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Two Americans Managed To Piss Off London

Looks like the new Top Gear show is off to a pretty controversial start. Why the hell not, considering the last show ended in such abrupt fashion last year. Right before the New Top Gear stunt on London’s Tower Bridge last Saturday March 12th, there were flyers that were sent to nearby residents about the possibility of “brief periods of loud noise” and “An American Mustang car driving at speed performing ‘slides’”. We thought it was fake as anyone could have made a letter with Top Gear letterhead on it. However, it turns out to be true as Gymkhana driver Ken Block and the new Top Gear’s co-host Matt LeBlanc rode in a highly modified ’65 Ford Mustang, known as the ‘Hoonicorn’, that Saturday morning doing drifts and donuts around famous London landmarks.


Amongst the famous landmarks visited was the Cenotaph in Whitehall, a prominent UK national war memorial. According to Chris Evans, the Top Gear team was briefed beforehand to simply drive through Whitehall. However, driving was the least of what Ken Block and Matt LeBlanc did. The Top Gear crew did various stunts like burnouts and donuts near the Cenotaph, leaving streaks of black tire marks throughout Whitehall. The stunt shortly drew outrage as many saw the act as a complete show of disrespect.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen mentions:

I think it is extremely distasteful and disrespectful and I would like to know who thought it was a good idea to authorize this? it’s really desperate publicity seeking from our Public Service Broadcaster.

Colonel Richard Kemp, a retired Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan stated:

This (Cenotaph) is a sacred tribute to millions of people who have done far more for their country than Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc ever will… The BBC certainly should not have done this in the first place and I would urge them to make sure this does not appear in the final program.


After massive outrage the BBC finally stated that it will not air the segments filmed near the Cenotaph. Chris Evans used his radio program, the BBC Radio 2, to apologize for the stunt and that it looked entirely disrespectful. Chris Evans mentions:

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). On behalf of the Top Gear team and Matt, I would like to apologize unreservedly for what these images seem to portray. Retrospectively, it was unwise to be anywhere near the Cenotaph with this motor car.

A spokesman for the BBC2, the station in which the new Top Gear show will be broadcast, has defended only a portion of what the Top Gear crew did:

The Cenotaph was at no point intended to feature in the program and therefore will not appear in the final film. The driver of the car was briefed by production prior to filming as to where to drive and to not do any maneuvers 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… Permission was given for the Top Gear car to drive down Whitehall before moving to another location. However, what the team did on the day was not what had been agreed during the planning process. At no time had the BBC producers made Westminster aware the car was going to be doing anything but drive down Whitehall. There was no discussion between BBC producers and Westminster city council about wheel spins and a ‘doughnut’ and permission would not have been given to do so.

Check out the interview:

We won’t try to defend the new Top Gear crew as this latest act is just poor taste, downright ignorant and disrespectful, but the reality is this is EXACTLY what makes Top Gear great: The controversy! Somehow they are able to still anger a bunch of people despite not having Jeremy Clarkson at the helm. This isn’t the first time the show has produced much outrage. Remember what they did in the United States, Argentina, Mexico, Romania, Germany, and Thailand?

Photo credit and sources: The GuardianThe Telegraph

About Hansen

The engineer amongst the crew, Hansen once built a mini baja car with his bare hands. Hansen had the opportunity to join Honda’s R&D team in Ohio but chose the life of the east coast and the defense industry instead. A die hard auto enthusiast he religiously follows the auto industry and loves long walks in the auto shows.

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