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Does Jeremy Clarkson actually drive?

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Top Gear has come under more criticism after claims were made that many of the scenes on the show starring Jeremy Clarkson were actually performed by a professional driver.

Jeremy Clarkson’s outspoken comments and motoring expertise have made him one of the BBC’s top earners, yet a source says that many of the scenes which involve Clarkson driving at high speeds are actually done by professional drivers.

The footage is then reportedly edited so that viewers are given the impression that Clarkson has been driving the vehicle throughout.

The source continues that a scene from April 2008 in which Clarkson test-drove a Lamborghini Murcielago, at more than 200mph around the Top Gear test track, was actually the driving of Formula 3 driver Aaron Scott.

Top Gear is one of the most successful formats on the BBC, netting Clarkson a reported £1million a year in salary.  This is topped up by around £800,000 from merchandising and overseas sales of the Top Gear brand, to which he owns the rights with Andy Wilman.

However, the well-placed source, who has worked at the series for more than five years, has made the damaging claim that professional racers were in the driving seat for ‘most of the time’ on complicated stunts and filming sequences.

Other sources with close ties to the world’s most popular motoring show, said professional drivers were drafted in to make the programme more dramatic, as the presenters weren’t able to perform the stunts themselves.

When a source was asked if Clarkson would be able to perform any of the stunts, he replied: “Well, he’s not a pro, is he? There are limitations with filming. It’s all done on a pretty tight schedule and they need to get the right shots quickly, which is why they use pros because they can do the stunts in one take.”

A second source said: “Top Gear relies on professional racing drivers a lot more than the show would suggest. I would say 80% of the driving on the show is done by pros.  The fact is the presenters on Top Gear are presenters. They’re not professional drivers, so why would you get them to do a job that an expert can do better, faster and in one take?”

A spokesperson for the BBC show released a statement to clarify their position.

The statement, which the BBC demanded be printed in full, said: “When Jeremy, James and Richard are seen driving on the show, it is them driving, but on occasion, the crew may need to go back and get pick-up shots.

“As Jeremy wrote in his column in The Sunday Times in October 2007, ‘On Top Gear I whiz about for the camera until I have a feel for the car. Then I disappear into a hut for an hour or so to corral my thoughts into a workable script. And how do we occupy the expensive film crew while I’m doing that? Stand them down? Or put a researcher in the car and have him slither about until I’m ready to come back?’”

By Ben Malkin

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