Behind the scenes of Top Gear

Ever wondered what goes on beneath the glossy veneer of Top Gear? Is it all supercar races, quail's eggs and topless wrestling, or is the shiny sheen we're shown a mask to cover up a world of old bangers and tantrums?

James May

The magical kingdom

Some places on this charred and desolate planet of ours maintain an aura of magic. Disneyland. Wembley Stadium. The Tower of London. Er, Dunsfold Park in Godalming. No, we're not being cheaply sarcastic (perish an iota of the very thought!). You see, Dunsfold Park in Godalming happens to be where Top Gear is filmed. It's an old airfield and, while distinctly lacking in obvious glamour, does boast the infamous track, plus a whole host of other 'treats'. Like the jumped-up portakabins that serve as an office, and the slightly fancier static-homes where the jovial crew hang out. So there you have it: after all these years of blowing them up it turns out they'd be lost without caravans...

If you need me, I'll be in make-up

As you'd expect from the Top Gear boys, the backstage area isn't exactly a throbbing cave of excess, glitter and spangles. The 'wardrobe' department consists of one clothes rack, some of which is left over from Dunsfold's days as a working airfield. The production team's fridge contains, at the last check, beer, ketchup, milk, a chocolate bar and some cheese. Livin' the dream, boys, livin' the dream. We’re not quite sure where the Stig lives, but we'd like to imagine he alone enjoys a hidden cavern of A-list lavishness, complete with bronzed models, Champagne fountains and all the issues of Auto Trader magazine, ever.

The wonder of backstage

By now you're hopefully realising that chez Top Gear isn't exactly Tinseltown. And yes, the green room's not exactly a star-coddling fantasy island. But – but! – it does contain some photos of old Stars in Reasonably Priced Cars, a wind-chill factor that'd freeze a fur-clad Siberian and an Emmy Award stuffed down the side of the couch. Further in the recesses of the portakabin lies the mythical stock cupboard, whose contents must never be divulged in order to maintain its air of delicious mystery. (It's probably got some paint cans in it, and a long-forgotten, half-empty bottle of Coke.)

Surprise me in rehearsals

Ah, rehearsals. The one aspect of any TV show which will forever be out of bounds to the viewers out there, generating only rumours and wonderment. Well, here's a treat for you, because we can officially reveal one fascinating fact about the Top Gear rehearsals. And that fact is this: often the rehearsals for the show look rather strikingly different, and we don't just mean that Jezza's in a different pair of stonewashed jeans. You see, the car due to be probed and prodded by the lads often hasn't arrived in time so they frequently have to resort to strolling around and withering the fenders off a stand-in instead. By the time the audience are let into the enormous hangar where the show's made the real thing's in place and awaiting the boys. Or someone's been fired.

Job security

James May may have the sort of hair that wouldn't look out of place in a slow motion shampoo ad, but he probably does feel like the forgotten man sometimes. And it's no wonder really. Not only is Captain Slow the least likely to set any landspeed records, not only does he rarely manage to get a word in edgeways when Clarkson's in full rant mode, but poor old James is often stopped by security. He can usually get past by claiming to be Richard's chauffeur, mind...

Friends of Dave