Top Gear (partially found footage of Cenotaph stunt; 2016)

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The Hoonicorn performing doughnuts near the Cenotaph.

Status: Partially Found

Top Gear is a long-running BBC motoring show. Series 23 marked a change in direction for the show, as it would feature new presenters, including Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc. In March 2016, the series gained controversy even before it aired after it was found that a stunt was being filmed near the Cenotaph.


Series 23 of Top Gear was set to take the show in a new direction, following the departures of presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May in 2015.[1] It was to be hosted primarily by Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc, with significant pressure on the show to replicate the 2002-2015 success it had with the departing presenters.[2]

For Episode 3 of the series, LeBlanc worked with stunt driver Ken Block to deliver a segment where Block would tour London in his 1965 Ford Mustang Hoonicorn, performing various stunts along the way.[3] Filming had been prepared four months in advance, with prior permission to film in the area, and even having a police escort. According to a BBC statement, the production crew had briefed Block about locations where he could take and perform stunts in the Hoonicorn.[4]

Cenotaph Stunt

During filming, the Hoonicorn approached the Cenotaph, located in Whitehall. The Cenotaph is a war memorial dedicated to British soldiers who perished in both World Wars and in later conflicts, being the site of annual National Service of Remembrance.[5] A publicly released recording as well as photographs show that not only was Block situated a couple of metres from the memorial, he was also performing doughnuts,[6] a technique where a car's rear is rotating around the front by spinning the rear wheels faster than the fronts, leaving skid marks and smoke in the process.[7] The surrounding segment cost around £100,000 to film.[8]

The stunt provoked outrage in the United Kingdom, with many, including Colonel Richard Kemp in an interview The Telegraph, claiming that the stunt was disrespectful to the millions who served and ultimately perished for their country.[9] A Top Gear spokesman defended the filming, claiming that permission was granted to film there and the Hoonicorn was actually 40 metres away from the Cenotaph, further than what the media had claimed.[10] However, Evans was also critical of the stunt, believing it to be disrespectful and apologising "unreservedly" on behalf of the Top Gear team for the images being portrayed.[11] It also led to allegations that it strained the relationship between Evans and LeBlanc, with the former believing the latter had damaged the brand following the stunt.[12] Ultimately, the BBC published an apology, claiming the Cenotaph footage was not intended to feature in the program, and would therefore not be shown in the final broadcast.[13]


Episode 3 was broadcast on 2nd June, 2016, which featured the Hoonicorn but with no footage of the Cenotaph. An extended version of the segment was uploaded to YouTube on 8th December, which again featured no Cenotaph footage, therefore confirming that the BBC had no intentions of releasing the footage. As of the present day, the only publicly available media of the stunt consists of a few photographs and a London News Pictures recording of doughnuts being performed. No footage coming from the Top Gear cameras nor from the on-board cameras of the Hoonicorn has resurfaced.



Footage of the stunt.

Extended footage of the Hoonicorn segment, with no Cenotaph footage included.


Behind The Scenes Shots

See Also