Top Gear Argentina Fiasco: Government emails revealed

Top Gear Argentina Fiasco: Government emails revealed

Newly released government emails have revealed the chaos as a diplomatic row was sparked by Top Gear’s controversial Christmas special in Argentina.

The two-part episode of the BBC motoring show saw Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond travel to Patagonia, where claims that a number plate referred to the Falklands War sparked violent protests that caused filming to be suspended and the crew to flee the country.

Mr Clarkson later wrote that they had “walked into a trap”, sparking a complaint to the BBC from the Argentinian ambassador to the UK as producers denied any deliberate reference to the conflict.

As the presenters were flown out of the country and producers drove to Chile on 3 October, the British Ambassador to Argentina wrote an email to his colleagues saying limited contact with the BBC had been “part of the difficulty”, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

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Dr John Freeman said there had been a “lack of information…as to when they intended to come here and what their itinerary or purpose/objectives were/are.”

Providing background in an email to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) Americas deputy director, he said Top Gearrepresentatives had contacted the embassy in August but had not replied to follow-up phone messages and emails.

“We therefore had no knowledge of the BBC programme’s plans for Argentina until we saw local media reports about the team’s presence in Bariloche late last month,” Dr Freeman wrote to Archie Young.

“Thereafter there was no further reporting until the incidents in Tierra del Fuego played out last week.”

He said the embassy was contacted by FCO’s Global Response Centre as a mob chased the Top Gear team, and high-level diplomats intervened to help the presenters and crew leave the country safely – one group by air and one by road.

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But the saga continued as the BBC attempted to recover the abandoned Porsche 928 GT, Ford Mustang Mach 1 and Lotus Espirit, left near the Chilean border as the crew were chased by a mob.

“I remain unclear as to why the BBC considers it so vital to recover the vehicles (even if in scrap form),” Dr Freeman wrote.

He said the FCO’s assistance for the BBC was “limited” and wrote that they needed to contact an Argentinian lawyer, adding: “We cannot give any guarantee re the safety of BBC personnel or agents.”

The BBC declined to comment when contacted by The Independent.

Andy Wilman, then the executive producer of Top Gear, wrote at the time that any references drawn from the H982 FKL number plate were not deliberate and that baiting Argentinians over the Falklands War was “most definitely not the sort of stunt we’d pull”.

He said it was replaced with the registration H1 VAE before the team entered Ushuaia, where he described Argentinian veterans “kicking off”.

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“We apologised (and) explained they were now gone, and that they had not been a deliberate act,” Mr Wilman wrote.

“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.”

Mr Clarkson said he believed “someone could have been killed” as protesters banged on their cars and threw missiles, causing the presenters to hide in the hotel.

Top Gear was hit with further controversy in March after its star presenter was involved in a “fracas” over a steak dinner and allegedly punched producer Oisin Tymon.

Mr Clarkson’s contract was not renewed with the BBC and he, Mr Hammond and Mr May have since signed a contract for a new motoring show on Amazon Prime.

Source: Independent

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Jeremy Clarkson: Footage of Top Gear team under attack is real, insists presenter

Jeremy Clarkson: Footage of Top Gear team under attack is real, insists presenter

Jeremy Clarkson has insisted that footage showing the Top Gear team under attack by a mob in Argentina was real and was not exaggerated to boost ratings.

Clarkson compared the scene to that in the John Carpenter film, Assault on Precinct 13, where a police station is besieged by armed gang members.

“You get the sense that there’s a never-ending supply of — let’s call them ‘youths’ — coming out of the darkness, hurling anything they can lay their hands on,” he wrote of the assault.

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It occurred in Tolhuin in the Tierra del Fuego region, as the Top Gear convoy attempted to travel through the town.

The Argentinian ambassador to the UK, Alicia Castro, has claimed that Clarkson’s account is “fabricated” and cars were set on fire by the show’s team to obtain better ratings.

But Clarkson maintained that, for once, the events unfolded without provocation and the choice of the inflammatory registration plate, H982 FKL, a reference to the Falklands War, was not intentional.

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The footage of the violence was shown on 27 December as part of the two-part Top Gear Patagonia special on BBC2.

Andy Wilman, Top Gear’s executive producer, told the Sunday Times: “We’ve been very careful to present it as it happened rather than put an agenda or spin on it.

“Viewers will make up their own mind.”

Source: Independent