Alex Mills, also known by his online handle “Viper007Bond”, passed away yesterday after a long illness. He was 34.
Alex was a web developer, working for years with WordPress-related things, but for many he was best known for setting up the FinalGear website and forum some 15 years ago. The site, initially meant for sharing torrent links for downloading episodes of Top Gear and Fifth Gear, also included a popular forum for gearheads all over the world. Thanks to the site, you could be a Top Gear fan outside the scope of BBC broadcasting; it’s highly likely that the site helped Top Gear become the worldwide phenomenon it’s known today. By the time The Grand Tour rolled around, the site had ceased sharing torrent links, but episode discussions have remained vibrant.
It’s impossible to jot out all the different ways Alex’s work made life better for countless people. The site was there for those looking to watch and discuss their favorite motoring shows, but it also made it possible for those people to meet up and connect in several different ways. Many enthusiasts have written endless project threads about their cars and bikes, but many of them have also been able to talk about the more difficult aspects of their personal lives thanks to the all-encompassing forum. Couples have been formed and fallen forum members have been eulogized during the site’s run. For a lot of people, hanging out at FinalGear has had a positive impact beyond words.
I’m among those people who ended up with a car writing career thanks to FinalGear – I met Blake Rong there a decade ago. Blake suggested I should contact Hooniverse’s powers-that-be for a chance to write for the site, putting the ball rolling. In the end I’m deeply thankful and indebted to Alex for making it all possible.
There are a number of good Alex anecdotes, like the fact he didn’t actually have a driving license until relatively late. Like in a driving simulator game, he started out with a pretty crappy Corsica or Beretta, upgraded to an SN95 Mustang and was finally able to get the dream blue Viper he had wanted as long as anyone of us could remember, complete with the plate “IM STIG”. And even after he was diagnosed with leukemia and had battled it for quite some time, he still had the strength to keep the forum running and upgraded so it would continue to proudly stand in its corner of the internet.
For over a decade, FinalGear members have met up at a campsite near the Nürburgring, where a Ringmeet party tent stands ready for beers, laughs and car banter. A few years back Alex made the trip to the summer meet and the story was the same as with so many FinalGear friends: I knew him to be a great guy without having ever met him in real life. And when the meet-up finally occurred, the jokes and the laughs continued right where they had left off on the forum side of things.
The meet-up this summer will be arranged in Alex’s honour, and the Touristenfahrt ringlaps will have a tinge of sadness to them. But we’ll continue to keep the lights on for Alex.
[Photo: Līga Šuksta]