Though it was rested for the most recent series owing to current events, one feature of the BBC’s long running motoring show Top Gear that has always been popular with fans is their ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’ feature. At their test track - coincidentally, also the home of our Dunsfold Park venue in Surrey - celebrities have tried to prove their motoring salt taking on the infamous track in a variety of cars.
At Driving Experience, we’ve been having a little trawl of the archives to decipher and bring you our ranking of five of the best famous faces that have performed astoundingly - and not so - on the show’s iconic leaderboard…
Given his well documented love of an expensive set of wheels or two in the press over the years, it is little wonder that the Jamiroquai frontman would prove himself to be something of a speed demon, when he drove the Chevrolet Lacetti on the test track in the final episode of the show’s eleventh series.
And what a performance he turned in - he not only beat previous holder Simon Cowell’s record, he absolutely thrashed him, with a lap time of 1:45.8. And by the time the Lacetti was rested after the 14th series in 2010, this time still also put him considerably ahead of AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson, and Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud.
Hello, is it the wheel you’re looking for? Yes, the Motown legend and soul singer may be an icon of music, but one thing he’s probably hoping we’d forget was his coining of a catchphrase generated after he took on the Suzuki Liana back in an infamous episode of the show’s seventh series.
He clocked in a respectable lap time by all accounts - 1.50.0, putting him on level pegging with TV chefs Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay - but what’s largely remembered is that he came a cropper when one of the front wheels spontaneously came off, leading to then show host Jeremy Clarkson referring to such a moment on future series as ‘pulling a Lionel’.
The Friends star who made Joey Tribbiani a household name would of course go onto be one of the show’s hosts along with Rory Reid and Chris Harris in 2016. But four years previously, he took on the challenge of the Kia Cee’d (or Kia Cee-apostrophe-d as it was known on the show) in the eighteenth series.
And as well as beating comedian John Bishop, Blackadder and Mr Bean star Rowan Atkinson and Irish actor Michael Fassbender, he clocked up an absolutely staggering lap time of 1:42:1, which put him firmly at the top of the rankings until the Cee’d was rested after the nineteenth series in 2013.
For the twenty third series, the challenge was briefly renamed to ‘Star in A RallyCross Car’, to reflect the addition of a RallyCross route to the existing test track. It only lasted the one series, as it proved divisive with viewers (lest we forget, this was the series that Virgin Radio DJ, Chris Evans, was briefly a host).
Not to mention that some celebrities who’d previously done well on the regular ‘Reasonably Priced Car’ feature - here’s looking at you, Absolutely Fabulous star and comedienne Jennifer Saunders - performed appallingly.
One man who definitely didn’t though, was Gold medal winning Olympic boxer Anthony Joshua, who logged the leading lap time for this challenge of 1:52:6, comprehensively ahead of Professor Brian Cox and Homeland star Damian Lewis.
Just very occasionally, the rules of the Reasonably Priced Car challenge have become cause for a bit of dispute, as the former teen pop star now critically acclaimed actress Billie Piper discovered, when she took to the wheel on the Lacetti in the ninth series of the show.
Despite posting a lap time of 1:42:3 - putting her ahead of Shaun of the Dead actor Simon Pegg and Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis - The Stig declared that she’d failed to complete a lap properly, a decision that, after audience consultation, meant she avoided a three second penalty for failing to negotiate corners.
And not even an attempt on the show’s tenth series, later that same year, to overturn the decision by her Doctor Who co-star David Tennant when he took on the same challenge, could see it being shifted. Them’s the ‘brakes’!
Fancy seeing if you can beat some famous Top Gear lap times? Our Star in a Car Challenge package will get you behind the wheel of the very same Kia Cee’d used in the challenge at the show’s test track in Dunsfold Park for just £149! Click here to book yours today from available dates and gift vouchers with Driving Experience.