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Top Gear: Patagonia Special

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Top Gear: Patagonia Special
Top Gear Patagonia Special DVD.jpg
Directed byJames Bryce
Presented byJeremy Clarkson
Richard Hammond
James May
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Executive producer(s)Andy Wilman
Producer(s)Chris Hale
Running time120 minutes (60 minutes per part)
Original networkBBC Two
Picture format1080i 16:9
Original releasePart 1–27 December 2014
Part 2–28 December 2014
Related showsTop Gear
External links

Top Gear: Patagonia Special is a full length special that was aired as a two-part episode for the BBC car show Top Gear; the first part was aired on 27 December 2014, while the second part was aired a day later on 28 December. The special sees hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, using a selection of cars with V8 engines to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the small-block V8 engine, on a journey across Chile and Argentina, starting from Bariloche and ending on the outskirts of Ushuaia, and includes the infamous scene involving the protesters that the presenters and their film crew encountered and the events that happened; it is the last Top Gear special to be filmed with the hosts, prior to Clarkson's exit from the show in March 2015 followed by Hammond, May, and Executive Producer Andy Wilman shortly afterwards. The incident with the protesters was widely documented and reported by the media, prior to the broadcast of the special.

Unlike previous specials, despite each part doing well to draw in viewers during Christmas week it was aired on, it received mixed reviews from fans and critics, many of whom felt that it was not as entertaining as past specials by the hosts.


All three presenters met in an area near Bariloche, where they brought and compared their cars. Clarkson had bought a Porsche 928, which both Hammond and May berated for being "boring". Hammond had bought a Ford Mustang, which though both Clarkson and May initially liked, they pointed out the numerous flaws with the car, in that most of the car's features were "pointless". May, arriving last, had bought a Lotus Esprit, a decision that both Clarkson and Hammond were stunned by; both proceeded to ridicule May for his choice of vehicle, citing the Esprit's famed unreliability and poor craftsmanship. The producers then presented them with a challenge: they were to drive from Bariloche to Butch Cassidy's final resting place. Amazed by the apparent ease of their challenge, the three set off towards their destination. Though May and Clarkson enjoyed the journey, Hammond's Mustang struggled, with poor steering and heavy fuel consumption, causing him to break down a mile and a half from the destination and be abandoned by May and Clarkson. When Hammond caught them up, they were informed by producers that they must continue driving southward to Ushuaia. Once there, they were to play a game of football using their cars. Their route to Ushuaia - planned by Jeremy - took many odd turns along the way. The trio took a side road that ended up leading them to a strange area where the road essentially disappeared. Eventually, they encountered an unstable bridge which they had to cross in their cars. May was the first to cross, who discovered that the end of the bridge led to a dead end, though chose not to inform Clarkson or Hammond about it. Around this time, the presenters noticed that a Citroën 2CV had been following them, allowing them to realise this was the back-up car if one of theirs was to fail. After heading back, they encountered a swamp, which bogged down the Mustang and the Porsche. Clarkson admitted that the Lotus had been performing better than anyone had expected, as it had not suffered any breakdowns thus far. After stopping at their hotel for the night, Hammond became extremely upset with his drive along the route and sought to take control, taking them on a different route where he believed the roads would be better. This route, however, ended up taking them on worse terrain than before, causing all three cars to struggle and Clarkson's Porsche to break down due to an electrical fault. Though he managed to fix the fault, Hammond was stripped of his leadership and Clarkson took back control of the route.

When setting off the next morning, the trio found a large, desolate area, which they used as a race circuit. When attempting to relocate the road, they discovered that their route had been blocked by a fence, meaning the cars could not continue and that the journey would have to continue on foot. Clarkson, in protest of this, found some nearby horses, to ride, though when May fell and cracked three ribs, the presenters abandoned this idea and located another route. At a nearby town, Punta Arenas, the team stop for supplies in preparation for their football game, though end up using most of their supplies to drive across a nearby beach, filled with boulders and other various rocks, where they were landed by a commercial Chilean ship, which cannot transport the three directly to Ushuaia for political reasons. Shortly before arriving in Ushuaia, Hammond's Mustang breaks down again in the snow, leaving May and Clarkson to continue, in belief that Hammond would follow them in the 2CV. May and Clarkson crossed a nearby river, after which Hammond joined them for the final straight to Ushuaia.

Prior to the trio's arrival in Ushuaia, the residents of the town got word of their upcoming arrival. Preparations were made by the residents to protest their arrival. The trio had received news about the protests, which prompted them to check into a nearby hotel, but there a small number of Falklands War veterans gathered outside of the building with a nationalistic designed van, which had "Las Malvinas son Argentinas!" ("The Falklands are Argentinian!") written on his car body. Protesters entered the hotel, followed by the local police. The protesters noted that if the crew didn't cease filming, then they would have to cause trouble. The locals had taken offense to the license plate of the Porsche, which read "H982 FKL". The protesters believed that the number plate was a direct reference to the 1982 Falklands War, fought between Argentina and the United Kingdom, and that it was a fake, deliberately designed for this specific trip to their country. The show's producers attempted to negotiate with Argentinian officials, saying that the number plate was not fake (something that was later proven to be correct), but offered a compromise that the number plate would be removed before the game of car football. However, attempts to placate the officials were unsuccessful; in fact, if anything, the attempts to reason with the officials may have escalated the scenario even further as, shortly afterwards, Clarkson received word from the producers that they had been ordered by the officials to leave the Tierra del Fuego area immediately.

It was estimated that it would have taken 24 hours to organise a full departure from Ushuaia, but protesters warned that there would be violence if they had not departed in under 3 hours. The crew made a hasty departure, though the presenters - the source of the trouble - had to remain in the hotel. The crew were to be escorted by the police to the border town of San Sebastián. However, they had barely managed a fifth of their 185 mile journey when they began to realise that a few protesters had managed to find the convoy on motorbikes and were searching for the Porsche with the offending license plate. As they neared to the town of Tolhuin, the police warned them that a large mob had prepared for their arrival, and more worryingly, were organising a blockade. As they drove through the town, they discovered the main road blocked by a large truck, slowing the convoy down allowing the protesters to begin egging the cars and pelting them with rocks. Several car windows were shattered and two crew members were hit. After a while they pulled over to attend to the injured crew members and repair the windows. Since the Porsche was inevitably going to attract more trouble wherever they went, the crew decided to leave behind all of the presenters' cars. As they continued on, they received word that an even larger mob, containing about 300 cars, was awaiting the crew in Río Grande. Fearing for their safety, the entire convoy moved cross-country, leaving the main road; the police escort meanwhile stayed behind on the main road to cover their backs in case the mob discovered their ruse. Arriving at the river border crossed previously, the crew were to illegally cross the border into Chile, which they were all able to do successfully. Once in Chile, their escape had been completed, leaving Clarkson, May and Hammond to pay a Butch Cassidy-esque homage to Patagonia.


Filming of the Patagonia Special commenced after the three presenters first arrived in Buenos Aires on 17 September 2014, and made it to the starting point in Bariloche on 19 September.[1][2] The filming for the two-part episode involved a crew of around 40 people, and was completed by the first of October.[1]


Viewing figures for both parts were exceptionally good, with the first part attracting overall UK viewing figures of 7.21 million, while the second part was slightly higher with overall UK viewing figures reaching 7.38 million;[3] in January 2015, the first part of the Patagonia Special was reported as being the most watched show on BBC iPlayer during the week of Christmas, achieving 2.1 million requests for it, while the second part only achieved 1.5 million requests, but became the third-most requested show on the iPlayer.[4]

Despite good viewing figures, the show drew mixed reviews from critics. Gerard O'Donovan of The Telegraph wrote a favourable review for both parts, each earning a four star rating, with the critic declaring that he enjoyed both parts, and that the ending of the second part "left us in no doubt how serious the situation in Tierra del Fuego had got back in September."[5][6] Ian Burrell of The Independent was also generally favourable of the ending for the special.[7] Fans of the show also gave mixed reactions on Twitter following the broadcast of the two parts, but were generally positive about its ending.[8]


Jeremy Clarkson's Porsche 928 GT, bearing the controversial "H982 FKL" number plate.
Jeremy Clarkson's Porsche 928 GT, bearing the controversial "H982 FKL" number plate.

Filming for the episode garnered widespread media attention, after an incident occurred in which the presenters and film crew became the target of a group of protesters upon drawing in close to Ushuaia, who believed that the number plate on the Porsche being driven by Clarkson, which read "H982 FKL", was a deliberate reference to a significant battle in the Falklands War and the year it took place in. Comments about this first appeared on Twitter, which were soon discovered by a member of the film crew during the initial days of filming, and led to the subsequent replacement of the plate with one that read "H1 VAE" as they neared the city.[9]

The change of plate did little to help, as the group encountered the protesters on 2 October 2014, after being forced into a hotel upon hearing news of the growing protests of their arrival; had it not occurred, or the controversial incident in general, filming would have continued for three more days in Ushuaia before the presenters and crew left.[10] Discussions between the show's producers and representatives of the protesters failed to achieve calm with the growing tensions, leading to the group being forced to leave the country as a result; the presenters left with the women of the film crew for Buenos Aires, while the rest of the team were forced to drive back to the border with Chile with their equipment, taking the presenters' cars with them before eventually abandoning them during their retreat.

The special episode featured video footage of the events that the remaining team recorded, which included the moment that they were ambushed and became the target of an attack, with stones from protesters causing minor damage to their cars and resulting in two crew members being injured.[11]

Following the incident, Andy Wilman, executive producer for the show at the time, stated on 2 October that "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";[10] on the same day, Clarkson tweeted that the number plate had been a coincidence and that "for once, we did nothing wrong.",[10] before later writing in an article for The Sunday Times that he "had to hide under a bed" due to "a mob howling for his blood".[12] He regarded the incident as "the most terrifying thing I've ever been involved in."[13] According to the UK registry the plate "H982 FKL" has been registered to the Porsche since its manufacture in May 1991.[14] Later that month, on 31 October, Argentine ambassador Alicia Castro demanded a formal apology for the incident when she met with Danny Cohen, the BBC Director of Television, which was refused by the BBC after they stated their intention to broadcast the two-part special as a fair representation of the events that occurred.[15] On 28 May 2015, the BBC Trust ruled that there was not a "cover-up" with the number plate and that it had not been a deliberate reference to the Falklands War, taking no further action as a direct result of its own ruling.[16]

The number-plate controversy was later lampooned by the hosts during a feature in Australia, where the cars' number plates were very tenuously linked to anti-republican themes.[17]

In 2016 Clarkson tweeted "Happy Christmas to everyone. Except the Tierra Del Fuego people of Argentina. You lot can sod off."[18] This came after an incident where Clarkson missed an airline flight in Stuttgart, Germany, which he claimed was caused by an airline worker purposefully impeding him, stating “I’m from Argentina, so f**k you.” A spokesman for the Reutlingen police department released a statement that Clarkson and others missed the flight due to not hearing the call announcement, that the worker was actually from Spain, and had correctly prevented the group from boarding the flight after it was too late to do so.[19]

For the following series of Top Gear, in each introduction to a segment would be a subtle reference to Chile, as well as using mugs bearing the Chilean Flag during the News Section, in a show of gratitude for the sanctuary provided to the crew.


  1. ^ a b Alexander, Harriet (27 December 2014). "Top Gear Christmas Special: What really happened in Patagonia?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  2. ^ "Primicia: Top Gear grabará un episodio en la Patagonia argentina". Autoblog (in Spanish). 16 September 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  3. ^ "Weekly top 10 programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 12 August 2016. Select "2014" for year, "December" for month, "22 Dec - 28 Dec" for week, and "BBC2" for channel.
  4. ^ Wyatt, Daisy (7 January 2015). "Top Gear: Patagonia Special becomes most-watched show on BBC iPlayer over Christmas". The Independent. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  5. ^ O'Donovan, Gerard (27 December 2014). "Top Gear Patagonia Special, part 1, review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  6. ^ O'Donovan, Gerard (28 December 2014). "Top Gear Patagonia Special, part 2, review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  7. ^ Burrell, Ian (28 December 2014). "Top Gear: Patagonia Special part two, review: Controversial petrol heads come to a buddy end". The Independent. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  8. ^ Wyatt, Daisy (29 December 2014). "Top Gear Patagonia Special: Twitter reacts to 'controversial' part two ending". The Independent. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Top Gear crew 'chased by thousands and ordered out of country'", BBC
  10. ^ a b c "Protests cut short Top Gear shoot". BBC News. 3 October 2014.
  11. ^ Clarkson, Jeremy; Hammond, Richard; May, James (27–28 December 2014). "Patagonia Special". Top Gear. BBC Two.
  12. ^ Clarkson, Jeremy (5 October 2014). "Make no mistake, lives were at risk". The Sunday Times.
  13. ^ "Clarkson: For once, we did nothing wrong". Breaking News Ireland. 4 October 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  14. ^ "UK GOV Vehicle Enquiry".
  15. ^ "BBC refuses Top Gear apology over Argentina row". BBC News. 31 October 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  16. ^ Turner, Camilla (28 May 2015). "BBC clears Top Gear over Falklands number plate "cover up"". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  17. ^ "Jeremy Clarkson Mocks Top Gear Number Plate Controversy". Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  18. ^ @JeremyClarkson (24 Dec 2016). "Happy Christmas to everyone. Except the Tierra Del Fuego people of Argentina. You lot can sod off" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  19. ^ "Jeremy Clarkson branded a 'buffoon' for slating Argentina... again". The Irish Examiner. 25 December 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2018.

External links

This page was last edited on 17 September 2020, at 13:52
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