Top Gear is to be given a global launch for its new series with a simultaneous broadcast in more than 50 countries.
The BBC show – once one of the most pirated programmes in the world – will be seen in locations across Australia, Africa and the Middle East at the same time as the programme is shown on BBC Two later this month.
A further 10 countries including Malaysia, Taiwan and Mongolia will screen the programme – starring Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond – within 24 hours of its UK debut on January 25.
Top Gear is one of the BBC’s biggest global moneyspinners, despite occasional controversies such as the row which erupted in Argentina during its Patagonia special, screened over Christmas.
The simulcast, which will take place mainly on the BBC’s international channels, is in addition to another global launch event which takes place this Sunday with the trio appearing in front of a live audience in London and broadcast around the world online.
The event, An Evening With Top Gear, will see the trio discuss the challenges of putting together the show and presenting clips from the forthcoming 22nd series. Absolute Radio breakfast host Christian O’Connell will quiz the presenters for Top Gear’s official YouTube channel from 9pm, as well as on the BBC website and on the red button.
Clarkson said: “Other globally popular television shows have cunning ways of launching their new seasons such as world tours and the like, but I thought of an easier way to let the planet know we’re back – the interweb.
“Fond as I am of passport control queues and restricting my carry-on liquids to 100ml, I much preferred the idea of driving one mile from my home in London to celebrate this series with fans everywhere at the same time.”
Hammond jokingly acknowledged last year’s difficulties, which included stirring ill-feeling in Argentina when the production team took a Porsche with the number plate H982 FKL – thought to be a reference to the Falklands conflict in 1982, although the programme-makers have insisted it was a coincidence.
He said: “Even though this launch event means spending a Sunday evening with Jeremy, it’s important that we remind everyone that Top Gear is back, because I feel we’ve been starved of attention lately. I’m looking forward to talking to fans from around the world and finding out what exactly appeals to them about watching three middle-aged men repeatedly fall over.”
May said: “Using the internet to talk to our fans from around the world is a brilliant idea. It’s exactly what the internet is for. In fact, I’m not sure why I have to drive to a Victorian theatre and sit on an uncomfortable chair to do this. Someone hasn’t thought this through.”
The 10-week series will begin with the presenters heading across the Russian city of St Petersburg, with May driving a Renault, Hammond using a bike and Clarkson in a hovercraft. The Stig will use public transport.
Ed Sheeran will feature as the star in a reasonably priced car section of the show, doing a lap of the Top Gear track despite having no driving licence.