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Saturday 10 December 2016

Watch 'gravely disrespectful' Top Gear stunt near war memorial for which Chris Evans apologised unreservedly

Aine Fox

Published 14/03/2016 | 08:20

Matt LeBlanc takes a photo with a selfie stick while filming Top Gear
Matt LeBlanc takes a photo with a selfie stick while filming Top Gear
Matt LeBlanc getting to grips with London on Top Gear
Matt LeBlanc, left, and rally driver Ken Block during the filming of BBC's Top Gear in Westminster
Top Gear filming in London

Chris Evans has said footage for the new Top Gear series filmed near the Cenotaph in London is "disrespectful" and should not be broadcast.

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Co-host Matt LeBlanc and a professional driver performed stunts near the war memorial on Whitehall.

Speaking outside the BBC on Monday, Evans described the images as "terrible".

"They look so disrespectful," he said before adding that there are "mitigating circumstances".

Top Gear filming in London
Top Gear filming in London

He continued: "I saw the images this morning for the first time and I felt the same as everybody else."

In response to a question as to whether it reflected positively on Top Gear, he said: "This is not a good story, no."

"We're all mortified by it, so absolutely, 100%, it should not be shown."

Evans admitted he does not have the final say over the fate of the footage.

"But if it was my decision, then I would say, that particular scene shouldn't be shown and I think everyone will agree," he said.

LeBlanc was seen driving around Westminster as shooting took place for the new series of the BBC Two show, which is due to air in May, and photos show large tyre circles left on streets surrounding the war memorial after the stunt.

Matt LeBlanc getting to grips with London on Top Gear
Matt LeBlanc getting to grips with London on Top Gear

Speaking on his BBC Radio 2 show earlier, Evans said he "completely understood the furore" around the photographs and admitted it had been "unwise" to film anywhere near the Cenotaph.

He said: "It doesn't matter what actually happened, it doesn't matter what the circumstances were that could explain this away, what is important about this is what these images look like and they look entirely disrespectful which is not and would never be the intention of the Top Gear team or Matt (LeBlanc).

Matt LeBlanc, left, and rally driver Ken Block during the filming of BBC's Top Gear in Westminster
Matt LeBlanc, left, and rally driver Ken Block during the filming of BBC's Top Gear in Westminster

"On behalf of the Top Gear team and Matt, I would like to apologise unreservedly for what these images seem to portray.

"There have been some very incendiary comments written alongside these pictures and I completely understand this furore but the Top Gear team would never ever do that.

"Retrospectively it was unwise to be anywhere near the Cenotaph with this motorcar."

Evans said LeBlanc had been filming in a car called the Hoonicorn alongside racing driver Ken Block and filming could continue on Monday and Tuesday.

The stunt has been described as "gravely disrespectful" by retired Colonel Richard Kemp.

He told the Telegraph: "This is a sacred tribute to millions of people who have done far more for their country than Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc ever will."

He added: "Jeremy Clarkson was certainly no saint but I don't believe he would have ever performed a stunt in such bad taste."

Perry McCarthy, The Stig in Top Gear from 2002-2003, told BBC Radio 5 Live he was disappointed Evans said the footage should not be shown.

"It's a question of perspective. It's a stunt. It brings the centre of London, a beautiful part of London and the Cenotaph, to a worldwide audience. It was a respectful distance away from it."

He continued: "The one shared opinion we all have is what the Cenotaph is there for, who we are remembering. There is no problem there of course. But come on, lighten up everybody."

McCarthy, 55, appeared on the show when it was hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

When asked about the future direction of Top Gear, he said: "I don't know if it's going to be the same as (what) Jeremy brought to it."

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