We all remember that Top Gear’s visit to Argentina for that infamous Patagonia Christmas special last year didn’t end well at all.
Now, behind-the-scenes emails have revealed that the BBC actually kept foreign office officials in the dark about the motoring show’s trip to the South American nation.
Hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May were hounded out of the country while filming in October 2014, with some extremely angry locals and Falklands War veterans incensed after Clarkson’s car was spotted bearing the number plate ‘H982 FKL’ – which they claimed referenced the the 1982 conflict.
The entire crew were forced to flee – the presenters were flown out of the country, while producers drove to Chile on October 3.
On the same day, the British ambassador to Argentina Dr John Freeman wrote an email to his colleagues, complaining that the BBC had been “part of the difficulty” and there had been a “lack of information” as to their true purpose in the country.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed the correspondence and, in further emails, Dr Freeman added that Top Gear representatives had contacted the embassy in August but hadn’t replied to any follow-up phone messages or 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. Thereafter there was no further reporting until the incidents in Tierra del Fuego played out last week.
He added that the embassy was contacted by FCO’s Global Response Centre as the locals chased the Top Gear team, and high-level diplomats intervened to help the presenters and crew leave the country safely.
But the saga continued as the BBC attempted to recover the abandoned super cars, which were left near the Chilean border as the crew fled the angry mob, with Freeman adding: “I remain unclear as to why the BBC considers it so vital to recover the vehicles (even if in scrap form)”.
He said the foreign office’s assistance for the BBC was “limited”, pointing out that they needed to contact an Argentinian lawyer as, “We cannot give any guarantee re the safety of BBC personnel or agents”.
The BBC have yet to comment on the claims in the emails but, if Dr Freeman’s allegations are true, they really haven’t come out of this whole saga looking good!