As Top Gear prepares for a relaunch and former hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May prep a competitor show called The Grand Tour, Britain’s other car show has just run out of gas. Say goodbye to Fifth Gear.
Host Tiff Needell announced the news in a series of tweets earlier this week. He said the episode recorded last Friday will be the last one ever, and there is “no news of any more.” When asked if he was simply leaving the show, Needell clarified that the show itself would not be renewed, adding “#money.”
“After an unbroken run of 29 years presenting either Top Gear or Fifth Gear it feels weird to not have any filming dates in my diary,” Needell said in a third tweet. Needell, along with co-hosts Vicki Butler-Henderson and Quentin Willson, joined Fifth Gear after the original BBC version of Top Gear was cancelled in 2001. Top Gear was then relaunched by Clarkson, who also hosted the original version, and others in 2002. Top Gear had run in a much more staid form since 1977.
In a sense then, Fifth Gear was the prototype for Clarkson, Hammond, and May’s The Grand Tour: a car show with a cast full of unemployed Top Gear hosts trying to keep doing what they were doing. It aired on Britain’s ITV commercial television network, and became a somewhat different show from Top Gear. It never had the BBC show’s budget, and focused more on straightforward car reviews than jokes and stunts. The show was briefly cancelled in 2009, but revived.
Fifth Gear also boasted more driving talent than Top Gear. Needell, Butler-Henderson, and former host Jason Plato are all accomplished racing drivers, with Needell having raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That talent was on display as they thrashed cars in order to evaluate them. Clarkson, Hammond, and May never claimed to be professional drivers, relying on masked racer “The Stig” and guest stars to do anything above their ability levels.
It’s unclear where Needell, Butler-Henderson, and the rest of the Fifth Gear cast and crew will go from here, but hopefully they’ll land on their feet. Meanwhile, the new version of Top Gear helmed by Chris Evans is set to premiere next week, and The Grand Tour should appear on Amazon later this year.
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