Top Gear
Co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May helmed the final show, but there was no escaping the elephant in the room.Twitter / BBC

Jeremy Clarkson took his final lap on Top Gear on Sunday (28 June) in a 75-minute special.

Co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond who helmed the show pointed out that it was a little different from usual. The traditional Top Gear studio audience was noticeably absent, along with Clarkson, but there was no mistaking the literal elephant in the room.

The final episode was compiled from footage shot for three episodes of the smash hit motoring show that were left unfinished when the controversial TV personality was sacked by the BBC for allegedly punching a producer. He has recorded a new voiceover for the show, although he was not paid, while May and Hammond recorded their studio links earlier this month

However, Clarkson has criticised what will be his swansong, describing it as being "cobbled together".

Writing in The Sun, he said: "BBC Two is screening an edition of Top Gear cobbled together from two films that were made before I was fired. One of them is quite good."

Of the two completed segments, one saw the presenters take a road trip across Britain in a trio of classic cars: A Fiat 124 Spider, an MGB GT and a Peugeot 304 Cabriolet.

The second instructs the team to purchase an SUV on a £250 budget, before setting off on a series of action-packed challenges.

The show had the same acerbic wit and deadpan tone with which it is synonymous, but there was certainly an air of futility about it. By sheer coincidence, Clarkson is seen buying gifts for his co-hosts and the enduring friendship between the three comes to the fore. At one point, while dressed in a tuxedo and racing his fellow hosts through a mud track to an event, he hollers: "I hate working on Top Gear."

Executive producer Andy Wilman said the compilation was "very sad, absolutely awful to make".

"The films are good but they were never designed to carry this burden of being the last thing you'll ever see from us on Top Gear," Wilman told the Guardian. "What's quite poignant for me is they are not the most ambitious films we have ever done but by accident they happen to be very strong on camaraderie."

Using the hashtag #LastOfTheSummerGear, fans of the show turned to social media to express their dismay at the reality that the iconic show is coming to an end.

"Some of the lines in #TopGear tonight are spookily prophetic. #LastOfTheSummerGear" said one fan.

"This #TopGear is weird, it's like @JeremyClarkson died."

"I genuinely feel a bit emotional about watching #TopGear tonight," said another.

"I'm sorry @BBC but you'll never have the same dynamic in #TopGear ever again. Those 3 just are #TopGear."

While ardent fans decried the loss of Clarkson, the consensus was that his replacement Chris Evans has some big size 9's to fill.

The One Show host is due to start filming in his new role as Top Gear host and producer this summer and has launched an open audition for co-hosts ahead of the show's re-launch next year. Clarkson said he would be "watching with a tear in my eye because, my God, it's been one hell of a ride."

Fuelling reports that he is expected to host another motoring show for a rival channel, he added: "I won't miss making a car show - because other broadcasters are available so I don't have to stop doing that."

On first announcing that his contract with the show would not be renewed. a forlorn Clarkson said: "Heartfelt thanks to all those who have written to say how much they will miss me on Top Gear," he wrote on Saturday (18 April). "It's not as much, however, as I'll miss being there."

The original Top Gear team, including Wilman, are expected to stay very much together, with streaming services Netflix and Amazon touted as a future home for their talents.

The final episode is predicted to become the highest-rated episode in Top Gear history, beating the audience of 8.35 million who tuned in to see Lewis Hamilton's appearance in December 2007.