Belfast Telegraph

Top Gear trio great escape screened

The Top Gear episode that sparked a diplomatic incident with Argentina over an apparent boast about the Falklands War has finally been broadcast - with viewers seeing Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond escaping an armed mob.

Furious Argentinians believed the H982FKL numberplate on host Clarkson's Porsche during the Patagonia tour was a reference to the bloody conflict - but Top Gear insisted it was just a coincidence.

The Top Gear Special saw Clarkson, May and Hammond attempting to drive 1,600 miles to the country's southern-most tip to stage a game of ''car football'' against some Argentinian drivers.

The long-running, high-budget BBC2 programme broadcast the team's desperate attempts to leave Argentina under cover of darkness, having been driven out of their hotel by a mob of nationalists and war veterans.

Clarkson said: " Falklands War veterans said if we did not stop filming there would be trouble. The head veteran accused us of putting a fake number plate on the Porsche and that it was a deliberate reference to the Falklands War.

"All we wanted to do is come here and play (car) football."

Veterans said a mob was on its way and there would be violence if they didn't leave the hotel in three hours. At the time, producers could be given no assurances from police for their safety, while a lack of phone signal en route meant they were unable to contact the British embassy, Clarkson said.

The 31-strong film crew and presenters were p elted with eggs and rocks, while their convoy was flanked by motorcycles as they made their escape.

Two members of the crew were hurt and they had to abandon the Porsche before making it to safety.

In an introduction to the programme, Clarkson said: "They wondered if this was a reference to the 1982 Falklands War. We had been made aware of the issue shortly after we arrived in Argentina. There was nothing we could do about it, you can't just change a car's number plate.

"We did, however, develop a plan to resolve the issue. Unfortunately we were never given the chance."

Alicia Castro, the Argentinian ambassador in London, wrote to BBC Trust chairwoman Rona Fairhead earlier this year expressing her ''discontent'' after a meeting with BBC director of television Danny Cohen.

Ms Castro subsequently met Mr Cohen, but he refused her demand for a public apology and said the BBC would screen the show.

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