Top Gear controversies – coma after crash, location backlash and axed star

Top Gear has had a range of hosts ever since it hit screens in 2002 – and it's sparked a lot of backlash in that time.

This year it was announced that the show will not be returning to the TV screen "for the foreseeable future" after a crash which involved presenter Freddie Flintoff. He was involved in a high-speed crash at Dunsfold Park Aerodrome, which featured regularly on the show since 2002.

The programme focuses on the examination and assessment of vehicles – mostly cars – with special races, timed laps and many other aspects included. The show was loved for being entertaining and somewhat controversial, but sometimes fans felt it was taken too far.

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With many hosts at the helm over the years, it's gained a lot of popularity, but some of the most notable stars include Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May, Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness.

Hammond, who spent many years alongside Clarkson after the launch of the show, is celebrating his birthday today (December 19). As he marks his 54th birthday, we've looked back at some of the controversies Top Gear has faced in its time.

Richard Hammond's crash

Crashes while filming Top Gear have not been rare. In 2006, when Hammond was filming the series he crashed a jet-powered dragster at nearly 320mph. He was in a coma for two weeks after being left with serious head injuries.

He recovered and returned to the show the following year but earlier this year he admitted he thinks the crash might have damaged his memory. On the Diary Of A CEO podcast, he admitted he was "too scared" to check if he had conditions which would result in memory loss.

Richard told host Steven Bartlett that his injuries could mean there's an "increased risk" of memory loss. He said he's consciously writing memories down and working hard to recall them.

Location backlash

After Clarkson, Hammond and May left the show, the BBC confirmed radio DJ Chris Evans and Friends star Matt LeBlanc would be hosting the show. But they were photographed filming near London's war memorial.

BBC later apologised and said: "The Cenotaph at no point intended to feature in the programme and therefore will not appear in the final film. We are acutely aware of how some of the images in the press look today via the angle and distance they were taken and for which, as Chris Evans has already said, we sincerely apologise."

Clarkson axed

Jeremy Clarkson was axed in 2015 after what BBC described as an "unprovoked physical and verbal attack" on producer Oisin Tymon. The incident was reported to the BBC by Clarkson himself, so they took action immediately.

His co-hosts soon left after Clarkson was axed and vowed they would not return to the show without him. Over one million people signed their name on a petition to get him reinstated.

The trio now appear on The Grand Tour as hosts instead.

Flintoff's horror crash

After various crashes over the years, Freddie Flintoff's horror was the one which ultimately saw the show end.

In December 2022, he was taken to hospital after getting hurt while filming for Top Gear at its test track at Dunsfold Aerodrome. He was seen in public for the first time in September this year and the following month it was revealed that a settlement had been reached.

Shortly after, the BBC confirmed they had "decided to rest the UK show" and that it wouldn't return to TV "for the foreseeable future".

The decision to take it off air came after the findings of an external BBC health and safety investigation which will not be published.

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