Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from an Anglotopia reader named Cheylene Thongkham who had the opportunity to attend a Top Gear taping. She wrote about is on her blog and we’ve republished it with her permission. Check out her Girl in London blog here.
On July 6th, I was lucky enough to attend the filming of Top Gear’s 3rd episode in series 17. I had gotten the tickets as a complete surprise after entering my name in a giant pool of people several months earlier. The show is filmed at the Dunsfold Aerodome, located about 20 minutes outside of Guildford, in Surrey. Since we didn’t have a car (and can’t drive on the wrong side of the road anyway), we took a train to Guildford, followed by a taxi to Dunsfold.
Our decision to take a taxi over a car turned out to be a lucky one because there was a 1/4 mile long queue of cars lined up at the entrance of the airfield. We asked the driver to drop us off and we proceeded to walk to the front of the gate, fully expecting to show our tickets and simply be let in. This was not so. It turns out that although the gates open at 1:30, spaces are given away on a first come, first serve basis and there was not a lot of space by the time we got there. While we waited anxiously at the gate we watched VIP guests from Red Bull racing and Top Gear China stroll through. Alas, just as I was on the cusp of a nervous breakdown we were given our Top Gear entrance bracelets and proceeded to the warehouse in which the show is filmed.
At the end of the news, James attempted to introduce his film but flubbed his lines a few times and through out some f-bombs along the way. He tested the new Range Rover in Las Vegas and midway through the video everyone in the audience heard a *THUD*, then the video stopped and the warehouse doors opened. As it turned out, an audience members fainted and required medical attention. He ended up recovering quickly though and the film continued to play.
As the film ended the crew began setup for the interview section. The guest for this episode was Sebastian Vettel, a Formula 1 driver from Germany. I, sadly, know pretty much nothing about F1 but Sebastian was entertaining an mildly attractive so I didn’t mind. Like the news, the interview extended to the 20 minute mark before it ended and we commenced for a tea break. Outside, some of the presenters mingled with the audience and more time was given to explore the set and take pictures.
Upon regrouping, we viewed the final film by Jezza and Hammond on a 7000 GBP Nissan and the types of used cars you could get for that money. If I recall correctly, Jezza bought a 9 year old Mercedes CL-something and Hammond had a 14 year old BMW 850. They brought the actual cars into the studio and talked about them for their last segment. Jeremy ended with his famous “on that bombshell” bit and that marked the end of the show.
Afterwards, Jeremy recorded the voice intro which is played on top of the theme song. He recorded two versions – one funny one (the one that’s played here in England), and one serious one (I suspect this is for the overseas audience). He also recorded a separate final scene for BBC’s international channel, and that was the end of the day.
At the end of the day, we witnessed 4 hours of filming and had about 30 minutes to explore the set. Considering tickets to Top Gear (and any other BBC show) are free, this was an incredible value and definitely a once in a lifetime experience. I didn’t get to meet any of the presenters and I never got to the front row during any of the segments, but it was still great to be there and see the show from behind the scenes.