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Let the races begin - Top Gear Live 2011 in Birmingham - Richard Hammond channels Ben-Hur

There was a chariot race – with Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May riding carts pulled by mopeds instead of horses. There was car curling. There was Splat the Rat.

No one was injured, and the city of Birmingham sustained no permanent injury, and, of course, fans were happy – so Top Gear Live 2011 in Birmingham was a great success.

There was even a surprise appearance from world champion cyclist Mark Cavendish, who took part, with celebrities Amy Williams  and Gethin Jones, in a live version of “star in a reasonably priced car.”

The Stig was also on hand.

You can take a look at a Top Gear Live photo gallery here. They’ve also got smashing video here. Top Gear Live travels to London for shows November 24-27.

• It’s car vs. snowmobile, man vs. ice, wheels vs. … frankly, we’re getting brain freeze just thinking about what it’s like 120 miles inside the Arctic Circle. But that’s where Richard went for this week’s Top Gear Top 40 exclusive, #42. He drives a Dakar Rally-winning VW Touareg against his competitors, who are well-versed in the ways of snow. But Richard turns up the heat:

Top Gear Top 40 premieres on November 28.

• We’re pretty sure that Thanksgiving isn’t a big holiday for the Top Gear guys, but it looks like they’re “booked” for Christmas…

“Christmas is boring,” they concede on Top Gear UK’s site. “It is a brain-frazzling monotony of hopeless X-Factor number ones, inexplicably stripy homemade knitwear and Brussel sprouts.”

But they’ve come up with a solution, they say: “We have a new book. It is a big book.” It’s called Top Gear Christmas, it features “Santa vs. Stig,” and, they say, “it’s available at all reputable bookstores and Internets, and probably some not-so-reputable bookstores and Internets.”

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By Paul Hechinger