The BBC has issued an apology after controversial footage of Top Gear host Matt LeBlanc and racer Ken Block luridly driving an 845bhp ‘Hoonicorn’ Mustang in close proximity to a British war monument known as the Cenotaph, hit the internet.
The video, filmed by an onlooker, shows LeBlanc coaxing the Hoonicorn into “doughnuts” right in front of the Cenotaph, filming for a part which included London’s Tower Bridge and other areas of the British capital’s scenery.
This drew criticism and furor from afar, including former James Bond, Roger Moore, who tweeted: “I was brought up to respect those who laid down their lives for this country. Shame on Top Gear and the BBC.”
In a statement, the BBC apologized and said that the Cenotaph stunt was not intended to appear in the final film:
“Top Gear has been on location around central London over the past few days. Ahead of filming, the production team worked closely with the Metropolitan Police Film Unit and the Special Events Unit of Westminster Council. This was a large-scale, complex shoot, prepared over a period of four months, which required numerous road closures, health and safety regulations to be in place, and also included full disclosure to local residents, including the Treasury and Foreign Office.
The Cenotaph was at no point intended to feature in the programme and therefore will not appear in the final film. However, we are acutely aware of how some of the images in the press look today via the angle and distance they were taken and for which, as Chris Evans has already said, we sincerely apologise.
The driver of the car was briefed by production prior to filming as to where to drive and to not do any manoeuvres close to the monument, an instruction to which he fully adhered.
We would like to make it absolutely clear that the Top Gear team has the utmost respect for the Cenotaph, what it stands for, and those heroic individuals whose memory it serves so fittingly.”
Top Gear frontman Chris Evans has been in damage control all week, apologizing “unreservedly” for the “disrespectful” stunt. In an interview on Monday, he said “that footage will definitely not go on the air, no question about it.”
The BBC news site reported that a spokesperson for the Westminster City Council contacted Top Gear producers on Monday “to express our disappointment”, but welcomed Chris Evans statement that the footage should not be shown.
“What the Top Gear team did on the day was not what had been agreed during the planning process,” said the spokesman. “At no time had the BBC producers made Westminster City Council aware that the car was going to be doing anything but drive down Whitehall. There was no discussion about wheel spins and a doughnut and permission would not have been given to do so.”
By Mitchell Jones