Top Gear: Series 18, Episode 1
- Jeremy, Richard and James travel to Italy for a Supercar Shootout
- Jeremy takes the Lamborghini Aventador
- James selects a McLaren MP4-12C
- Richard goes with the unreliable Noble M600
- Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Will.i.am
Jeremy starts the show with a funny spoof preview montage of Series 18, followed immediately by the real one. The boys then move on to a question – if you’re in the market for a mid-engined supercar but not interested in a Ferrari 458 Italia – which one is best for you? None of them can agree on an answer – so they each choose a car and reconvene in Lecce, Italy, to try settle their differences.
James arrives first in the McLaren MP4-12C. A car which James says is made with an “almost psychotic” attention to detail – rather like him. Jeremy arrives next in a car which is also very like him – the very loud and shouty Lamborghini Aventador. Richard turns up in a Noble M600 and is immediately set upon by the other two presenters – who criticise the M600 for having an engine from a Volvo XC90, or that it was made on a light industrial estate in Lestershire. Richard argues that the M600′s power to weight ratio will more than make up for this. All three jump in their cars and hit the highway – where they are each bowled over by the sheer amount of power offered by each car. Half an hour later, they all pull into a service station and brim the tanks in each car as they receive their first a challenge. It is revealed that they will all travel to the Nardo Test Track, where they will compete against each other to see who can post the highest top speed.
The Nardo Test Track is an 8 mile circle of tarmac which is so vast it can be seen from space – it is simply one endless corner and because of this, no car can ever reach it’s top speed there. Lamborghini and McLaren had both sent a team of technicians to ensure that their cars were in top shape for the challenge – with Richard on his own because no-one from Noble turned up. Accurate speedometers were fitted to each car and the boys were sent out. On the sighting lap, the boys each put the case forward on why their car will win. Richard feels confident, and says “My car is the fastest – top speed 225mph. Jeremy’s Lambo 217mph. James’ McLaren 205mph – or to put it another way, walking pace”. The boys put some space between each other and then go for it. After a few nerve racking laps at full throttle, they all reach their top speeds and reconvene back at the pits. It is revealed that Richard had the biggest testes – with a top speed of 204.8mph in the M600. Jeremy came second with 204.3mph in the Lambo, and James last with 201.6mph in the McLaren.
Back in the studo we move on with the news, where it is revealed that on the top speed test, the Lambo did 7mpg, the McLaren did 8mpg, and the Noble managed 9mpg – making it not only the fastest, but also the most economical. Also in the news, Jeremy mentions that the three cars they left on plinths in India, in fact had to be moved because they were situated on top of an ancient burial ground. Jeremy also mentions a man who failed his driver’s theory test 92 times – and asks Richard a few of the ridiculous questions mentioned in the test. Richard shows us the new Alfa Romeo 4C, and Jeremy looks at a new Maserati 4×4.
Back to the main supercar challenge, we rejoin the boys as they drive north to Rome. Richard is still smug from the previous day’s victory – and shows off the Noble M600′s turbo flutter as he passes Jeremy and James. However his gloating is short lived – the gearbox repeatedly crunches as he tries to engage a gear, and he is forced to pull over onto the hard shoulder. The Noble clearly isn’t going anywhere, so Jeremy and James leave him to it. As the cars ate up the miles, they both begin to know them better. James has fallen in love with the McLaren’s clever technologies. Jeremy marvels at how easy the Aventador is to drive, compared to Lamborghini’s of old. Richard on the other hand, finally has a tow truck arrive after a 2.5 hour wait. Meanwhile, Jeremy and James are pulled over by the police – it turns out it is a public holiday in Italy and it is illegal to be actually working without a permit. They continue on to Rome for dinner and then meet up with Richard after lunch time the next day – who was driving a different coloured car. It turns out the original M600′s clutch disintegrated and damaged the gearbox – and a man from Noble drove a new car out overnight from Britain.
Back in the studio, Jeremy introduces Will.i.am as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Will.i.am manages a 1:49.40 on a wet track in an automatic car.
Back to part three of the supercar test, we rejoin the action with the boys heading north along the motorway. They’re thinking about how their cars compare to the Ferrari 458.
“Three days ago if you’d said to me, which would you rather have… I would have said the Ferrari. I mean, its the obvious choice. But now… no. I’d have this. I know a Ferrari 458 is just a technical masterpiece and it looks wonderful, but this has got something the Ferrari doesn’t have. It has a character.. it’s like a big daft orange dog”, Jeremy says.
Richard continues, “Its won me over, completely. Its not just the best car here, it is better than the Ferrari 458, for me it is one of the best cars in the world right now. I absolutely love it.”
With two votes against the Ferrari, what does James think? Well, “This is brilliant. I’ve really grown to like it – and lets not forget its £35,000 or so cheaper than the Ferrari 458 – and that is a huge amount of money… but the Ferrari still gives me more fizz.”
The boys reach their destination – the Imola circuit, where they receive their next challenge. The boys must each lap the circuit and attempt to beat the time set by the Ferrari 458 – at the hands of the Stig’s Italian cousin. Italian Stig jumps in the 458 and sets a cracking time of 1:56.60. The boys each jump in their car and go out for a practice session, to see how their cars perform on a track. Jeremy admires the Aventador’s 4wd system and fade-free carbon bakes. Richard on the other hand, has no driver aids to help him out – and instead has to concentrate on driving smoothly. Someone who does have a lot of driver aids, is James in the McLaren – but he was concentrating on memorising the track layout instead. At the end of the day, the boys knew the track – but still felt daunted by the challenge which lay ahead.
Imola is one of the most dangerous tracks on earth, as Jeremy explains. “Its narrow, fast and ringed with unforgiving walls and trees. Gilles Villeneuve, Gerhard Berger, Nelson Pike, Riccardo Patrese, Rubens Barrichello.. at some point in history every corner here has claimed the ego of a big name – and some corners have claimed even more than that. After Senna’s death in 1994, changes were made to the track to slow the cars down.. but even so, if we were going to beat that Ferrari, we’d still be going through the first bend at nearly 200mph.”
The next morning, the boys hit the track and progressively reduce their times as they push just a little bit harder each lap. Jeremy leans on the brakes harder each time, as he becomes more confident in the sheer stopping power available. James places more trust in the McLaren’s driver aids, while Richard tries to carry as much speed as possible through the bends – and ends up going off the track at high speed – whilst narrowly avoiding a spin. They all push on and after a short rest stop, go out one last time to try and improve on their times.
Back in the studio, the final lap times are revealed. Richard managed a 2:03.30 second lap. James did a slower 2:06.40. With Jeremy winning the challenge with a time of 1:59.10. Unfortunately, all were slower than the Stig’s lap of 1:56.60 in the Ferrari 458.
“Some say he’s not the Stig. But he is the Stig’s Italian cousin!”