BBC denies Top Gear team carried out ‘disrespectful’ donuts
The BBC was today branded 'self-aggrandising and stupid' as it refused to accept its Top Gear team carried out a 'gravely disrespectful' stunt too close to the Cenotaph.
A 'mortified' Chris Evans has apologised 'unreservedly' after Matt LeBlanc's Ford Mustang did 'donuts' and wheelspins on Whitehall yesterday, around Britain's great war memorials.
The corporation has now repeated Mr Evans' apology but also said that stunt driver Ken Block, who was behind the wheel with Mr LeBlanc in the passenger seat, stayed a fair distance from the monument to Britain's war dead.
Admission: Chris Evans today admitted that in hindsight the team should never have filmed so close to the revered memorials to Britain's war heroes
A spokesman said: 'The driver of the car was briefed by production prior to filming as to where to drive and to not do any manoeuvres close to the monument, an instruction to which he fully adhered'.
The BBC also blamed the 'angle' of long lens photographs for making the stunt look closer to the monument, although images and video show tyre marks just a few feet from the Cenotaph and also the neighbouring Woman of World War Two monument.
It was sculpted by artist John W Mills and unveiled by the Queen in 2005, and Mr Mills, 83, said the stunt shows 'a disregard for what the public think. It's totally self-aggrandising. It's not only disrespectful, it's stupid.'
Chris Evans looked tired and exasperated this morning as he tried to distance himself from the row while leaving the BBC in his Snoopy pyjamas and slippers this morning and promised the film would never be shown.
Evans, 49, who took over presenting the show after Jeremy Clarkson was sacked for hitting a producer, said it had been 'unwise to be anywhere near the Cenotaph' and told Radio 2 breakfast show listeners: 'I would like to apologise unreservedly'.
He also admitted he did 'completely understand all this furore' but added: 'This isn't a shoot I'm particularly involved in. I was away with family over the weekend'.
MailOnline understands Westminster City Council will now demand the BBC pays for damage to the scorched road surface along Whitehall and Parliament Square and said producers had never mentioned plans to 'donut' near the Cenotaph yesterday.
A spokesman said: 'At no time had the BBC producers made Westminster City Council aware that the car was going to be doing anything but drive down Whitehall. We have spoken to the producers today to express our disappointment and we welcome the statement from Top Gear presenter Chris Evans who has said this footage will not be shown'.
The BBC has refused to be drawn on the row with Westminster Council, only saying it had worked closely with officials over four months.
Anger: Westminster City Council says the BBC had said they would only be driving down Whitehall and said the corporation will now have to pay for the clear-up costs.
They said in a statement: 'We are acutely aware of how some of the images in the press look today via the angle and distance they were taken and for which, as Chris Evans has already said, we sincerely apologise.
'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'.
Questions have also been raised about the road closures agreed by Westminster Council and why Scotland Yard agreed to send a seven-strong police motorcycle escort for LeBlanc's Ford Mustang, in a deal that may have cost the BBC more than £6,000 per day in total, MailOnline understands.
Politicians and a former Army chief have condemned the BBC for arranging the 'gravely disrespectful' sequence yards from Britain's main war memorial - and said it should be a 'career-ending decision' for those involved.
Colonel Richard Kemp, a retired commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said: 'It beggars belief that they were ever allowed to film here. This is a sacred tribute to millions of people who have done far more for their country than [show hosts] Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc ever will.'
Questions have also been raised about the road closures agreed by Westminster Council and why Scotland Yard agreed to send a seven-strong police motorcycle escort for LeBlanc's Ford Mustang.
Meanwhile Mr LeBlanc was back on the road this morning racing around Canary Wharf and 'donutting' outside Ford's historic Dagenham factory as Evans admitted his wheel skids at the Cenotaph should never be aired.
Mr Evans said: 'If it was my decision, then I would say, that particular scene shouldn't be shown and I think everyone will agree.
'The images on the front page of the papers today - 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.
'They look entirely disrespectful, which of course was not, and would never be, the intention of the Top Gear team or Matt.
'These pictures were taken with a long-lens camera from, I believe Parliament Square, but the point is it does not look good at all, whatsoever.
'So, on behalf of the Top Gear team and Matt I would like to apologise unreservedly for what these images seem to portray.
'There's been some very incendiary comments involved and written alongside these pictures and I completely understand all 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. Again, we would like to unreservedly apologise for what these pictures seem to portray, which was never the intention of the Top Gear team.'
As well as screeching past the Cenotaph the stunt driver left tyre marks surrounding Whitehall's women's memorial, which marks the efforts made by women in the Second World War.
Artist John W Mills said it was designed to withstand a bus crash, and is embedded in the ground with 18-metre deep foundations.
He said: 'If they run into the monument it would hurt the car more than them we built it with that kind of thing in mind.