TOP Gear has reached the end of the line after 46 years – after the crash that almost killed Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff, bosses have decided there is no going back.
According to insiders, the production staff was ordered to concentrate on other work.
The future of the award-winning BBC show – a fan favorite sold around the world – was thrown into doubt when former cricket star Freddie suffered facial injuries and broken ribs at the Test track in December.
A show source said: “Top Gear was an institution on British television but there is a feeling that there is no way it can continue after Freddie’s crash.”
“The BBC recognizes that it almost lost the life of a presenter while filming one segment and feels it would be in poor taste to continue producing such dangerous material.
“It’s a difficult decision, but they know deep down it’s the right one because hardcore fans of the show don’t want to see a light version.”
Freddie’s Top Gear co-hosts Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris have yet to publicly comment on his crash.
And the fact that the decision was made ten months ago has angered the production staff.
The Sun can reveal at least one is now planning to take legal action against the BBC over lost earnings.
The source added: “Things could get ugly as the people involved with the show have lost so much due to the indecision of BBC bosses.”
There could be more than a few big payouts.”
Freddie, 45, was so badly injured that he only recently returned to the public eye, appearing alongside the England One-Day squad in the backroom.
Earlier this week, the ECB released footage showing him giving an emotional speech while handing Tom Hartley his first cap.
Freddie praised the cricket family and said: “They will share the good times and successes with you.
“But as I have discovered over the last few months, they will be there for you during the most difficult times in your life. They will stand next to you.
“When you get this cap, it changes your life. It’s one of those things.”
Freddie had to be flown to hospital after a three-wheeled roadster rolled over at high speed at Dunsfold Park Aerodrome in Surrey.
The Top Gear circuit was famous for the super-fast laps of mystery racer The Stig and the popular “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” segment, which featured guests including Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsay.
Part of the site has since been sold for a 2,600-home redevelopment, but fans hoped another site would be found.
However, some critics felt the show was past its best.
Top Gear first aired in 1977 when Angela Rippon and Tom Coyne were presenters on BBC Midlands, a year before the national broadcaster took over the show.
It became a ratings hit after Jeremy Clarkson took over as director in 1988.
He left the album eleven years later, but returned for a reissue in 2002 alongside Richard Hammond and Jason Dowe, later replaced by James May.
The three jumped ship in 2015, making way for a number of presenters including Friends actor Matt LeBlanc, racing superstar Eddie Jordan and presenter Chris Evans.
The Beeb’s commercial arm, BBC Studios, sold the franchise worldwide, supported by live events and merchandise ranges.
A number of international versions, including in South Korea, China and France, contributed to the series’ profitability.
46 years full of ups and downs
1977: TV presenter and current Strictly contestant Angela Rippon started Top Gear by hosting the format’s regional shows. She appeared in 29 episodes
2002: After the original Top Gear was canceled by the BBC the year before, Jeremy Clarkson approached bosses about turning it into a motoring magazine show and the show was rebooted.
2002: The series’ famous unidentifiable character, The Stig, also made his debut in the relaunch.
2006: Hammond had the most life-threatening of his several accidents. The dad-of-two was preparing for a 288mph run in a jet-powered Vampire dragster – but was thrown off the track when a front tire blew. He was hospitalized with brain damage.
2007: Top Gear’s ninth season saw the show reach its highest ratings, with an average of 7.5 million fans tuning in each week to see Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.
2008: Pop star Jay Kay, bottom right, drove the fastest lap at the time.
2010: Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz (right center) were guest stars.
2011: Mr. Bean Rowan Atkinson, top right, stormed to the top of the lap board as a guest star in one episode.
2015: Clarkson was banned from Top Gear after punching show producer Oisin Tymon during a heated exchange. Following the news, Hammond and May left the show in solidarity.
2016: Top Gear returned to the Beeb and has since had a number of presenters including Friends star Matt LeBlanc, radio presenter Chris Evans, motoring journalist Chris Harris, businessman Eddie Jordan, TV presenter Rory Reid and the late Sabine Schmitz, who died of cancer in 2019 2021. Evans only lasted a year before giving up.
2019: The show saw another host shakeup with the departures of LeBlanc and Reid. Jordan had left the year before.
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2019: Take Me Out’s Paddy McGuinness and former cricketer Freddie Flintoff join Harris in the hosting line-up. The show was promoted by channel bosses on BBC One, resulting in an increase of almost two million viewers at its peak.
2022: Flintoff suffered facial injuries and broken ribs in a 130mph accident in an open tricycle while filming the new series.