Cenotaph will not appear in Top Gear after Whitehall stunt prompts 'furore'


Footage for the new Top Gear series which was filmed near the Cenotaph in London "will not appear" in the final film, the BBC has said.

A statement released on Monday by the corporation said the Cenotaph was "at no point" intended to feature in the segment filmed on location around central London.

Co-host Matt LeBlanc and a professional driver performed stunts near the war memorial on Whitehall, but the motoring caper sparked an outcry.

"The Cenotaph was at no point intended to feature in the programme and therefore will not appear in the final film," the statement said.

The statement added that the driver of the car was "briefed by production prior to filming" to not do any manoeuvres 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," the statement concluded.

Earlier, Chris Evans said footage for the new Top Gear series filmed near the Cenotaph in London is "disrespectful" and should not be broadcast.

Speaking outside the BBC on Monday, Evans described the images as "terrible".

"They look so disrespectful," he said before adding that there are "mitigating circumstances".

He continued: "I saw the images this morning for the first time and I felt the same as everybody else."

In response to a question as to whether it reflected positively on Top Gear, he said: "This is not a good story, no."

"We're all mortified by it, so absolutely, 100%, it should not be shown."

Evans admitted he does not have the final say over the fate of the footage.

"But if it was my decision, then I would say, that particular scene shouldn't be shown and I think everyone will agree," he said.

LeBlanc was seen driving around Westminster as shooting took place for the new series of the BBC Two show, which is due to air in May, and photos show large tyre circles left on streets surrounding the war memorial after the stunt.

Speaking on his BBC Radio 2 show, Evans said he "completely understood the furore" around the photographs and admitted it had been "unwise" to film anywhere near the Cenotaph.

He said: "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 apologise unreservedly for what these images seem to portray.

"There have been some very incendiary comments written alongside these pictures and I completely understand this furore but the Top Gear team would never ever do that.

"Retrospectively it was unwise to be anywhere near the Cenotaph with this motorcar."

Evans said LeBlanc had been filming in a car called the Hoonicorn alongside racing driver Ken Block and filming could continue on Monday and Tuesday.

The stunt has been described as "gravely disrespectful" by retired Colonel Richard Kemp.

He told the Telegraph: "This is a sacred tribute to millions of people who have done far more for their country than Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc ever will."

He added: "Jeremy Clarkson was certainly no saint but I don't believe he would have ever performed a stunt in such bad taste."

Perry McCarthy, The Stig in Top Gear from 2002-2003, told BBC Radio 5 Live he was disappointed Evans said the footage should not be shown.

"It's a question of perspective. It's a stunt. It brings the centre of London, a beautiful part of London and the Cenotaph, to a worldwide audience. It was a respectful distance away from it."

He continued: "The one shared opinion we all have is what the Cenotaph is there for, who we are remembering. There is no problem there of course. But come on, lighten up everybody."

McCarthy, 55, appeared on the show when it was hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

When asked about the future direction of Top Gear, he said: "I don't know if it's going to be the same as (what) Jeremy brought to it."