Fifth Gear

Fifth Gear is a British motoring television magazine series. It was originally broadcast on Channel 5 from 2002 to 2011, afterwards moving to Discovery Channel in 2012, and then in 2015 to History, with repeats on ITV4.[1] Since its return in 2018, it has been broadcast on Quest. The show is currently presented by Vicki Butler-Henderson, Jonny Smith and Jason Plato.[2] Its former presenters include former racing driver Tiff Needell.

Fifth Gear
Former title card from (2005–2016)
Directed byPhil Hawkins
Mark McQueen
Presented byTiff Needell
Vicki Butler-Henderson
Tom Ford
Adrian Simpson
Quentin Willson
Jason Plato
Jonny Smith
Theme music composerJohn F Calone
Opening theme"Prize Fight"
Composer(s)David Lowe
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series28
No. of episodes265 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Richard Pearson
Producer(s)Jim McMullan
Production location(s)Ace Cafe (2006–08)
Millbrook Proving Ground (2008–09)
Various (2010–15)
Editor(s)Mike Bloore
Mike Brown
Martin Dowell
James Hay
Steve Killick
Leigh Nicholls
Tony Quinsee-Jover
Peter Shannon
Running time30 minutes (2002–05, 2010–11)
45 minutes (2005)
60 minutes (2006–09, 2012–15, 2018–)
Production company(s)North One
Original networkChannel 5 (2002–11)
Discovery (2012–14)
History (2015)
Quest (2018–present)
Picture format16:9
Audio formatStereo
Original release8 April 2002 
External links

Fifth Gear was first broadcast on 8 April 2002 as 5th Gear, and as a continuation of the original incarnation of the BBC show Top Gear, which was cancelled in 2001. Top Gear was relaunched later that year; Channel 5 originally wanted to carry on using the Top Gear name, but the BBC refused as it still operated the Top Gear magazine. Several of Top Gear's ex-presenters, including Quentin Willson, Tiff Needell, and Vicki Butler-Henderson, were hired by Channel 5 to present the series.[3][4] The show's name was restyled as Fifth Gear in 2005. Needell announced the show's second cancellation on 24 May 2016.[5] On 14 June 2018, Needell announced on his official Twitter account that he had been doing some filming work for a new series of Fifth Gear which would air in September on Quest.[6][7]

Repeats of Fifth Gear also started being broadcast on UKTV channel Dave in April 2008 and later on Discovery Turbo, with early episodes of the show being streamed '24/7' via the British feed of Pluto TV in 2019. [8]

Show format

The first seven series consisted of a 23-minute programme, not including approximately 7 minutes of adverts.[9] The eighth series returned in the autumn of 2005 in a longer format of 45 minutes, and the ninth series (which went to a 13-week run) was increased to a one-hour airtime slot (approximately 46 minutes excluding adverts). For series 17, the show has reverted to the original format of 23 minutes, which including adverts takes the show to half an hour. In Series 21, the show reverted to the previous one-hour airtime slot.


At the start of series 10, the show introduced between-feature links filmed at the Ace Cafe in London. In previous series, these links were filmed at the production company offices in Birmingham. Originally produced by Chrysalis Television, the Birmingham offices were situated on the top floor of the headquarters of 100.7 Heart FM (also, at that time, a Chrysalis Radio company), near Birmingham's Five Ways area. The team moved out when Chrysalis sold its television division to All3Media in September 2003 (the section which later produced Fifth Gear is now known as North One Television, part of the All3Media group).

In series 14, a location change from the Ace Cafe meant link sequences were filmed instead at the Millbrook Proving Ground, along with some of the vehicle testing features.

Presenter line-up

Needell has appeared in all episodes with Butler-Henderson in most. Plato, who was previously on Driven, gradually replaced Simpson.

Short-lived stints

In 2005, the show's producer, Jon Bentley, also became a part-time presenter for a year before he went back to being solely the producer. Tim Lovejoy was hired in September 2006 for series 9 and 10. In August 2008, Tim Shaw became a presenter on the show for series 14. In October 2010, Ben Collins, formerly The Stig on BBC's Top Gear, came to Fifth Gear for series 18.[10]


Fifth Gear claimed to be 'world renowned' for its 'infamous' shoot-outs, between similarly priced, similarly powerful cars, or, recently, cars versus bikes. These shoot outs took place at the Anglesey Circuit on the Isle of Anglesey close to Aberffraw. During the refurbishment of Anglesey, shoot-outs were switched to Castle Combe Circuit.

2002 (Series 1 and 2)

2003 (Series 3 and 4)

2004 (Series 5 and 6)

2005 (Series 7 and 8)

2006 (Series 9 and 10)

2007 (Series 11 and 12)

2008 (Series 13)

2009 (Series 14)

2010 (Series 17)

2010 (Series 18)

2011 (Series 19)

2011 (Series 20)

  • Week 1: The presenters conduct a 120 mph (190 km/h) crash test. They also compare two of the most powerful Jaguars ever made. They also take a look at the Range Rover Evoque.
  • Week 2: Tiff chats to British rally driver Mark Higgins. The presenters take a look at a new Mercedes convertible. Vicki races a new Ford Mustang around Le Mans. Jonny begins a journey of a lifetime in a very unlikely car.
  • Week 3: Tiff test drives the Lamborghini's new Aventador hypercar. Vicki makes her way through Italy's snowy mountain roads in Mini's brand new coupe. Jonny finds out about vehicle wrapping.
  • Week 4: Vicki makes her way to Italy to drive a new convertible version of the Ferrari 458. Tiff takes part in a shootout between two ultra-powerful coupes. The team test drive the most economical car available.
  • Week 5: Tiff takes a look at the last ever Porsche 911. Vicki travels to Portugal where she takes on the role of a beach lifeguard in a brand new VW pick-up truck. Jonny attempts to make Renault's battery powered car go as far as possible on one charge.
  • Week 6: Jonny finds the best driving road in the world. Vicki takes the new VW Amarok pick-up for a test drive on a beach in Portugal. The driving skills of Roy Keane are tested by Tiff at the Nürburgring. The presenters take a look at the new Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet.
  • Week 7: Tiff takes a drive through France's Champagne region in Aston Martin's newest convertible. Vicki is the umpire in a race between two England cricket stars. Jonny takes a look at two off-road bargains to help see us through the winter.
  • Week 8: The presenters get the chance to drive the latest version of the Jeep. Cricket legend Jimmy Anderson is put through his paces around the gruelling Nürburgring race track by Tiff.
  • Week 9: Vicki drives through the Pyrenees in the new BMW M5. Jonny travels to Barcelona to take a look at the Seat's new city car. Tiff is joined by rally driver Mark Higgins to test drive Renault's new hatchback.
  • Week 10: Jonny takes a look at some exciting cars at the LA Auto Show. Ian Botham is taught how to drive around the legendary Nürburgring racing track. Vicki learns some evasive driving techniques from the police who chauffeur the Royal Family.

2012 (Series 21)

  • Week 1: Tiff tests the Porsche 911 Carrera S. Jonny Smith gets a high-speed truck rally driving lesson and the team also test a Volkswagen Beetle. Jason invites Suzi Perry to test, if you tweak ECU, change tyres etc. have better time. Vicki is on a mission to refill during driving.
  • Week 2: Jason and Tiff test Mercedes SLS AMG against an Aston Martin, a Jaguar and a Bentley. Johnny goes to Sweden to drive new Audi A1 quattro with Stig Blomqvist.
  • Week 3: Vicki tests the dynamic performance management system in the Lotus Exige S against ex-Lotus F1 driver Karun Chandhok. Tiff conducts an investigation into the advantages of electronic stability control (ESC) and Jonny Smith recommends some used cars with ESC fitted as standard. Team test of the Suzuki Swift Sport. Jonny tests sat-navs at three price levels. Vicki attends the Monaco Motor Show and drives the Fisker Karma on the Grand Prix track as well as a Hunton XRS 43 powerboat.
  • Week 4: Tiff takes to the Italian F1 circuit in the hope of qualifying for the Lamborghini Series, and the team reports whether different types of petrol affect a car's performance
  • Week 5: Team test: Mini Cooper convertible. Tiff tries drifting with new Bentley Continental GT. Vicki goes to Gordon Murray's home to see his history of designing and presents his first electric car, the T27. Jason goes to Iceland to drive formula off-road with 2009 champion Hafsteinn Thorvaldsson. Jonny learns how to wash a Rolls-Royce Ghost EWB.
  • Week 6: Tiff celebrates the Ferrari F40's 25th birthday, Jason pits the Mercedes C63 AMG Black Series against its BMW rival and Vicki drives a new Land Rover.
  • Week 7: Jonny takes a behind-the-scenes look at the Isle of Man TT motorcycle race with John McGuinness, and the Subaru BRZ sports car is tested around the circuit. Tiff searches for his top three car racing games, Vicki tests the Renault Twizy, and the team test the Ford Focus Ecoboost 1.0 to see if it's more powerful than the 1.6 version.
  • Week 8: Jonny examines the new Ferrari California, while Vicki explores the world of motorbike speedway in Denmark.
  • Week 9: Jonny heads to Sweden for an American car show, Tiff tests the KTM X-Bow R trackday car, Jason explores affordable ways to upgrade a car stereo for better sound, and Vicki relives her karting memories with a race.

2013 (Series 22)

  • Week 1: Vicki in the new Porsche Boxster S against a jet plane, Tiff tests the difference between used and new tyres. Jonny goes to Trollstigen to test Ford Focus ST. Jason tests Audi S8.
  • Week 2: Jason tests the brand new Pagani Huayra, Tiff tests the new Porsche 911 cabriolet to find out if it's quicker than the Audi R8 Spyder. Vicki tests a super car off roader. Johny reveals the three classic cars that could be a better investment than gold.
  • Week 3: Vicki in the brand new Porsche Panamera GTS against the all-new Mercedes CLS 63, both cars are tested to the limit. Jason tests a brand new supercar made in the Netherlands. Johny spends a night in the Swiss alps to demonstrate how your car can keep you alive. Tiff tests the Frontline MG LE50.
  • Week 4: Tiff and rally driver Kris Meeke find the ultimate hot hatch (VW Golf GTI vs Renault Sport Megane vs Ford Focus ST vs Astra VXR), Vicki is in Germany to test the Audi RS 4, Jonny finds out how the world's most powerful simulator has become F1's secret weapon. Jason reveals the ultimate secondhand sports car you can buy on a budget.
  • Week 5: Jonny jumps into the world of professional drifting, the team test the Audi S7 to the extreme, Vicki takes part in a world record attempt: the largest parade of Ferraris, Tiff tests filling tyres with nitrogen and Jason tests the new Mercedes SL.
  • Week 6: Vicki races rally driver Andreas Mikkelsen in three speed challenges, Jason tests the new BMW M6, Tiff finds out what the ultimate small car is and Jonny shows the essential DIY skills that will allow you to save money.
  • Week 7: Vicki tests the new Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, Jonny attempts to become the fastest drag race passenger, Tiff and Jason race each other in a dog fight find to find out which of the latest entry level hot hatches is the greatest, and the team test the latest car safety systems.
  • Week 8: Vicki visits Pininfarina headquarters in Italy and tests the Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale, Jonny tests the modern-day Morgan three-wheeler, while Jason looks for the best Bluetooth gadget to use while driving together with Suzi Perry.
  • Week 9: Tiff takes on Sabine Schmitz in a battle between the Porsche 911 and the BMW M6, Jason tests the new Morgan Plus 8, Vicki goes off-road with the latest version of the Range Rover Evoque and Jonny is in the lab to test fuel saving gadgets.

2013 (Series 23)

  • Week 1: Tiff and Jason test the Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG, the Audi R8 V10 Spyder and the Maserati GranCabrio to the limit to find out which is the best super cabrio on the market, the team test the new Range Rover Autobiography, Vicki races the BMW M135i against world super bike rider Chaz Davies on the BMW HP4 and Jonny drives 1000 km in Europe's cheapest car, the Dacia Sandero.
  • Week 2: Vicki and Tiff go head to head with the Renault Sport Megane 265 vs the Toyota GT86. Jason turns car doctor for the day as he tries to bring a tired engine back to full health. Jonny tests the Jaguar F-Type in Spain. The team test the Mazda6.
  • Week 3: Tiff tests the McLaren 12C Spider, Jonny investigates the secret world of crash testing, the team test the brand new Volkswagen Golf, Jason and Finnish double world champion rally driver Marcus Grönholm pitch two brand new Porsche Caymans head to head in an automatic vs manual gearbox battle.
  • Week 4: Tiff is in Los Angeles to reveal the latest petrol head craze: "Restomodding" and tests Magnus Walker's 1972 Porsche 911 STR, an Icon Toyota Land Cruiser FJ, and a Singer Porsche 911, Jason tests the new Aston Martin Vanquish with Brazilian racing driver Bruno Senna, Vicki tests the latest safety gadgets: dashboard cameras and the team test the brand new Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
  • Week 5: Jason and Tiff test three brand new hot hatches: the Renault Sport Clio 200, the Peugeot 208 GTi and the Ford Fiesta ST, Vicki tests the new Donkervoort D8 GTO, the team test the brand new Jaguar XF Sportbreak, Jonny is at Bentley's HQ and tests the Bentley Mulsanne.
  • Week 6: Tiff and Sabine Schmitz test the Caterham 7 Supersport R, the Morgan three-wheeler and the Ariel Atom 3.5. Jason tests the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG, Vicki competes in a track day with a Peugeot 205 GTi and the team test the new Hyundai Veloster Turbo.

Team Test

In Series 19, a new segment was introduced, called the Team Test. This is where Tiff, Jason, Jonny and Vicki all did a group test on an important new car. They all scored the car out of 10, and added their scores together to get the score for the car.

2009 cancellation and return

On 18 October 2009, the Mail Online reported that the show had been cancelled.[11] Up to then there had been no official announcement or confirmation. Although, Channel 5 executives had been quoted as saying, "Five is proud of Fifth Gear's contribution to the channel but after 16 series, feels it's time to try something new."[12]

On 27 November 2009, Jeremy Clarkson mentioned on The Chris Moyles Show that it was a shame that Fifth Gear had been cancelled.

In late December 2009, however, presenter Jonny Smith suggested via Twitter that the show could return for another series early in 2010.[13] On 8 January 2010, Smith tweeted: "Fifth Gear IS coming back!", and in his next tweet, he said "Wow, such quick responses! Basically, we all know there's room for two car TV shows. FG will simply be a reviews based visual car magazine." Tiff Needell also tweeted saying "Home to the news that, after much negotiating Fifth Gear looks like it will after all be returning to your screens sometime in the Spring!" and also hinted the show will have a new format in his next tweet "Glad so many of you are delighted by the Fifth Gear news — and, yes the format will be moving away from the stupid ... but still having fun!"[14]

On 17 January 2010, Vicki Butler-Henderson and Tiff Needell confirmed at the Autosport International Show that Fifth Gear will be returning in Spring 2010. The pair featured a car shootout in Fifth Gear style in the live arena show and said several times to the audience that the show would be back on air in Spring and to ignore the cancellation rumours.[15]

The series started on 3 June 2010. The series ran for 10 episodes and the first one had Lewis Hamilton as a guest. On 1 October 2010, it was announced that Ben Collins (who played the original White Stig on Top Gear) would join the show.[10]

Second cancellation and return

On 14 May 2016, Tiff Needell announced the cancellation of Fifth Gear following its last episode repeat airing on ITV4.[16] Following a three year hiatus, Needell announced the show's return on 14 June 2018, having started filming for a new series to be aired in September 2018 on the Discovery-operated Quest TV channel.[17]


The Fifth Gear Awards

Each year for a few series, the programme gives out various awards:





Comparison with Top Gear

Fifth Gear is a continuation of the original BBC Top Gear. At its launch, Fifth Gear had the same format and topics as Top Gear, also with long-time Top Gear presenters Needell and Willson, as well as Butler-Henderson and Simpson.[18] The Top Gear reboot however was a drastically different format compared to Fifth Gear and the old Top Gear. The new Top Gear has a strong focus on comedy and general entertainment by comparison.[19] Fifth Gear has been referenced in Top Gear, such as in series 10 after a barn fire damaged Top Gear property, Jeremy Clarkson satirically claimed that Fifth Gear "burned our furniture."[20]


During recording for Series 12, Episode 7,[21] two accidents took place while on set.

  • On 27 September 2007,[22] Tom Ford broke his foot and several toes[23] when he crashed a modified Bedford Rascal van. Tom Ford was recording a piece about drifting. He and co-host Jonny Smith were racing each other in a D1 Grand Prix style around a private track. After winning the event, Ford was performing a victory drift that went wrong, put his van (painted to resemble the A-Team GMC Van) up on two wheels and into a safety barrier.
  • On 9 October 2007,[24] BTCC driver Jason Plato suffered multiple burns when a Caparo T1 he was driving at Bruntingthorpe proving ground burst into flames.[25] The car, capable of 200 mph (320 km/h), burst into flames at an estimated 150 mph (240 km/h). Plato said: "There was a slight loss of power, I looked in the mirror and saw some smoke, there was a slight smell of oil and then suddenly there was this intense heat. The car spontaneously erupted into a ball of flames and I was sat in the middle of a fireball." The presenter was initially taken to Market Harborough and District Hospital by former BTCC driver Phil Bennett before being treated at Kettering General Hospital. He later received specialist burns treatment at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. The incident was mentioned during Top Gear's discussion of the Caparo T1 the next year.

Both accidents were shown on the episode.

International airings

Fifth Gear has been broadcast on the Speed Channel in the United States for a short period in 2004 to early 2007. It began airing on Velocity on Wednesdays after Wheeler Dealers as of 3 October 2012.

Fifth Gear began broadcasting in Australia in November 2009, on Seven Network's free-to-air digital channel 7mate (previously shown on 7Two).

Fifth Gear started Canadian broadcast on Discovery Channel Canada in 2008, beginning with 2006 series. This version ran in half-hour format.

Fifth Gear was also telecasted in Asia-Pacific in Discovery Turbo. It aired the 60 minute version.

See also


  1. "Fifth Gear Finds New Home". Broadcast Now. Broadcast Now. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  2. Karr, Anthony. "Fifth Gear Will Be Back In September". Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  3. Timms, Dominic (15 November 2001). "Top Gear drives over to C5". Broadcast. Emap Media.
  4. "Top Gear team switch lanes". BBC News Online. 15 November 2001.
  5. "Tiff Needell's "Fifth Gear" Has Been Cancelled". Road & Track. 24 May 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  6. {{Cite web|url=
  7. "Fifth Gear will return to TV in September". 13 September 2018.
  9. Gallagher, William (9 April 2002). "Top Gear finds a new home". BBC News Online.
  10. Sweney, Mark (10 January 2010). "'The Stig' joins Channel 5's Fifth Gear". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 October 2010.
  11. Goslett, Miles (18 October 2009). "Vicki's career stalls as Five's Fifth Gear is driven off television". Mail Online. Associated Newspapers. Retrieved 7 January 2010. Fifth Gear host Vicki Butler-Henderson has been forced into the pits, with TV bosses confirming the show [Fifth Gear] has been axed.
  12. "Fifth Gear cancelled — CONFIRMED". 19 October 2009.
  13. "Fifth Gear looks set for 2010 comeback". 29 December 2009.
  14. "Breaking news: Fifth Gear is coming back". 8 January 2010.
  15. "Fifth Gear: Web TV — Behind the Scenes at Autosport International". 26 January 2010.
  16. Perkins, Chris (24 May 2016). "Tiff Needell's "Fifth Gear" Has Been Cancelled". Road & Track. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  17. "Fifth Gear returns after multi-year hiatus". Autoblog. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  18. "Top Gear finds a new home". 9 April 2002. Retrieved 27 April 2019 via
  19. "Top Gear Versus Fifth Gear: Which British Car Show Is Better? —". Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  20. "Top Gear burns! Props destroyed". Autoblog. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  21. Fifth Gear: Behind the scenes Archived 17 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 28 May 2008
  22. "Fifth Gear presenter crashes while drifting van". Motor Authority. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  23. Fifth Gear star Tom Ford hurt in crash News — Accessed 10 October 2007
  24. "Jason Plato injured when Caparo T1 bursts into flames at 150 mph". Autoblog. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  25. Plato injured as Caparo T1 bursts into flames Archived 11 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine News — Accessed 10 October 2007
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