THE BBC yesterday stepped in to defend its star motoring pundit Jeremy Clarkson after he found a new and normally placid constituency to offend - Britain's 900,000 caravan enthusiasts.
The BBC issued a statement underlining Top Gear's "light hearted" nature after a storm of complaints following a programme in which Clarkson and fellow presenters James May and Richard Hammond went on a caravanning holiday to Dorset.
The item showed the caravan and car labouring on the motorway as long queues formed behind. In typical Top Gear style the caravan was reversed into a pole, driven into an awning and for a finale apparently set on fire after Clarkson was filmed cooking chips. The item ended with the smoking hulk of the caravan being towed away.
The Dorset campsite was described as "not a holiday, it's a concentration camp", and Clarkson told viewers: "We proved there is no upside to caravanning and they clog up the roads - when we come to power caravanning is going to be banned."
The BBC confirmed yesterday that the "vast majority" of the 500 complaints about Top Gear received so far this year related to the caravan report broadcast on 16 July. The Corporation said: "We acknowledge some viewers do not appreciate the Top Gear team's sense of humour but their provocative comments are an integral part of the programme and are not intended to be taken seriously."
Some complaints picked up on Clarkson's suggestion that the way to avoid "the snake" - the undulating motion a caravan can develop when being towed - was to speed up. The Caravan Club's advice is to decelerate slowly.
The BBC's statement said the Corporation did not "condone irresponsible or dangerous activities".