Entertainment & Arts

Executive producer denies Top Gear number plate 'stunt'

Car with the controversial number plate Image copyright Sebastian Guzman
Image caption Top Gear had been filming a Christmas special in Argentina

The executive producer of the BBC's Top Gear has defended the show following reports its crew had to flee Argentina because of a number plate "stunt".

The stars and crew of the show had to leave South America amid angry protests - reportedly over a number plate that appeared to refer to the Falklands War.

Andy Wilman said the H982 FKL plate had not been deliberately chosen and it was "most definitely" not a stunt.

The team, including Jeremy Clarkson, had been filming a Christmas special.

The crew had travelled to Argentina last month to film the Top Gear special, which saw Clarkson and co-stars Richard Hammond and James May drive the famous Patagonian highway - Route 40 - to the southernmost city of Ushuaia.

However, filming had to be cut short when the show provoked anger among locals following the use of a Porsche with the registration number H982 FKL - an apparent reference to the 1982 Falklands War.

The show's cars had to be abandoned by the roadside and the crew escorted to the airport after being pelted with stones.

In a blog, Mr Wilman said the team had driven into "a night of violent terror".

Image copyright AP
Image caption The team had to flee the country after being attacked during a night of "violent terror"
Image copyright Resumen Policial
Image caption The BBC said the number plate was an "unfortunate coincidence"

He said he had read "quite a few comments from viewers" who were convinced the show had put the plate on "deliberately".

"We are, after all, a show known for getting into hot water through our antics, and now we're protesting our innocence over this affair, we're seen as merely crying wolf," he said.

"The truth is, however, this is most definitely not the sort of stunt we'd pull."

'Surprise and concern'

Mr Wilman said team had bought the car - complete with the number plate - in the UK, saying it was the best available vehicle of its type and that no-one noticed the plates.

He said the first time the crew realised the plate could be a problem was on the third night of the show's shoot in Argentina.

"Jeremy was scrolling through Twitter and spotted a comment on one of the auto fan sites, next to a photo of the plate. I remember his surprise and concern," he said.

He said the show's team then spoke to authorities in Ushuaia - where the team's road trip was due to end - and the number plates were removed from the car.

Image copyright Resumen Policial
Image caption The windows of the presenters' cars were pictured with smashed windows
Image copyright ReSUMEN Policial
Image caption Vehicles carrying Top Gear production crew were also targeted

"There was nothing in the air to suggest trouble was brewing until the Argentinean veterans arrived and kicked off. We apologised that the existence of the plates earlier on would have caused offence.

"We explained they were now gone, and that they had not been a deliberate act. They didn't believe us, told us to leave town or face the consequences, we did that very thing and drove into a night of violent terror," he added.

It is not the first time the show has met with controversy.

In July, Ofcom ruled that Top Gear had breached broadcasting rules after Clarkson had used a racial slur during a Top Gear special in Burma.

A 2011 episode caused a diplomatic incident in Mexico when Hammond said Mexican cars reflected national characteristics - saying they were like a "lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf with a moustache".

In May this year, the BBC faced calls to fire Clarkson after leaked footage showed him mumbling an offensive version of the nursery rhyme Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe in a clip that was not broadcast.

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