Not unlike many of you here, I grew up watching Top Gear. And I absolutely loved it. It was, for a period of time, my favourite thing on telly and Jeremy Clarkson was, for a period of time, my favourite person...in the world.
I still remember that day. I was sitting with my parents at a café, bored out of my little 8 year old mind and melting crayons on the outdoor heaters, when a black Lotus Exige hurtled past me rather recklessly. As soon as I got home, I stoked some coal, wound up the crank of my ancient HP laptop, waited several years for Google to be invented, and then stumbled across Top Gear's "review" of the Lotus Exige. There was tyre smoke, there was a funny shouty man, and there was a FUCKING HELICOPTER. I was hooked.
Pre-pubescent me did not give a toss about the improved braking performance afforded by silicon carbide coated, carbon ceramic brakes. What pre-pubescent me did care about, was that they cost more than a bag of Kanye West's toenail clippings, and that silicon was what went in breast (K)implants. To a boy that had just hit double digits, the best car in the world was the fastest around the Top Gear Test Track. To a boy that had just hit double digits, the Porsche 911 was rubbish because it had an engine in the back and that, according to Clarkson, was just wrong. And to a boy that had just hit double digits, whatever Clarkson said was law. He was, in my pre-pubescent eyes, the automotive Pope.
Top Gear was to cars what House was to doctors. Doctor House made us to see the sexy side of lupus, just as Jeremy Clarkson made us lust after depreciating hunks of exotic Italian unreliability. I'm not saying that lupus IS sexy, or that cars AREN'T sexy, because I really don't want lupus, and I really really do want a Ferrari. All I am saying is that House and Top Gear have done wonders to make the (otherwise) ignorant viewer more interested and entertained in things that we never realised were so interesting or entertaining.
Season 22 was, perhaps, the best and most exciting rendition of our favourite car show. It was quintessential Top Gear, like the new M3 - the best of where we've come from. Sure, nearly 8 years down the line, I care a little less now about 0-60 times and tyre smoke than I did before. Sure, I now think the Porsche 911 is, and always has been, a triumph of engineering and will continue to be one of the most significant cars ever made. And sure, now that Chris Harris has emerged from the papal conclave of my mind as the new Holy Father, Clarkson's word isn't law anymore. But Top Gear is Top Gear: beautifully shot, fantastically entertaining, wonderfully witty, and a damn good place to park an hour of your time on a Sunday evening.
So unsurprisingly, I was rather miffed when I heard that Jeremy Clarkson would lose his job and that the Top Gear that we know and love would never be the same again. In fact, to say I was rather miffed would be the grossest understatement...in the world.
I was genuinely distraught. The whole of motordom was genuinely distraught. It was like that first May day in 1994 all over again. Then I realised that theFerrari theFerrari, the 918 Spyder, and the P1 would never lap the track in the hands of the Stig. When I realised that we would never know which of the current crop of superduperhyper cars was the best (in schoolboy terms of course), I had a stroke. Fortunately, I got better.
Clarkson's sacking was one low blow that, according to the twiterrings of the Hamster himself, saw the end of a truly amazing era arrive in one fell swoop. Not unlike you dear reader, I never wanted to see any member of the Top Gear trinity leave the show. I did not want this to be the end of an era. I never wanted the era to end, but Jeremy....
Clarkson had to go. No doubt about it. It is downright negligent for any employer of any company to allow any one of his (or her, because gender equality) employees to physically assault another employee. Even if you do work for a Mexican drug cartel, you're still not allowed to punch your coworker in the face because he used up all the salsa. It doesn't matter if you're the best Jihadist in the world, ISIS will still tell you to sod off if you attack even the most butter-fingered suicide bomber in the entire organisation. Likewise, being Jeremy Clarkson and pulling in big bucks for the BBC does not give you the right to physically abuse anyone. The only people who could have, maybe, slightly got away with a stunt like this are F1's resident Troll-Under-The-Bridge-Bernie-Ecclestone himself and maybe Jesus (the son of God, not the cartel employee). In actually hitting Oisin Tymon, Clarkson effectively handed in his own resignation letter, signed and sealed, smack bang onto the biggest desk in the BBC - he knew it and the whole world should know it.
So what now? What will happen to Top Gear? Some say that this is really it for the show, and that the boys know it too. Whether it's one replacement or three, a spinoff show on a rival network, or the end of the road, the show will never be the same again. Trying to fill Clarkson's shoes is like trying to find a replacement for the Holy Ghost - impossible and borderline blasphemous. Trying to replace all three of them, however, is like finding a better version of the Holy Trinity in the Westboro Baptist Church - it doesn't exist, and even God can't do it.
So Top Gear, this is your life. It's been fan-fucking-tastic having you around. To Jeremy, Richard, and James: you are all idiots. Wonderful, wonderful idiots who dare to be utterly stupid in such an austere age of seriousness. I'm sorry that it had to end this way. Thank you so much for all you've done. We wouldn't be here without you.