It's not yet official, but it's looking as good as, with reports from the U.K. confirming the channel Five program Fifth Gear won't be returning for another season. The cancelation marks the end to a show that was itself launched out of the cancelation of the original Top Gear in 2001.
Unlike its rival Top Gear, Fifth Gear featured top drivers like former F1 driver Tiff Needell, British Touring Cars Champion Jason Plato and former kart racer and racing instructor Vicki Butler-Henderson. Fifth Gear also showed a propensity, of late, to focus less on extreme sports cars or stunts and gimmicks and more on cars that the average consumer would find interesting, again diverging from Top Gear's sensationalist tactics.
The cancelation comes after the abortive startup of the U.S. version of Top Gear, which was rumored to have seen Adam Carolla, Tanner Foust and even Jay Leno playing host and horsing around much like their tall, short and grumpy British counterparts. It also speaks of another similarity between the U.S. and the U.K. when it comes to cars: what appears to be apathy for offerings in the mass market and entertainment based around them.
Jay Leno, on the other hand, has branched off with a novel take on automotive TV programming with his "Green Car Challenge," which pits Hollywood stars against the clock and the course in a purpose-build Ford Focus electric vehicle. So far it appears his segment is a hit, though it's a bit too early to tell how widespread or lasting the appeal will be with American audiences.
Perhaps the run-of-the-mill cars left British viewers flat, as Fifth Gear's commentary and on-track action was top-shelf. The show only managed to draw in a maximum of 1 million viewers during its final season, not enough to crack into Five's top 30 shows, but it's sure to be missed by fans of cars and driving the world over.