New Top Gear 'gravely disrespectful' stunt
BBC Top Gear under attack over 'gravely disrespectful' Cenotaph stunt
It is almost a year to the day since BBC executives were forced to shelve flagship show Top Gear over a Jeremy Clarkson punch.
However, the new team behind its £650,000-an-episode return is proving just as adept at sparking controversy.
Bosses have been accused of disrespecting armed forces after new host Matt LeBlanc and his rally driving partner pulled wheel spins just yards from the Cenotaph after a weekend of motoring stunts brought temporary chaos to the capital.
LeBlanc, 48, the former Friends actor, and his driver pulled so-called "doughnuts" in their high-powered Ford Mustang near London's 95-year-old memorial in scenes branded "a disgrace" by veterans and MPs.
Colonel Richard Kemp, a former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, said: "It is is gravely disrespectful."
Filming for the new series saw roads closed in central London for two days running. Heavy tyre marks were left outside the Houses of Parliament and in Whitehall.
Such was the commotion that even the British finance minister George Osborne tweeted lead presenter Chris Evans to keep the noise down.
Mr Kemp, who retired from the Armed Forces in 2006, added: "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 Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc ever will.
"The BBC certainly should not have done this in the first place and I would urge them to make sure this does not appear in the final programme."
According to the Chancellor, scenes for the new series of Top Gear being filmed in Whitehall created a such racket he felt the need to ask the crew to keep it down.
Top Gear host Chris Evans.
The Cenotaph stunt came a day after rally driver Ken Block was filmed interrupting a wedding at St Paul's Cathedral with LeBlanc in the passenger seat.
While the pair were all smiles as they completed the stunt, other motorists were hit with delays as Tower Bridge was shut earlier in the day for filming.
The BBC is desperate to make Top Gear a success ahead of an expected ratings war with sacked Clarkson, who has started filming with Amazon Prime, a streaming website.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, a member of the British Royal Legion, called for an inquiry, saying the corporation should be reminded Charlie Gilmour - son of Pink Floyd frontman David - was handed a 16-month jail sentence for swinging from the Cenotaph.
He added: "Jeremy Clarkson was certainly no saint but I don't believe he would have ever performed a stunt in such bad taste.
"It is very disappointing that the new BBC Top Gear programme is being aimed at a target audience who think it's a reasonable thing to perform donuts around the Cenotaph.
"I think it is extremely distasteful and disrespectful and I would like to know who thought it was a good idea to authorise this? it's really desperate publicity seeking from our Public Service Broadcaster."
A number of Metropolitan Police officers have been assisting with the filming, though the force would not confirm how many.
It is understood that the production company is footing the bill for policing the filming days. The company will also have to pay for the closing off of roads, usually applied for through the Borough Film Service of the relevant London borough authority.
Road closure orders usually cost in the region of £1,000 - £2,000, with a fee charged either as a set rate or a rate per application and up to six are available per year for each road.
Their tour of the capital in Block’s 845bhp four-wheel drive Hoonicorn Mustang has taken them over Tower Bridge and seen them surprise a bride and groom and their wedding guests at St Paul’s Cathedral, with LeBlanc sticking his arm out of the car window to wave.
It was not clear whether Mr Osborne was sitting in an office in Number 11 Downing Street, in Westminster or at the Treasury as the pair motored past - but all three are nearby.
The new series of the BBC Two show is due to start in May. The seven-strong lineup includes LeBlanc, radio DJ and presenter Chris Evans, and Top Gear stalwart The Stig.
Also on board are Formula 1 commentator Eddie Jordan, German racing driver Sabine Schmitz, motoring journalist Chris Harris and car reviewer Rory Reid.
The BBC said it would clean up the tyre marks.
A spokesman added: "All filming was agreed in advance with Westminster council and took place a respectful distance away from the cenotaph."
-The Daily Telegraph