It’s not every day that Lincoln’s brought to a standstill. Actually, it is. Any Lincoln resident or commuter will tell you that the level crossing on the High Street seems to be closed more than it’s open. The knock on effect being that traffic stops.

I’ll start again. Barring trains and level crossings, it’s not every day that Lincoln’s brought to a standstill. Never before has such a dramatic event occured within the city. Actually, there has. The Romans built a Colonia here in Lindum. And the Castle’s Norman. Oh, and the Cathedral was once the world’s tallest building. And let’s not forget, the first wartime tanks were designed, built and tested here.

Okay, I’ve got it this time. Railways, Romans, Normans, Cathedrals and tanks apart, this was quite a day for Lincoln as, for the first time, a BBC Top Gear film crew visited this histo… Eh? Hammond was here a few years ago in a Mustang?

Right, I’ll cut to the chase – BBC’s Top Gear production crew were in Lincoln today with Messrs Clarkson and May on an EV drive with hilarious consequences (sic).

Typically, I had a full day of teaching, so I wasn’t aware of the visit of the Nissan LEAF, Peugeot iOn (the re-badged Mitsubishi i-MiEV) and their entourages, until I was on my way home. The rumour mill suggested that the pair had been whooshing near silently around the lower lying part of the city when the LEAF ran out of charge. Unfortunately, this embarrassing episode unfolded right outside the local newspaper’s offices. Who’d have imagined that reporters and photographers might have wanted to capture the scene after James May went in to see if anyone had a tow rope.

Now, those who’ve read the Lincolnshire Echo’s preliminary piece or seen local news, will know that the ensuing drama involved the Nissan being pushed down the access driveway down to the main building of the University of Lincoln, closely followed the Peugishi, presumably under what remained of its own voltage.

And here’s where my link comes in at the University – not the now celebrated (with a tumbler of Tizer) Darren Moss, proper motoring journalist and everything down at Haymarket Towers, but my long time friend and former competitor as the UoL’s most frequent visitor to the Atrium canteen (he won, by a massive margin, if you’re vaguely interested), Mr Jon Audis. And no, despite all those four ringed cars from Ingolstadt sharing his name, he doesn’t get a pfennig in royalties nor a discount on his TT.

Now, Jon’s not known for being a news hound and neither do his investigative skills cause Columbo to lose any sleep, but he had a couple of ripe bits of information and the two photos supplied below.

The juiciest of these bulletins was that the woman on the till at the Uni shop had overheard that the cars would be on charge, via cables dangling out of office windows, until 9pm. Could this be an opportunity for a bit of celeb spotting? Might I be able to get a few shots of the EVs, James and Jeremy before they left? Could I just possibly be able to chuck business cards through their windows as they trundled (near silently) off bearing the legend that is my mobile number and website address? The answer was a resounding no.

Despite his hot tip and getting there well before the expected departure time, Jon, having surveyed the scene, found not an electric car, nor TV presenters, anywhere. It seems the 9pm mention was a ruse, possibly to avoid a crowd of joyous thrillseekers, as they snuck off about an hour beforehand.

Oh well. A bit of promotion for Lincoln and some picturesque backgrounds for the broadcast too, so all wasn’t lost. And as if the BBC wasn’t already generous enough already today, Lincoln was an answer on a Weakest Link question too.

Story update

Now that the Top Gear team have confirmed that the power resources of the LEAF had been sapped in order for it to run out of charge, I can reveal the rumour doing the rounds on Thursday was that that the production crew had arranged with the University of Lincoln the day before the visit that the cars would be charged there. It transpires that the Top Gear feature was designed to highlight the lack of EV charging points in towns and cities like Lincoln yet local media seemed to focus more upon the ‘breakdown’ rather than the serious point being made. Further sluething reveals that Clarkson and May stopped overnight just outside Lincoln at the Washingborough Hall Hotel, having arrived just before 8:00pm. Seems the 9:00pm departure time was a ruse after all.

Photos © Jon Audis