Top Gear

The real history of the Top Gear Track

The BBC Top Gear track has been laid out on the main runway of the former WWII RAF and RCAF air base.   The perimeter roads used for Gambon and the finish line were laid over the route of original B-Roads that were ripped up when the airfield was constructed in 1941.  One cottage, Broadmead, was situated where the TopGear FollowThrough is now, but in 1941 the cottage was lifted in whole and winched half a mile on rollers to the otherside of the airfield.

  • 1938
Broadmead cottage original location in 1942 now at FollowThrough of Top Gear track

One other notable feature is the very wide apron alongside the Hammerhead turn at the end of the main runway.  This, and a similar feature at the East end of the main runway was used for the unique testing of the first VTOL jump jets – P.1127 Kestrel and the Harrier.  These aprons have tethering pads – grids set into the tarmac with underground vent areas upon which the Harrier was launched vertically whilst tethered to the ground by straps.   These tethering pads have been covered now with steel sheeting – but still evident when cars approach hammerhead.

The covered square tethered-VTO test pad adjacent to Hammerhead of the Top Gear track
Approach to Hammerhead
HS P.1127 tethered on the VTO test pads on Dunsfold runway
VTO Pad under construction 1960
VTO Pad, covered 2016
Eisnehower addressing the troops April 18th 1944. IWM collection.

The Top Gear studio is in a hanger immediately to the North of the Finish Straight, although it was originally located in the former BAe paintshop hanger.

Inside the Top Gear studio at Dunsfold
Top Gear Studio 2016

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2 Replies to “Top Gear”

  1. How did Top Gear begin at Dunsfold? Did the BBC contact Dunsfold and and agreement laid out in place? Did Top Gear book the airfield a certain number of months during the year for filming? Did the airfield continue to be in aviation use during filming?

  2. The green hangar in the lower photo was, for most of its life, the Experimental Hangar – in the early 1990’s the Flight Shed was moved there, from what was Production Bay 3, next to the Paint Shop.

    The red brick extension on the runway facing side was Flight Test, with computer rooms on the ground floor.

    Red brick extensions on the woods side of Experimental housed the Instrumentation and Photographic depts.

    I’m pretty sure Top Gear visited once a week – any of the small amount of light aircraft flying would be cancelled during filming.

    Mercedes also use ( or used, this was a while ago ) Dunsfold for teaching purchasers to try not to crash their SLR supercar, they have a small observation chalet on the eastern side of runway 07, sometime visible in TG shots, white with a big black window.

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