Best Top Gear Challenges

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Introduction

After my last list covering the best Grand Tour Episodes, why not look back on Clarkson, Hammond and May’s Top Gear run? This list will cover the best Top Gear challenges from 2002-2015. Top Gear blends cars with comedy and lunacy creating a show that still pulls in ratings today because of the impact of those three men. So without further ado, let’s get into some history before my latest TV list.

History

After initially being cancelled, Top Gear came back to the BBC in 2002 and after the first season, the Trinity of Clarkson, Hammond and May were formed. Their run on Top Gear lasted 22 seasons ending in 2015. This is when Clarkson’s BBC contract wasn’t renewed. Clarkson’s Top Gear set up a recognisable format: car review, lap time of said car, that week’s challenge, star in a reasonably priced car, the rest of the challenge, end. Simply put, in its prime Top Gear was a monstrous ratings machine with viewers still talking about jokes and segments from the Clarkson era today. So. let’s get into the best Top Gear Challenges from 2002-2015.

Best Challenges Of Top Gear

Number 10: The Motorhomes Challenge (S15, E4)

Kicking off the list of the best Top Gear challenges is Season 15’s Motorhomes Challenge. Tasked with turning a car into a motorhome, Hammond made a flimsy structure on the back of a Land Rover. Jeremy turned a car into a block of Japanese inspired flats. What did May do? He attached an airplane fuselage to the top of his car. The reason this challenge ranks so low? There really wasn’t much to it beyond going camping in Cornwall for the weekend. The episode does feature funny moments like May and Hammond shoving Clarkson’s motorhome off a cliff.

Number 9: Race across London (S10, E5)

Next up is the race that really popularized the four vehicle transport race And yes, I’m cheating slightly as this isn’t a traditional challenge but it’s a challenging race so I’m counting it. Here, the presenters have to get to London Airport as fast as possible. Hammond is on a bike, May is in a car, Clarkson is in a speedboat and the Stig is on public transport. Now, apart from all the normal shenanigans, the funniest thing in the challenge was the car coming last. Yep, it only took ten seasons for the presenters to ruin Top Gear. Also, a group of school children wishing the Stig good luck is just adorable. 

Number 8: Arctic Challenge (S9, E7)

Now what could this entail? Yep, it was Hammond vs May and Clarkson in a race to the North pole. Clarkson and May attempted to become the first people to drive to the North Pole. Hammond on the other hand had a pack of husky dogs and a husky trainer. On their way to the North Pole, Clarkson shoots a tin of spam, complains about camping and drives off while May is using the facilities. Spoilers, if it mattered, but the car won. Sorry Hammond.

Number 7: Amphibious Car Challenge (S8, E3)

Next up on the best Top Gear challenges is another classic: the Amphibious Car challenge. As usual there were hilarious results mostly as there are multiple amphibious car challenges. For this entry, I’m using the original where Clarkson put a motor on the end of a Toyota Hilux, Hammond put a motor in a Volkswagen campervan and May turned a Triumph Herald into a boat. Hammond’s van sank before it got going, Clarkson made it to the end but capsized and James made it as well but took an alternate route. Why? Because of a low bridge. 

Number 6: Cheap Italian Supercars (S7, E4)

Now here is one of my favourite Clarkson era Top Gear challenges. Again a simple premise, the presenters had to buy a second hand, mid-engine Italian supercar. What could go wrong? Well, Clarkson’s headlights didn’t work and Hammond didn’t actually buy a Ferrari. What about May? To quote Clarkson ‘James has bought an AA truck’. Not really but his second hand Lamborghini had a rubbish battery and had to be carried on an AA truck. Also, none of the presenters really won as all three cars broke down before the finish line.

Number 5: Cheap Lorries (S12, E1)

At the halfway point of the best Top Gear challenges is an underrated classic: the Cheap Lorries challenge. The presenters had to buy a lorry for £5000 and complete some simple lorry driving tasks. By that, I mean drifting a lorry, racing it around a test track and a quite sensible hill start. Also, this challenge sees the debut of another member of the Stig’s extended family: Rig Stig. Or just American Stig with a fake-tanned arm. Oh and May wins the challenge but nobody really cares about that.

Number 4: British Leyland (S10, E7)

Now, this might get controversial but this isn’t as great as some other challenges. Now, it’s absolutely riotous at times and also uses a nice concept. That concept is the presenters pay for their own cars and depending on challenge performances, they could earn back money. Nice idea and oh boy does it lead to comedy.

None of the presenters gets their money back for a reliability test; however, May eventually wins the challenge. How? Through the water challenge where each car was fitted with a snorkel and filled to the brim with water. Now that’s only slightly madder than the egg in the colander whilst driving down a cobbled road challenge. Man, I love this era.

Number 3: Ambulance Challenge (S22, E3)

Kicking off the top three best Top Gear challenges is the Ambulance Challenge. This isn’t the first time the presenters were tasked with improving emergency vehicles. Don’t worry we’ll get to the other one. Here, the three presenters are tasked with improving the standard ambulance and their choices vary wildly. May goes surprisingly morbid with a hearse, Clarkson goes with a Porsche and Hammond uses an old van. Funny moments include May’s back door breaking and Hammond firing a fake patient on a gurney through a window. To quote Clarkson ‘Hammond, you blithering idiot’.

Number 2: Police Car Challenge (S11, E1)

Narrowly missing out on the top spot on the best Top Gear challenges is the Police Car challenge. This is the other time the presenters had to improve an emergency vehicle this time the standard police Vauxhall Astra. And, oh boy does this get fun. Hammond turns up in a beach buggy style vehicle with lots of lights and a carpet with nails. Clarkson decides to fit Boudicca style wheel spikes which wouldn’t kill any civilians. And, May fits paint guns and an ice cream siren to his car. Utterly wonderful nonsense. Also, Richard claimed to have won by one point but there was no evidence as he ate the paper.

Number 1: Teenage Cars (S13, E2)

And the number one best Top Gear challenge is the teenage cars challenge. The presenters were given £1,500 to buy a car that a teenager would want. So, obviously, the presenters buy a Volvo, Hyundai and a Golf. This episode features so many great moments like May throwing a chair over a fence, Hammond crashing again and the stereo sabotage. So, because James was slowing his co-presenters down, they superglued his stereo and replaced his Bach with techno. This is especially brilliant in the get up your parents drive at 3am challenge. Here, Clarkson puts the stereo on causing the parents to wake up and May to crash the car. Utterly hilarious from start to finish.

Other TV Episode Lists

Only Fools And Horses; Bottom; I’m Alan Partridge; Father Ted; Phoenix Nights; The Royle Family; Brooklyn Nine Nine; Doctor Who; Taskmaster; Sherlock; What We Do In The Shadows; I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!; Futurama; The Grand Tour; The Witcher

So, those are our thoughts on the best challenges of Top Gear! But what do you think? Let us know by leaving a comment below!