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Ode to joys of very fast driving

One of the pleasures of British television as the nights get longer and darker is watching the gloriously laddish and unPC gentlemen on the BBC2 show TopGear, fronted by irrepressible Jeremy Clarkson, a sort of British version of P.J. O’Rourke. I am not quite sure how the great man continues to work in the Guardianista-infested corridors of power at the BBC, but maybe the bosses there feel they need at least someone like him to ‘appease Middle England’ or whatever.

Sunday night’s show had a number of good features, not least the bit when Jeremy and his two co-presenters drove a variety of BMW sports cars, very, very fast around the country lanes of the Isle of Man. Apart from some built-up areas, there are absolutely no speed limits on the island. Yep, not one.

At one point, one of the younger presenters – sorry, I forget his name – said this place was the motoring version of Fantasy Island. And Clarkson waxed lyrical about how the place was a ‘nanny-state free zone’.

Yes, I know it is just about cars. But somehow, I find it mighty encouraging that these sentiments get aired on prime-time British telly.

We rag on the BBC a lot in these parts, and rightly. Well, TopGear is a veritable oasis of petrol-head good sense. Clarkson for Prime Minister!

16 comments to Ode to joys of very fast driving

  • Perhaps I’m showing my American biases, but the remark “just about cars” doesn’t reflect the importance of the topic.

    One of the great nanny state interventions over here was the quite indefensible 55 mph speed limit inaugurated with much fanfare back in the 1970s. The nanny staters proclaimed it would save fuel — and later added that it saved lives as well.

    Well, it turned out that both those claims were bogus. The limit also turned out to be widely unpopular, leading to people buying radar detectors and CB radios in large quantities.

    The limit also pushed a lot of ordinary Americans into supporting political changes in a libertarian direction.

    Cars are important in American life. The people of our country have benefitted greatly from automotive transport. When the nanny staters ring in really nutty ideas with regard to cars, the daily impact on our lives is quite significant.

  • John J. Coupal

    The State Censor at the BBC was evidently asleep at the switch during that broadcast.

  • Yes, he is great and very libertarian, and he also writes a newspaper column somewhere on various topics other than car-related, I think (Sunday Times?).

  • Verity

    Oh, for heaven’s sake, Chuck Divine, the 55mph speed limit in the US was never about the nanny state. It was about a silly little peanut farmer and his ugly, small town wife (who “sat in” on cabinet meetings) trying to impose their ignorant values on America. The ‘nanny state’ has a programme. Jimeeeeeeeeeeee and Rosalind or whatever her made-up, trailer park trash name was, weren’t implementing a body of thought – except Jimmah’s programme of assigning White House staff parking lots and use of the tennis courts. The president of the United States was assigning parking spaces and tennis slots. They were a bossy, self-righteous pair of ignorant little lefties. But how how they have dug their little teeth in and clung on …

  • R. C. Dean

    They were a bossy, self-righteous pair of ignorant little lefties.

    And this is inconsistent with being facilitators of the nanny state, how, exactly?

  • Tim Haas

    Careful, Verity — as Instapundit recently found out after making a similar charge about Carter, the 55 limit was actually passed under Nixon as a temporary measure. Of course, it was Carter who made it permanent, so your point’s not totally off-base …

  • James Versluys


    you’ve put together the magical confluence of words: “a sort of British version of P.J. O’Rourke”. Wel, that’s enough for this yank: where do I find him in America?

    You being British and Clarkson being same, as a good, patriotic solipsistic American I can only assume you know him, probably personally, and can even point to the time he’s on BBCAmerica and can immediately point me to a way to see him, all in my own time zone.

    And when I wake up from this delusion maybe another Samizreader with cross-venue knowledge could point to something he’s written/performed/done that a benighted colonial would have access to. Any compassionate souls out there wishing to get a poor American in touch with his inner laddish Clarkson?

  • Jonathan L


    Top Gear is shown on BBC World so it may well be available where you live.

  • zack mollusc

    If you want to enjoy whizzing round the isle of man’s ‘no-speed limits’ roads then do so soon.
    The speed restrictions have been creeping outwards steadily for several years now, the last, tree-lined few miles into Ramsey used to be really exciting and is now a 30, the Glen Helen section (a twisty scenic blast up a valley(yes glen=valley, wow)) is now restricted. This is repeated everywhere.
    Added to this, there are a lot of suits in cars who have created a rush hour over most of the mountain from about 06:30.
    So…..get up early, and WATCH OUT FOR THE TRACTORS.

  • Paul

    I live in the Isle of Man and really enjoyed Sunday nights Top Gear programme.

    Whilst much of what JC said was true, he omitted to mention that the IOM Government closed a large section of the mountain road to allow Top Gear presenters to drive in the way they did.
    Although we have no top speed limit here, our road system is not of a race track nature, with lots of bends, narrow country lanes and so on, it’s not really possible to get above 100mph for much more than a couple of miles.
    We don’t have a single stretch of dual carriageway!

    I speak as a car driver (2 litre turbo) of course motor cyclists manage to do over 160mph in places, and, sadly, several die every year as a result of hitting walls and trees at these speeds.

    Were we to drive in the manner shown on the programme, whilst not breaking any speed limits, we would almost certainly be prosecuted for dangerous driving.

    It’s a great place to live though.

    (By the way Jeremy Clarkson married a Manx girl).

  • Simon Jester

    Should we warn the Americans that Jezza is somewhat anti-Yank? (I think this may be down to his perception that they’re responsible for PC)

  • Paul

    Well, well, well……I just had a visit from a friend who informed me that one of the Top Gear drivers was prosecuted during their recent trip for doing 46mph in a 30mph zone!
    More details if I get any 🙂

  • Dave O'Neill

    (I think this may be down to his perception that they’re responsible for PC)

    He has lots of other issues with the US. He usually starts a rant talking about Americas contribution to the automobile industry.

    Having had to once drive a Buick Century (thanks Avis) I never wish to again.

  • Dale Amon

    Paul: Clarkson didn’t marry just any Manx girl… if you were watching the documentary he did last night… she is the daughter of a Victoria Cross holder who just about singlehandedly held the British troops together for 5 days near Arnhem. A man who took out multiple Tiger tanks in a day with a crap spring launched grenade.

    He’s definitely in the right sort of family.

  • John F

    Clarkson about the Isle of Man on that programme said something like “and handguns are legal here.”
    And I thought, how ever did THAT comment get past the BBC apparat?

  • Bernie Greene

    I’ve been a fan of Clarkson since I first read his column in Car magazine in the mid ’80s. He has a certain wit, as so do many other writers, but his main appeal to me has always been his deliberate taunting of the PC Police.

    I doubt that he is in agreement with all the apparent underlying sentiments he expresses, “This car is guaranteed to snap knicker elastic at 50 paces”, but he is so very often deliciously on target.