Comment: Go easy on Top Gear, gents

Less than a week has passed since Top Gear co-host Matt LeBlanc and doughnut dasher Ken Block were snapped fumigating one of London’s most prized landmarks, the Cenotaph. Even before the smoke and tyre marks had settled, another barrage from the media had begun. Top Gear was once again front-page news, but for all the wrong reasons.

The argument, in case you’ve been hibernating for the past 6 days, focused on Top Gear’s poor judgement, supposed lack of respect and that it considered the stunt in the first instance, let alone broadcast it around the world. But let’s take a step backwards, gentlemen; there are 3 important factors to consider here.

First and foremost, let’s not forget that the performance was intended to be a stunt, not a Guy Faulks-esq pot shot at Britain’s political history or the selfless individuals that served the nation.

Ken Block

Secondly, as Chris Evans calmly put across in his ‘unreserved apology’ to the BBC, it’s a question of perspective. Going by images in Tabloid newspapers, the stunt looked inches away from the monument. In reality, the main action took place a good sprint distance away, just look at aerial footage of Parliament Street alongside the tell-tail marks in the images and this much is clear.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, let’s not forget Top Gear’s track record of political gaffs, made under the former three stooges: Clarkson, May and Hammond. They – namely Clarkson – rekindled an international feud though their insensitive actions by sporting an antagonising number plate while driving through Argentina. On this occasion, it seemed there was intention – a deliberate attempt to agitate a once toxic and lethal situation, which is more than can be said for LeBlanc driving something loud and shouty down Parliament Street.

Old Top Gear two

Now we’re all for preserving the nation’s heritage and, after all, it’s in a gent’s nature to be respectful, but gentlemen are also fair and measured in the face of controversy. So let’s look at this with some perspective and remember that Top Gear is a light-hearted show that’s trying to make motoring more accessible and more enjoyable. After all, if no one was making an effort to appeal to the future generation of petrol heads, we’d be in a very sorry state indeed. Moreover, we’d all be stuck watching Downton on a Sunday evening instead. Now there’s a terrifying thought.

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Rory is motoring editor-at-large at The Gentleman’s Journal. Most familiar with four wheels but can also be found falling off two.

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