Will women replace Clarkson, May or Hammond on Top Gear? Now that Jeremy Clarkson has got the push from Top Gear and James May is rumoured to have quit the big question is who will replace them? It won’t be long before ‘the Hamster’ jacks it in too as he won’t carry on without both his playmates. For too long the show has been dominated by three white, middle aged and middle/upper class men. It’s time the girls got a look in. BBC2 controller Kim Shillinglaw has said about Clarkson’s replacement “we will definitely look at women.” Obviously, being the BBC any female replacements will need to be easy on the eye and under a ‘certain age’. To appease die hard petrolheads she will also have to have some serious credibility. So let’s take a look at some likely possibilities. The two front runners are Jodie Kidd and Vicki Butler-Henderson, who are both attractive, young and have good credibility when it comes to knowing about cars.
Vicki Butler-Henderson is regarded by many as the top female choice to replace Clarkson. Her grandfather raced at Brooklands, her father was in the British karting team and her brother is a racing driver. As a young girl she raced 100cc karts and became the first woman to win a Maserati race in 2002. Vicki actually presented Top Gear in its very early days, from 1997 to 2001. She worked as a racing instructor at the Silverstone Circuit and holds a car race licence. Vicki has also been a road tester for What Car? magazine and written for several other motoring magazines. She certainly has the right connections; she’s friends with Clarkson and her husband works on Top Gear as a series director. Clarkson raced against her in 2010 and was massively impressed by her driving skills. For some time now she has been a presenter on Fifth Gear and helped cover the British Touring Car Championship for ITV in 2004.
Former supermodel Jodie Kidd has appeared on Top Gear in the ‘star in a reasonably priced car’ segment. In series 2 she famously topped the leader board with a 1 min 48 secs lap around the track in a Suzuki Liani. More impressively she presents The Classic Car Show on Channel 5 and races cars in her free time. Jodie drives a Maserati and has taken part in several rallies of the Gumball 3000. When interviewed by the Radio Times last year Jodie said that she wouldn’t join the show but it’s possible that BBC2 could make her an offer that would be hard refuse.
Another talented female racing driver is Sabine Schmitz who has a great pedigree. Sabine won in CHC and VLN race events and is the first to woman to win a major 24 hour race, the 24 Hours Nὕrburgring in 1996 and 1997. She became famous for driving one of the two BMW M5 “Ring taxi” around the Nὕrburgring track in an entertaining way, earning her the nickname the “fastest taxi driver in the world”. Sabine is blonde, pretty and charismatic and having retired from driving the “Ring Taxi” in 2011 she has become well known as a motorsport guest commentator. Since 2006 she has co-hosted a motoring show, D Motor on German television and in each show she takes up a driving challenge. So she would be more than able to cope with the demands of presenting and undertaking the often crazy challenges the boys do on Top Gear.
Sabine isn’t unknown on British TV as she’s appeared on Top Gear several times. She took Jeremy round the Nὕrburgring on a BBC2 programme in 2002. She also appeared on Top Gear in 2004 when she instructed Clarkson on driving round the Nὕrburgring where his lap time was 9 minutes and 59 seconds in a Jaguar S Type. Sabine laughed at his efforts saying “I do that lap time in a van” and she beat him by 47 seconds. This comment set her up for a challenge and in Season 6 of Top Gear she drove a Ford Transit Diesel to try and beat Clarkson’s time but her final time was 10 minutes and 8 seconds. In Top Gear’s 11th series her programme’s team filmed with the Top Gear guys to try and beat each other in a series of challenges, including a mini and double decker car race. Sabine won both! We like her driving skills and dry sense of humour and think she would be brilliant.
There’s a few other names in the frame and the only one worth any merit is the lovely Suzi Perry. She has a great track record (pardon the pun) as she presents the BBC’s F1 shows and fronted coverage of MotoGP bike racing for 13 years. When Top Gear were being rebranded some years ago and Clarkson, Hammond and May came on board Suzi was approached by Andy Wilman but she turned them down. She says she didn’t regret her decision but its obvious she thinks she should have said yes. We bet she says ‘yes’ if they ask her now.
Emma Parker-Bowles, yes she is related to Camilla, her niece in fact! She’s written about cars for The Sun and Top Gear magazine and is a bona fide petrolhead. However, her drug addict past and history of getting speeding fines may hinder her chances. Comedian Sue Perkins would add a comic and ironic touch to the show but she isn’t known as a petrolhead so her lack of knowledge and enthusiasm wouldn’t endear her to the show’s diehard followers. In fact, some of them were so vitriolic on social media about her possibly replacing Clarkson that she deleted her Twitter account.
Kirsty Gallacher has lots of presenting experience but she is only really known for sports and may struggle to convince viewers she knows ‘a lot about cars’. Clare Balding is highly regarded as a competent presenter but like Kirsty she isn’t renowned as being a car freak. Of course, the BBC could re-hire the first Top Gear presenter, Angela Rippon and prove it isn’t sexist or ageist!!! Anyway, over the next few weeks we will see what happens to the Top Gear team. Maybe there will be some drastic changes, but we certainly hope to see at least one lady in the team.