Top Gear host Richard Hammond has claimed the programme team felt a "real chill" when it dawned on them their number plate could cause offence in Argentina.
The presenters of the show and their crew fled the country — where they were filming a Christmas special — as a result of protests over the plate on Jeremy Clarkson’s Porsche which read H982 FKL, which some interpreted as an insensitive reference to the Falklands War in 1982.
Hammond, speaking for the first time about the incident, assured viewers it was an innocent coincidence, echoing comments which have been made by his colleagues.
He said it would have been “a terrible gag if we’d planned it — we wouldn’t joke about soldiers, we simply wouldn’t. That one was a genuine accident.
“There was a tweet from somebody pointing out that one of the registration plates on one of the cars could be seen as having a reference to the Falklands War. There was a real chill went through all of us — it was a distinct moment, we all [went]: ‘Hang on a minute — it’s a bit tenuous, but yes it probably does.’
“That’s when we realised we had to do something about it. That’s kind of why we’ve all got our hands up saying ‘hang on a minute’ — the idea that we’d planned that is pretty much impossible and certainly isn’t true.”
Hammond said it was the choice of cars which came first for the trip which saw the team travel through Argentina and Chile.
“We do spend quite a lot of time sailing quite close to the line,” said Hammond. “We know that, our viewers know that, and sometimes we only know the line is there when we look back over our shoulders and say ‘oh we’ve gone over it’ and we put our hands up — ‘fair enough, we got it wrong’.”
The show has been at the centre of a number of recent controversies, with Clarkson having already been given a final warning by the BBC.
Asked if he and fellow host James May would also leave if Clarkson were to go, Hammond said: “We’re a unit. I don’t want to speak out of turn, I can’t speak for James certainly. But we’re a unit. It’s been a riotous adventure for us. Its ending, whenever and however that comes, is part of that story.”
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