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Not much has been heard from the Top Gear trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May during 2012 - other than Jezza opening his mouth to change feet and huge pay increases for all three at a time when the BBC is committed to reducing costs (sounds like they've been taking lessons from Awkward Park) - but we've now found out, courtesy of the Beeb, Top Gear magazine and ApplauseStore.com (who?) that there was a reason for them being off the radar.
They've been busy all over the world filming inserts for Season 19, including another US road trip (on which they were not permitted to destroy the cars!), an expedition to Africa, a race between an American musclecar and a train, and some very oddball conversions.
And now for the better news:
UK website ApplauseStore.com, which states (twice!) on its homepage that it is the only official source for Top Gear studio tickets and that if you get them anywhere else you won't get in, is inviting applications for tickets to episodes of Season 19, starting on Wednesday, 23 January.
In the past, episodes were usually filmed a week before broadcast, and Top Gear is always aired on a Sunday evening in the UK, so it safe to assume that Season 19 will kick off on Sunday, 27 January - although when we will get to see it in South Africa is another question entirely.
According to the BBC, Top Gear and tweets from @JeremyClarkson, this is some of what we can expect to see:
A road trip across the United States from the Nevada desert to the Mexican border in the new SRT Viper, a Lexus LFA and an Aston Martin Vanquish.
A race from Wembley to Milan to watch a soccer match with Clarkson in a Shelby Mustang GT500, and Hammond and May going by train.
The presenters are challenged to buy a station wagon for £1500 (R20 700). They wind up with a BMW 5 Series Touring, a Volvo 850 and a Subaru WRX - and then they have to follow in the footsteps of the great British explorers of the 19th century by driving them to the source of the Nile.
Road tests of the Toyota 86 and Pagani Huayra, and a hot-hatch shootout between the Ford Focus ST, Renault Megane RenaultSport Cup 265, and Opel Astra VXR.
Clarkson gets automotive design students from Coventry University to build him the smallest possible battery car - and then, predictably, drives it through a shopping mall.
And James May goes rallying in a Bentley Continental GT, driven by ex-Mini WRC driver Kris Meeke.