Top Gear beat Celebrity Big Brother in the ratings war on Sunday night.

The BBC2 motor show, which featured footage of Richard Hammond’s life-threatening car crash in September, was seen by 7.9 million viewers.

The finale of C4’s reality show, in which Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty was crowned this year’s winner, attracted 5.8 million.

Top Gear got a peak of 8.6 million viewers when the high-speed crash was shown, while Big Brother reached 7.3 million at its height.

The BBC show had a 27.8 per cent share of viewers, while Celebrity Big Brother got a 20.9 per cent share, according to unofficial overnight statistics.

The figures set a new record for Top Gear, whose previous high was 5.3 million in August last year.

A Top Gear spokeswoman said: “It’s great to have Top Gear back and in such good form.”

Hammond, nicknamed the Hamster by TV sidekicks Jeremy Clarkson and James May, was filming a stunt for the show when he crashed the jet-powered dragster at 288mph.

But the father of two left hospital just five weeks after the high-speed accident.

Footage of the dramatic crash were broadcast in the first episode of the new series of the BBC show.