New ‘Top Gear’ Drives Controversy Over Matt LeBlanc War Memorial Filming

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Top Gear may have cut ties with headline-grabbing former host Jeremy Clarkson, but its new iteration is already courting controversy over scenes filmed near a London war memorial. On Sunday, Matt LeBlanc, who was named as co-host of the revamped series in February, was seen driving a souped-up Mustang in Westminster, reportedly doing doughnuts close to the Cenotaph monument on Whitehall. Photos then emerged which drew the ire of former British military commander Col. Richard Kemp who likened the Cenotaph to a “cemetery” and said he did not want to see any clips featuring the memorial in the final edit, according to the BBC.

Incoming Top Gear host and veteran British broadcaster Chris Evans apologized “unreservedly” on his BBC Radio 2 breakfast show this morning. A Top Gear spokesman had reportedly earlier defended the shoot, saying the images taken by paparazzi made it appear as though the filming was closer to the memorial than it actually was.

Evans, regardless, said he was sorry “for what these images seem to portray. They look entirely disrespectful, which of course was not, and would never be, the intention of the Top Gear team, or Matt.”

“The images on the front pages of the papers today… it doesn’t matter what actually happened, what is important is what these images look like,” Evans said. “It does not look good at all. There have been some completely incendiary comments written alongside these pictures and I completely understand all this furor, but the Top Gear team would never, ever, do that. Retrospectively, it was unwise to be anywhere near the Cenotaph with this motorcar.”

This was a busy weekend for Top Gear filming as the series preps a return to BBC Two in May. Roads were closed in central London for two days and the commotion prompted Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, to tweet Evans to “keep it down.”

Evans, LeBlanc and four other new hosts are replacing the trio of Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, who exited last year after a physical altercation between Clarkson and a producer. He, Hammond and May later landed at Amazon with a new show to begin later this year.

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