The last Top the world

General Bunk
Darren Leslie waited six, maybe seven years to attend a filming of Top Gear. As it turned out, he was present at the last Top the world.

Six years was all it took. Or was it seven? To be honest, it might have been more. The years seem to slide past rather too quickly for my liking these days (you and me both - ed.). But the timing was spot on, unintentionally of course. Three tickets to watch the filming of Top Gear. Fantastic.

My wife had been applying every series for quite some time, and finally her patience had paid off. Along with my brother, Wednesday 4 March 2015 was to be the day we saw Top Gear. Using classic suspense thriller tactics, little did we know the events that would unfold later in the week.

Google Maps was spot on with its timing, getting us to Dunsfold with time to spare, even with me taking a couple of wrong turns. We were invited to get there for the stated arrival time of 1:45pm. With a wait in the queue where the wrist bands are handed out, a spot of lunch in the back of the Volkswagen Sharan and a reasonably casual stroll to the muster point, we had five minutes or so to hang around.

Or so we thought. As time went on, and a few more people arrived, it became clear that the 1:45 time wasn’t as rigidly set in stone as you might think. By the time we got the nod to move on to the next assembly point (by nod I actually mean following other people, hoping they weren’t all heading for the loos) it was nearer 2pm.

Eagle Low Drag GT

A quick brief by a member of the Top Gear crew and we were all heading for the famous hanger. A look around at the cars already in position was followed by another briefing by the floor manager and then the director, culminating with Jeremy coming out with what I guess would be a well-used introduction on ‘strobing’ with the HD cameras.

Finally, James and Richard appeared to say hello, by which time it wasn't too far off 3pm before filming actually got started.

There are other accounts on the interweb of Top Gear filming where the ‘strobing’ point has been mentioned before. If you have a stripy top, then the HD camera might well go into meltdown. Jeremy suggests it’s just an excuse to move ugly people out of shot.

I’ll also mention that I saw no evidence of moving pretty girls to the front. If you had a certain wrist band, you could go behind the stage for the news segment. Another colour band, and it’s your turn for Star in a Reasonably Priced Car (SIARPC). If there are good looking girls in shot, it’s because they purposely got in shot, usually by standing in front of others.

James May at filming of last ever Top Gear

Did I get myself on telly? Oh yes!

The filming format was straight forward. The order you see on telly is the order in which they film. Simple. It makes the experience for the audience all the better. You know what’s going on and it makes the interactions more natural. That said, if there was s a re-take to do, you still needed to laugh. Not that there were many re-takes. I was very impressed by the way Jeremy, James and Richard could all reel off their lines, and if needs be, re-take from any point that was suitable.

The hanger - a lot smaller than I thought it would be - was awash with screens allowing you to watch the pre-recorded bits, while the presenters disappear off into the technical area, where the director sits and watches the recording.

All in all, it took around three hours to record. The news and SIARPC sections are roughly half an hour each, so a lot was cut out. Most of it is random stuff, along with - unsurprisingly - a fair amount of swearing. Jeremy is very good at swearing.

And then they went.

On the set of the last ever Top Gear

They hadn’t finished filming for the series and were short of material, so they were off to Yorkshire straight after filming had ended. We all know what happened the day after...

An interesting comment from Jeremy suggested that the producer hadn’t turned up, or his whereabouts were unknown. Was it the same producer involved in the ‘fracas’ and had it had any bearing on the incident? Who knows.

Another comment during our first briefing standing in the car park was a little strange. ‘We’re trying something a little different today. It will involve you (as in the audience) more than in any previous program’. Or words to that effect. Standard speech to get us involved, as nothing in particular happened to involve the audience as far as I could tell. Maybe I should just put my tin foil hat to one side.

It was certainly a good experience seeing how it all went together. But we all agreed that we probably wouldn’t do it again, not that we’d ever get the chance. You spent a great deal of time watching the screens for what’s going on. If you’re not at the front, you didn't get to see much. So you may well have been sat at home!

We’ll miss Top Gear. So long and thanks for the good times. Be interesting to see what Chris Evans does with the format...