Top Gear

Verdon Gorge, France
43⁰44’16.02”N 6⁰21’50.00”E
Leo Houlding, Tim Emmett, Jeremy Clarkson
October 2005

Jeremy Clarkson, test-driving the new Audi RS4, drove to the bottom of the Gorge du Verdon in Provence, where he was met by Leo and his climbing partner, Tim Emmett, for a simple challenge: First to the top is the winner. In a spectacular and dynamic sequence, Leo speed-climbs straight up the 400m overhanging cliff face, while Clarkson drives the long way round: a demanding 100km stretch of twisting mountain roads.

After beating Jeremy to the top, they decide to race ‘double or quits’ back to the start. Leo scampers to the edge of the cliff, then precisely at the climax of the dramatic music (a track aptly named “Speed me towards death”), he dives into the abyss, hurtling into the gorge before deploying his parachute and landing safely, creating an epic piece of TV. Through a giggle he announces to the camera, “Twelve hundred feet in 20 seconds. Beat that, Clarkson”.

Originally featured in Top Gear Episode 2 of Season 7, it was selected for the “Best of Top Gear” special and went onto become one of the show’s most popular stunts ever. Seen by more than 10 million viewers in the UK and a staggering 500 million plus worldwide, it stunned unsuspecting audiences and instantly made Leo one of the most widely recognised climbers in the world.

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