Captain Slow" is the only presenter to have driven the Bugatti Veyron and its Super Sport variant to both their advertised maximum speeds. This makes him the fastest presenter in an actual production road car, twice over.
- 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.
- The Quiet One: Compared to Clarkson and Hammond; if he does get a word in, expect a Character Filibuster.
- Rummage Sale Reject: Some of his favorite shirts are... loud.Clarkson: Are you wearing that for a bet?May: No.
- Self-Deprecation: When he looks ridiculous, he's usually the first to point it out.
- Skunk Stripe: He started with two prominent white streaks starting at his temples, but as the series went on, he went almost completely gray.
- The Smart Guy: If there is science to be known or maths to be done, May is the one who will effectively wield them.
- The Stoic: He's less excitable than his colleagues and better at keeping his cool. When dealing with those who are not his co-presenters, he also falls into the "polite stoic" category.
- Straight Man: Although as Oz and James shows, it's really only compared to the other two.
- That Makes Me Feel Angry: He rarely shows his anger visibly. When he does, it's a Beware the Nice Ones moment.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").
- Trademark Favorite Food: Pies, of the traditional British variety. In the caravan race, he didn't clear it out for weight the night before so he could make one for dinner, which completely destroyed his chances of winning. It also comes up often during the news segments; in one memorable instance, where the boys discussed a grocery store deal that would give credits towards a new car, May actually calculated how many pies he'd have to buy in order to pay the car off completely.
- 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.
Jason Dawe (2002)
Was a presenter with Clarkson and Hammond for Season 1 (fall/winter 2002) but then left and was replaced by James May.
Tiff Needell (1987-2001)One of the presenters from the original, 1977 to 2001 series. Now of rival show Fifth 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.
- Legacy Character: Was a presenter from the original version of Top Gear that was basically Motor Week UK.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Wears one of James May's purple striped shirts to pass off as him during the race between the Ariel Atom 500 V8 and the BMW S1000RR.
- The Sixth Ranger: On occasion.
Andy Wilman (1994 - 2001 as host, 2002 - 2015 as Executive Producer)Andy was one of the original hosts of Top Gear while the show was on the air in the 90s'. However, shortly after the show ended, he and Clarkson successfully pitched the idea of a "Same Top Gear, but different". After discovering a love for producing shows from behind the scenes, Wilman stayed on as Executive Producer while Clarkson remained as one of the three hosts.
In 2015, after Clarkson was let go, Wilman joined the trio to create The Grand Tour.
- Long Runner: He's worked on Top Gear for 24 consecutive years!
- Sixth Ranger: He's basically an unseen member of the Top Gear Trio. The four of them even made a production company together after leaving Top Gear!
- The Ghost: He's been a crucial part of the rebooted Top Gear and its success, but is more than happy to remain working behind the scenes.
- Those Two Guys: A production equivalent. Wilman and Clarkson have a working relationship where Clarkson is the face of the show while Wilman is the brains behind the show. They have worked on several motoring documentaries, not just Top Gear, in this capacity.
Black Stig (Perry McCarthy)
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: "Died" when he was in a stunt gone wrong when his vehicle failed to brake in time and plunged underwater off an aircraft carrier while trying to race a jet. But...
- No One Could Survive That!: The Black Stig, being a Stig, after all, actually survived his ordeal. He was a trooper and swam his way across the oceans non-stop until he made landfall on a beach. However, he was not happy that he had been left for dead, likely aware he'd be replaced, and filched a frisbee from some nearby beachgoers, never to be heard from again.
- Man In Black: His suit is entirely black. Hence his name.
- The Pete Best
Sacked Stig (Ben Collins)
- Berserk Button: He developed an "Irrational Hatred" of Rubens Barrichello, following his 1:44.3 time on the Top Gear track—the first 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.
- Big Eater: Apparently he forages for wolves.
- 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.
- Fallen Hero
- FaceHeel Turn: In the 2010 specials, after writing his book.
- 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).
- HeelFace Turn:
Hammond: You know... to be honest, I am quite glad to see the old splitter back.
- He returns in the final episode of series 17 to help train the wounded British veterans competing in the Dakar Rally.
- 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 . 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.
Chris Evans (2016)
Not to be confused with the actor who plays Captain America. Primarily known as a DJ on BBC Radio 2 and a presenter on the BBC's The One Show, Evans is also a well-known petrolhead with an impressive collection of sports cars. Starting from Series 23, he stepped into the role of lead presenter. His selection was.. controversial.. and as of July 2016 he has parted ways with the show.
- Replacement Scrappy: To say he was disliked as a host is putting it mildly.
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." She sadly passed away in January 2017.
Top Gear Stuntman
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.
Oliver (2007 - 2008)
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!Clarkson: "Is that technically possible? ... You know, in 47 years I've never been speechless."
- Berserk Button: Do NOT threaten Oliver when Hammond is around.
- Big "NO!": When he nearly sank fording a river, Hammond let out an anguished cry of "OLLIVEEEERR!"
- Cargo Ship: As previously mentioned, in-universe with Richard Hammond.
- Companion Cube
- Featuring in the opening credits of Blast Lab.
- I Call It "Vera"Hammond:"This is just the happiest car in the world. I shall call it Oliver. [suddenly sobering] Not that I would ever name a car on Top Gear. I wish I hadn't said that."
- Memetic Badass: In-universe.
- What a Piece of Junk: Was 40 years old and looked like scrap, but "he" got Hammond safely across Botswana.