Executive producer Andy Wilman says the ‘H982 FKL’ number plate that led to the Top Gear team having to flee Argentina was no “stunt”.
Jeremy Clarkson and the rest of the Top Gear presenters and crew were forced to abandon filming after an angry crowd attacked the convoy, but Wilman says the number plate which reportedly ignited the protests was not a deliberate reference to the Falklands War.
He said in a blog post, “This is most definitely not the sort of stunt we’d pull.”
The crew had been filming in South America on the Patagonia Highway for the Top Gear Christmas special. Clarkson has since explained how they were forced to abandon their cars by the side of the road after a crowd began “hurling rocks and bricks at our cars.”
As for the offending ‘H982 FKL’ number plate, Wilman said that the team bought both Porsche and number plate in the UK and did not notice the reference.
“As it happens, we didn’t put that number plate on deliberately,” Wilman said, adding that, “I can also empathise with people who believe it’s exactly the sort of stunt we’d pull – cheeky number plate, wind up the locals, no harm done.
“The truth is, however, this is most definitely not the sort of stunt we’d pull,” he continued. “For starters we would not base a joke around soldiers in conflict. Anybody who knows Top Gear knows how much work the presenters and the show does for Help For Heroes, and in our eyes soldiers are soldiers whatever the uniform.
“Secondly, we set out on that trip to shoot a two-hour Christmas Special. It’s the most important film we make all year, and we would not plan such a crucial undertaking based on a number plate joke.”
This was not a jolly jape that went awry. For once, we did nothing wrong.
Local police discovered fake number plates in the back of Clarkson’s abandoned Porsche that read ‘BE11 END’, but Wilman explains that those plates were only made up after the authorities had asked them to remove the original offending plate.
“We agreed with those authorities that the plates would be removed before we entered the town, and it was at this point – not before we left London – that we decided to get the BE11 END plates made for Jeremy’s car for the football match in the town,” he said.
Wilman said that filming turned into “a night of violent terror” after Argentinian war veterans arrived and threatened the Top Gear team.
“There was nothing in the air to suggest trouble was brewing until the Argentinian veterans arrived and kicked off. We apologised that the existence of the plates earlier on would have caused offence. We explained they were now gone, and that they had not been a deliberate act,” he said.
“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.”