Top Gear GTi (partially found footage of UK Horizons television series; 1997-2003)
Top Gear GTi was a British television show broadcast as a televised weekly automotive magazine between 1997 and 2003 on UK Horizons. Aired in a nearly-daily timeslot, the series was a mixture of low-budget new sequences filmed specifically for the show (involving former and then-current presenters for the main show such as Steve Berry and Tiff Needell), and re-aired older sequences from previous episodes of Top Gear. Each episode would attract around 50,000 viewers, compared to the parent show's typical audience of over 2 million. According to Alan Miller, a former director of the series, each episode was 46 minutes long, airing in an hour-long timeslot (with commercials), of which 23 minutes had to be original content exclusive to UKTV. Top Gear GTi was one of two programs created by UKTV based on the BBC's Top Gear intellectual property, the other being Top Gear: Ex-Files, a compilation show presented by Steve Berry which aired vintage Top Gear content.
Produced at Pebble Mill Studios in Birmingham, England, each episode of Top Gear GTi was produced on a weekly basis, meaning there was little time to plan sequences and the shoestring crew often had to resort to multitasking in order to ensure each episode was completed on time, as has been claimed and corroborated on the Pebble Mill website. This occasionally resulted in mishaps occurring on-set, such as an incident in a Honda Jazz and the accidental destruction of a film camera which had been attached to an Audi TT. However, this reduced production schedule did sometimes play to UKTV's advantage, as it often allowed the show to present segments on new cars before its parent show had the opportunity to do so, albeit with a much smaller audience share.
It seems that production on the show ceased in early 2002, after most of Top Gear's cast and crew departed for Channel 5 at the end of the previous year. Regardless, it continued to air until approximately July of 2003, when transmission of the show finally ceased. It is unknown precisely as to why the program stopped airing, although there are several probable reasons involving the outdated subject matter of the episodes, the broadcast aspect ratio of 4:3 and the fact that the 2002 format of Top Gear had begun airing on the channel.
Nonetheless, it appears that the program was still being advertised on UKTV's official website as late as 2005. Quite confusingly, it has been described as a successor to the 2002 format. It is perhaps likely that the person behind the website entry was not familiar with the show's premise.
Unfortunately, only around an hour of low-quality footage survives of Top Gear GTi, sourced from various episodes, and until April of 2020, no full episode recordings were available. Unlike its parent show, Top Gear, it is unlikely a majority of the episodes will ever resurface as UKTV is no longer wholly owned by the BBC, having split ownership of the corporation with Discovery in 2019. What compounds the inability to locate or identify footage is that due to the show airing on a digital service, there are no print records of any series or episodes, only a dubious unsourced Wikipedia page which is known to contain incorrect information about the show.
On April 25th, 2020, a full episode from 1998 was uploaded to YouTube by user gud6y.
- Digital Spy - UK Horizons TV guide for week ending 03/18/2001. Retrieved 19 Apr '20
- Pebble Mill - Top Gear GTi. Retrieved 19 Apr '20
- Des & Mick Online - Top Gear (1977-2001). Retrieved 19 Apr '20
- Migweb forum thread with biography of Vicki Butler-Henderson, stating she worked for UK Horizons from 2001-2002. Retrieved 19 Apr '20
- BBC News - Top Gear team leave for "5th Gear". Retrieved 19 Apr '20
- Pistonheads forum thread mentioning a 1999 episode reairing in 2002. Retrieved 19 Apr '20
- From publicly unavailable digital TV listings.
- Archive.org - UKTV website on Top Gear GTi. Retrieved 19 Apr '20
- Reddit - Top Gear Ultimate Pack v4.0. Retrieved 15 Apr '20
- BBC announces UKTV transaction with Discovery. Retrieved 19 Apr '20