Blind Driver Takes 5th Place On Top Gear Test Track

By Holly Brockwell on at

An NHS doctor has managed the fifth-fastest time on the Top Gear test track despite not being able to see.

Dr Amit Patel lost his sight suddenly six years ago, and being unable to drive severely hampered his career an NHS first-response medic. Toyota heard about his wish to get back behind the wheel and set him up with an instructor who told him exactly what to do to navigate the track.

The test track, at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, is the one Top Gear uses for its "Star in a reasonably-powerful car" segment (which replaced "star in a reasonably-priced car" in earlier seasons). The test uses the Toyota GT86.

Patel and performance driving instructor Mark Watkins did a test session in a Toyota Yaris, then upgraded to the GT86 for scientific fairness.

Patel's time of 1:46.58 would put him squarely in fifth on the leaderboard, between Ore Oduba and James McAvoy:

Patel said he "focused on the instructions, concentrating on what Mark was saying" as the instructor fed him directions on acceleration, steering and braking from the passenger seat. The car didn't have dual controls -- Patel was completely in charge. Watkins has experience with blind and partially-sighted drivers, which might explain why he doesn't look very scared.

He comments, "Amit was immediately natural behind the wheel. What impressed me all the way through was how he was just so smooth."

The challenge was part of a badly-named Toyota initiative called Start Your Impossible, which is about overcoming your hurdles and other PR-y feel-good stuff.

Speaking of feel-good, how heartwarming is this quote from Dr Patel?

"Blindness is always going to be in my life, but I don’t wake up in the morning and dwell on it, I just get on with it. That’s easy to say now, but five years ago it wasn’t. I have a wonderful wife who helped me out when I needed it and gave me the motivation, and we have an amazing two-and-a-half-year-old son. In my head I can see a smile on his face and I’m hoping that he’s proud of what his dad’s achieved."

'Scuse us, it's raining on our faces.

Update 7/2: This article has been updated to include the correct leaderboard, because we are planks and used the one from "star in a reasonably-priced car."