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Top Gear (series 16)

The sixteenth series of Top Gear aired during 2011 on BBC Two and consisted of 6 episodes, beginning on 23 January and concluding on 27 February. The series was preceded by two specials in December 2010, the first of which was aired on 21 December and entitled "East Coast Road Trip", with the special being an exception to others in that it had more studio segments and a "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment within the episode; the second special was a full-length special edition entitled "Middle East Special", which aired five days later on 26 December.[1] Following Ben Collins' departure, a new Stig was introduced.

Top Gear (series 16)
Top Gear Series 16 Promo 2011.jpg
Promotional poster
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of episodes8
Original networkBBC Two
Original release21 December 2010 (2010-12-21) –
27 February 2011 (2011-02-27)
Series chronology
← Previous
Series 15
Next →
Series 17
List of Top Gear episodes


No. in
ReviewsFeatures/challengesGuest(s)Original air dateUK viewers
(millions) [2]
125None"East Coast Road Trip": (Ferrari 458 ItaliaMercedes-Benz SLS AMGPorsche 911 GT3 RS)Danny Boyle21 December 2010 (2010-12-21)7.13[nb 1]

Clarkson, Hammond and May head to the United States to see if the Blue Ridge Parkway is a better driving road than the Transfăgărăşan, each taking with them a car they feel will be perfect for this task - Clarkson brings with him a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, May opts to take a Ferrari 458 Italia, and Hammond, predictably, goes for a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. But upon finding that there are extensive speed limits on the Parkway that make it impossible to enjoy the road with their cars, the trio opt for a different plan, and head off on a road trip along the East Coast, starting in North Carolina. On their trip, the trio visit North Wilkesboro Speedway and get permission from the mayor of North Wilkesboro to race on the former NASCAR circuit, stay at a chalet for the night overlooking the Virginia International Raceway before taking their cars around the circuit, and take part in a drive-by shooting challenge with a special set of targets. Heading north, the boys make their way to their final destination - New York City - where there is a three-way race through Manhattan to see who will land a spot on an American TV show. Meanwhile in the studio, the boys take a look through some interesting toys, while director Danny Boyle discusses his upcoming film 127 Hours before seeing how he fared in the reasonably priced car.

Note: Because of Ben Collins' departure, Tiff Needell was brought in as an "Emergency Stig" to train Danny Boyle for his lap in the Kia Cee'd.
126N/A – Middle East SpecialMiddle East Special: (BMW Z3Mazda MX-5Fiat Barchetta)None26 December 2010 (2010-12-26)7.68[nb 2]

Seeking to re-enact the Three Wise Men's journey to Bethlehem, the presenters head to their starting point in northern Iraq, with each bringing with them a second-hand two-seater convertible, bought from Georgia on a budget of £3,500 - Clarkson picks a Mazda MX-5, Hammond chooses a Fiat Barchetta and May goes for a BMW Z3. Landing at Arbil International Airport in Iraqi Kurdistan by cargo plane, the presenters face an extensive array of barriers and so find themselves trying to find a safe route to their final destination. Along the way, the trio try to cross into Iran with little success, find themselves driving fast for safety after mistakenly entering the region of Şırnak in Turkey during Kurdish insurgents' attempts to claim it, modify their cars to cross the deserts of Syria, find gifts for the "baby Jesus" in Damascus, head into Jordan and stop at a two-thousand-year-old Roman circus in Jerash to invent the sport of "Old Testament NASCAR", visit the Sea of Galilee in Israel, and stop off at the Mount of Olives to look over Jerusalem and decide who had brought the best car on their journey, with all of them concluding that Hammond's Fiat is the best. Their trip ends with them guided to a nativity scene, where they bring their gifts to the baby Jesus, only to make an unexpected discovery.

Note: The closing credits were played out with the song, "When a Child is Born", by Johnny Mathis.
1271Ariel Atom V8Škoda YetiHistory of the Porsche 911: Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet vs Volkswagen BeetleJohn BishopSienna MillerTiff Needell23 January 2011 (2011-01-23)7.38[nb 3]
May heads to the track to look at the latest edition of the Atom, the Ariel Atom V8, while Clarkson decides to do a proper road test on the Skoda Yeti and see if a helicopter can land on it. Elsewhere, the boys introduce their new Stig, Hammond, while in South Africa, races against a Porsche 997 Turbo S Cabriolet in a one mile drag race against a Volkswagen Beetle with a difference, while comedian John Bishop gets his turn in the Kia Cee'd.
1282Ferrari 599 GTO"Top Gear Ashes": British Hosts vs Top Gear Australia HostsBoris BeckerJodie KiddDarryn LyonsSteve PizzatiEwen PageShane Jacobson30 January 2011 (2011-01-30)7.31[nb 4]

Clarkson, Hammond and May have challenged the newest hosts of Top Gear Australia - Steve Pizzati, Ewen Page and Shane Jacobson - to a series of contests in the "Top Gear Ashes". Events include a Utility Vehicle Drag Race, a Double-Decker Race, Synchronized Donuts, and Sheep Hurdling, before ending with a Rally Race to see who will win the Ashes. Meanwhile, Clarkson showcases the extremely rare 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO and the 1980s era Ferrari 288 GTO, before handling the tricky Ferrari 599 GTO, while Boris Becker is aiming to get the Kia to a fast time on the track.

Note: For The Top Gear Australia, the 'Top Gear Ashes' film was extended into a full-length special edition episode that aired under the title of Top Gear Australia: Ashes Special prior to the show's third series. The episode featured additional footage of the events shown in the British version of the film, but also included additional segments prior to the challenge that was exclusive to the Australian special.
1293Super Hatchbacks: (Cosworth Impreza STI CS400Ford Focus RS500Volvo C30 PCP)"Albania Road Trip": (Rolls-Royce GhostYugo (substituting for a Bentley Mulsanne) • Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG)Jonathan Ross6 February 2011 (2011-02-06)7.33[nb 5]

The trio head to Albania on a road trip with three cars to see which will be best for the "Albanian Mafia" - May believes the new Rolls-Royce Ghost will be suitable, Hammond thinks it will be the Mercedes-Benz S-Class AMG, while Clarkson proves it will be the "Bentley Mulsanne" (in reality, Bentley pulled out, so the Mulsanne was represented by a Yugo). On their trip, they see if they squeeze the "body" of a fat man into each car's boot, hold a drag race on an airfield, and try to escape from the Albanian police after "robbing a bank". Meanwhile, Clarkson compares the Cosworth Impreza STI CS400 with the Ford Focus RS500 and the one-off Volvo C30 PCP, while chat show host, Jonathan Ross, returns after 15 seasons to see how much improved he will be in the Kia Cee'd.

Note: Jonathan Ross' Power Lap was originally planned for Series 15,[3] but for unknown reasons it was postponed until this series.
1304Pagani Zonda RPagani Zonda TricoloreSecond-hand, four seater convertibles for £2,000: (BMW 325i Convertible)Simon PeggNick Frost13 February 2011 (2011-02-13)7.28[nb 6]
The presenters see what pitfalls there are in buying a second-hand car, after all three wrecked the original comparing different second-hand convertible bought for less than £2,000, by buying different models of the same car - the BMW 325i, in which Hammond bought the 1987 model, Clarkson the '88 model, and May the '89 model. In a series of tests of their own devising, the trio see who is best in a "0 to 100MPH and back to 0" drag race, how good the condition of their interiors are with the help of a forensic team, see whose car is the easiest to break into with the help of some "car thieves", attempt to get squeaky voices from helium that hasn't leaked out of their roofs, discover how much investment is need to make them showroom ready again, before attempting to become a stunt driving show for the Essex County Fair. Meanwhile, Clarkson tries out a high performance version of the Zonda, the Pagani Zonda R, along with a scaled-down version of the R, the Pagani Zonda Tricolore, while actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost talk about their new comedy film Paul before seeing who was fastest in the Kia.
1315BMW M3 Competition PackAudi RS5Convert a combine harvester into a snow ploughAmber Heard20 February 2011 (2011-02-20)6.87[nb 7]
Following the snow problems caused in 2010 by a lack of snowplows and the money to run them, the presenters wonder if it might be cheaper to convert and utilise combine harvesters for the job when they are not helping to harvest crops. To find out, the trio convert a Claas combine harvester into a "snow-bine", complete with gritter and a flamethrower at the back (thanks to Clarkson). Finding that England is not expecting snow anytime soon, upon completing their creation, the trio opt to take it over to Norway, where in a series of tests, they struggle to clear a runway on a frozen lake, make a mess of things in a local village, before attempting to open up a mountain pass with the snow-bine. Elsewhere, Clarkson tries out both the BMW M3 Competition Pack and the Audi RS5 on the track, while Amber Heard is the latest star setting a lap time in the Kia Cee'd.
1326Porsche 959Ferrari F40Jaguar XJ 5.0 V8 SupersportSunset to sunrise race in a Jaguar XJ 5.0 V8 Supersport across England • NASA's latest Space Exploration VehicleJohn Prescott27 February 2011 (2011-02-27)6.53[nb 8]

Clarkson is in a race against "God", as he sets off from England's westernmost point at Land's End, Cornwall in a Jaguar XJ 5.0 V8 Supersport at sunset, and attempts to get to its most easterly point at Ness Point, Suffolk, before sunrise on the shortest night of Summer. Meanwhile, Hammond takes a look at his childhood heroes the Porsche 959 and the Ferrari F40, May gets to drive the Space Exploration Vehicle from NASA, and John Prescott arrives in a chorus of boos as he sees how he fared in the reasonably priced car.

Note: The 'Car vs. The Sun (and God)' film was originally planned for Series 15, but for unknown reasons the film was postponed until this series.

Criticism and ControversyEdit

Mexican Slurs commentsEdit

Following the broadcast of the second episode of Series 16, controversy arose from the episode's News segment and the discussion between the presenters about Mexico's first supercar. During the discussion, two of the hosts described Mexicans as being lazy and that no-one would complain because they were all too busy sleeping, provoking the Mexican ambassador, Eduardo Medina Mora, to accuse the presenters of resorting to "outrageous, vulgar and inexcusable insults to stir bigoted feelings against the Mexican people", while stating that the remarks were offensive, xenophobic and humiliating and reinforced negative stereotypes of Mexican people.[4] While the BBC defended the presenters anti-Mexican jokes, it apologised about some of the remarks made.[5] Comedian Steve Coogan, however, criticised the programme for its pitiful apology following the broadcast, suggesting that the usual defence of "a bit of a laugh", or "harmless fun" was no longer appropriate, that the insults had gone too far, and described the comments as being "as funny as a cold sweat followed by shooting pains down the left arm".[6] However, Mastretta appeared to have brushed off the insults, with general director Carlos Mastretta clarifying that the car was simply used as a pretext for the jokes, and that the controversy has increased interest in the MXT.[7]

The Mexican comments were cut when the episode was broadcast in the United States.[8][9]

Albanian Road Trip filmEdit

After the third episode of Series 16 was aired, the BBC received several complaints in regards to the road trip film, in which the presenters were finding a car suitable for the "Albanian Mafia". A number of complaints were directed to a segment of the film in which the presenters 'murdered' a fat Albanian and attempted to find out which of three car boots he would fit into the best, while the stereotypical views that Albania was a nest for mafia car thieves, were also criticised.[10]


The viewing figures shown in the Episode Table above, are a combination of the figures from the BBC Two broadcast and the BBC HD broadcast.

  1. ^ 6.62 million on BBC Two, 506,000 on BBC HD.
  2. ^ 6.84 million on BBC Two, 836,000 on BBC HD.
  3. ^ 6.48 million on BBC Two, 903,000 on BBC HD.
  4. ^ 6.38 million on BBC Two, 925,000 on BBC HD.
  5. ^ 6.42 million on BBC Two, 912,000 on BBC HD.
  6. ^ 6.39 million on BBC Two, 893,000 on BBC HD.
  7. ^ 5.88 million on BBC Two, 989,000 on BBC HD.
  8. ^ 5.63 million on BBC Two, 902,000 on BBC HD.


  1. ^ "Top Gear Specials 2010 - Episode 2". 13 December 2010. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  2. ^ "Weekly Top 10 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board.
  3. ^ Sky TV listings for 25 July 2010.
  4. ^ "Mexico wants apology after "Top Gear" tirade". Reuters. 2 February 2011.
  5. ^ "BBC offers apology for Top Gear comments on Mexico". BBC. 3 February 2011.
  6. ^ "Top Gear's offensive stereotyping has gone too far, says Steve Coogan". London: Guardian. 5 February 2011. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  7. ^ "Mexico's luxury sports car welcomes 'tortilla' jibe". YouTube. Agence France-Presse. 17 February 2011. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  8. ^ "Top Gear to cut Mexico comments for US broadcast". BBC News. 11 February 2011.
  9. ^ Collins, Martyn (11 February 2011). "Mexican slurs removed from US Top Gear". AOL.
  10. ^ Quinn, Ben (7 February 2011). "Top Gear on the offensive again – now it's Albania's turn". The Guardian. London.