Doncaster-born Jeremy Clarkson has described the moment the Top Gear cast and crew were attacked by an angry crowd in Argentina as “the most terrifying thing I’ve ever been involved in”.
The star and his crew on the BBC show had to abandon their cars at the roadside as they were pelted with stones.
Trouble erupted after it emerged the team were using a Porsche with the registration number H982 FKL, which some people suggested could refer to the Falklands conflict of 1982.
Mr Clarkson told The Sun the mob shouted “burn their cars” and tried to attack them with pickaxe handles.
He said: “I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan, but this was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever been involved in.
“There were hundreds of them. They were hurling rocks and bricks at our cars.
“This is not just some kind of jolly Top Gear jape - this was deadly serious.”
BBC bosses have said the number plate was merely a coincidence and was not chosen deliberately, but it led to protests in Argentina, including a demonstration by a group of war veterans outside the hotel used by the show team.
A story about their visit in the Patagonian daily newspaper Diario Jornada is headlined: “Top Gear is filming in Patagonia and there’s controversy.”
The paper says: “Even though the BBC authorities asked the popular presenter Jeremy Clarkson to behave himself during his time in Argentina, he chose to use the provocative number plate H982 FKL on his Porsche, in reference to 1982 Falklands (Malvinas).”
But Mr Clarkson said: “We knew absolutely nothing about the number plate, it was just an unbelievable coincidence.”
This position has been echoed by Top Gear and the BBC.
The executive producer of Top Gear, Andy Wilman, said: “Top Gear production purchased three cars for a forthcoming programme; to suggest that this car was either chosen for its number plate, or that an alternative number plate was substituted for the original, is completely untrue.”
A BBC spokesman said: “We’re pleased the team is safe and would like to thank all of those who have helped. As the executive producer has made clear, the number plate issue is a very unfortunate coincidence.”
The team from the BBC2 show were in South America filming a special on a remote highway passing through Chile and Argentina.
The programme has already run into problems this year, with one edition found to be in breach of Ofcom’s broadcasting code for the use of a racially offensive term during a two-part special filmed in Burma, following a complaint from a viewer.
And presenter Jeremy Clarkson apologised after unbroadcast footage emerged in which he appeared to use the n-word, although he denied actually saying it.