Top Gear (partially found footage of Cenotaph stunt; 2016)
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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, 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. The surrounding segment cost around £100,000 to film.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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.
Behind The Scenes Shots
- Top Gear (partially found American pilots to British show; 2005-2008)
- Top Gear (partially found Discovery Channel adaptation of BBC Two TV series; 2005)
- Top Gear (partially found episodes of BBC Two television series; 1977-2002)
- Top Gear (partially found original British airings of BBC Two television series; 2002-2003)
- Top Gear (partially found unaired segments of BBC motoring show; 2002-2015)
- Top Gear - Series 1: Episode 1 (unaired pilot episodes of BBC Two television series; 2002)
- Top Gear - Series 22: Episode 10 (lost footage of unfinished episode of BBC motoring show; 2015)
- Top Gear GTi (partially found footage of UK Horizons television series; 1997-2003)
- Digital Spy detailing Series 23 of Top Gear. Retrieved 15 Nov '21
- BBC News interviewing Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc regarding the pressure of taking over Top Gear from the previous hosts. Retrieved 15 Nov '21
- Top Gear detailing the Hoonicorn segment and providing non-Cenotaph photos of it. Retrieved 15 Nov '21
- Guardian reporting on the stunt, and the preparation that occurred prior to filming. Retrieved 15 Nov '21
- Imperial War Museum detailing the Cenotaph. Retrieved 15 Nov '21
- Independent article detailing the stunt and the doughnuts being performed. Retrieved 15 Nov '21
- DriveTribe detailing the doughnut technique. Retrieved 15 Nov '21
- Huffington Post reporting on the cost of filming the segment. Retrieved 15 Nov '21
- Evening Standard detailing the outrage the stunt caused. Retrieved 15 Nov '21
- Guardian reporting on Top Gear bosses defending the stunt. Retrieved 15 Nov '21
- Guardian reporting on Chris Evans' comments regarding the stunt. Retrieved 15 Nov '21
- Evening Standard reporting on allegations Evans and LeBlanc's relationship was strained following the stunt, with claims Evans felt LeBlanc had damaged the brand. Retrieved 15 Nov '21
- BBC News reporting that the Cenotaph footage would not be in the final broadcast. Retrieved 15 Nov '21