'You take the stunts away from the presenters, then what is the point?' Top Gear producers fear for future of the show in wake of Andrew Flintoff's horror crash amid claims only professionals could be allowed to take part in dangerous stunts

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  • Reading time:10 min(s) read

  • Findings of review into show’s health and safety protocols due in coming weeks

Top Gear could be watered down with only professional drivers taking part in dangerous stunts, it was claimed today.

The hit BBC motoring show faces an uncertain future amid concerns over its health and safety protocols following Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff’s horror crash. 

The findings of an independent review into its practices are due in the coming weeks and one recommendation could be that amateur presenters, such as Flintoff and co-host Paddy McGuinness, will no longer be allowed to risk their lives in thrilling stunts, the Telegraph reports.

Instead, they would be left to professionals such as Chris Harris, the experienced racing driver who has also presented the show since 2016.

But show bosses fear that removing that sense of danger will turn its six million-strong viewership away.

In 2006, Richard Hammond was on life support and in a coma after he was involved in a 320mph crash while filming a Top Gear stunt at York's Elvington airfield

In 2006, Richard Hammond was on life support and in a coma after he was involved in a 320mph crash while filming a Top Gear stunt at York’s Elvington airfield

Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff was seen with facial injuries today, nine months on from the horror crash in December

Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff was seen with facial injuries today, nine months on from the horror crash in December

Top Gear's future is hanging in the balance as health and safety bosses continue their probe into the near-fatal smash that almost killed co-host Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff. Flintoff is pictured with co-hosts Chris Harris and Paddy McGuiness

Top Gear’s future is hanging in the balance as health and safety bosses continue their probe into the near-fatal smash that almost killed co-host Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff. Flintoff is pictured with co-hosts Chris Harris and Paddy McGuiness

Stunts involving amateur presenters, such as this challenge of turning an ordinary used car into an amphibious vehicle, could soon be a thing of the past

Stunts involving amateur presenters, such as this challenge of turning an ordinary used car into an amphibious vehicle, could soon be a thing of the past

One former team member said: ‘The reason Top Gear is a hit is the crashes. That’s the thing. It’s not a show about buying new cars, it’s about stunts and jeopardy and presenters doing daft s***.

‘You take the stunts away from the presenters and get a load of stunt drivers to do them and what is the point?’ 

Flintoff is still recovering from the injuries he sustained in the near-fatal crash nine months ago.

The 45-year-old was left with severe facial wounds and several broken ribs after his three-wheeled open-top car, which did not have air bags, flipped while filming the hit BBC motoring show on December 13.

READ MORE: PR experts say Top Gear will struggle to get stars insured as its future hangs in the balance

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It is the second time a presenter has almost been killed in a crash on the show. In 2006, Richard Hammond was on life support and in a coma after he was involved in a 320mph crash while filming a Top Gear stunt at York’s Elvington airfield.

Flintoff has since quit Top Gear and several members of staff who witnessed the accident signed off sick indefinitely as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

PR guru Mark Borkowski said Flintoff’s injuries were clearly worse than first thought and raised concerns over health and safety used by officials at Top Gear.

He told MailOnline this week: ‘Anyone sensible looking at this will see pictures of Freddie Flintoff looks a pale shadow of what he once looked like. 

‘He must have been pretty badly injured if he was out of commission for nine months still sporting those scars. It suggests his injuries might have been more serious than we thought.

‘The question mark is can Top Gear come back from this? If they’ve managed the news cycle which they have over these injures, the question is Top Gear viable in the future?

‘Replacing people like Clarkson, Hammond and May proved to be very difficult and if Freddie Flintoff isn’t coming back to it then there will be a problem getting the chemistry right.

‘Then there’s the true extent of what happened will soon come out. Can the BBC keep risking their presenters like this? This is the second major accident that should never have happened.

‘It is going to be difficult to get presenters insured on that show. Two accidents have happened there.

‘No matter how safe you’re trying to be, you’re still trying to create exciting entertainment which Top Gear has been doing for years.’

Flintoff's injuries were visible again today as he was pictured during England's practice session at the Oval

Flintoff’s injuries were visible again today as he was pictured during England’s practice session at the Oval

The double-decker racing challenge from series 11 was one of Top Gear's most popular stunts

The double-decker racing challenge from series 11 was one of Top Gear’s most popular stunts

Another classic stunt saw Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May fashion a hovervan during floods in Britain in 2013

Another classic stunt saw Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May fashion a hovervan during floods in Britain in 2013

As a major probe continues into the incident, it emerged last month that one of the show’s top executives, Clare Pizey – who had been its editorial director since March last year – is due to leave, casting fresh uncertainty over its future. 

In 2020, Paddy McGuiness was also involved in crash while driving a Lamborghini in the Yorkshire Dales in 2020. 

READ MORE: Flintoff’s Top Gear crash car that left him with face wounds was ‘not fitted with air bags’ 

 

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After not being seen since his shocking crash, Flintoff has been making a quiet re-introduction to cricket this summer, working with the England team. 

Though he appeared in good spirits as he coached the players on Friday, appearing again on Sunday during England’s clash against New Zealand, he still bore the scars of his brush with death. 

In the aftermath, his wife Rachael reportedly begged him to stay off work. 

The father-of-four was ‘lucky to be alive’ when his open-topped three-wheel Morgan Super 3 flipped over in freezing conditions, according to his son. 

Filming on the series was suspended while Flintoff recovered from his injuries and investigations took place, with reports the former professional cricketer was putting his TV career on hold.

An insider told The Times in March: ‘Freddie has been seriously emotionally and physically affected by the crash. He is a daredevil, that’s what he does, and he doesn’t feel like he is able to continue to play that role on the show.’

Reports said Flintoff had decided to leave the programme before the BBC confirmed in March it was halting filming of the following series, which had been set for release in the autumn. 

The Mail on Sunday reported the high-speed accident and horrific injuries of the former England cricket star had a ‘significant effect’ on witnesses, preventing them from returning to work.

Sources say that there were many staff present at last December’s smash at the Top Gear test track at Dunsfold Park aerodrome in Surrey. 

Flintoff (pictured today) has since quit Top Gear and several members of staff who witnessed the accident signed off sick indefinitely as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder

Flintoff (pictured today) has since quit Top Gear and several members of staff who witnessed the accident signed off sick indefinitely as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder

One said: ‘The scenes were awful, something you would truly want to unsee. The idea of returning to do that kind of work again for some people is just too much.

‘It has been a terribly hard time for everyone involved in the crash. Some are still struggling with it so have been signed off work.’

Flintoff has yet to take any legal action, but it isn’t known if any of the production team have. 

After the crash, an insider told The Sun he would be ‘putting his career on hold until he is in a better place mentally and physically’.

They added: ‘As a loving husband and dad he understands the fear his family feel about what’s happened, knowing that he could have been killed. He is determined to resume his TV work at some point though.

‘That’s why this decision will be a painful one for Freddie but he knows that, for now at least, there are more important things in life.’

After the incident, his 16-year-old son Corey told MailOnline: ‘He’s OK. I’m not too sure what happened but he is lucky to be alive.

‘It was a pretty nasty crash. It is shocking. We are all shocked but just hope he’s going to be OK.’ 

Top Gear crashes through the years 

Richard Hammond crashes a Vampire Dragster – 2006 

Richard was left fighting for his life after crashing the jet-powered car while going at 288 mph as he tested the vehicle at the former RAF Elvington airbase near York. Hammond was completing a seventh and final run in the car when the front-right tyre blew-out and the dragster veered off the runway, rolled over, and Hammond was left with a traumatic head injury and was in a coma for two weeks. In the year following the crash the TV presenter returned to the show and spoke about the crash on the Jonathan Ross Show, but couldn’t remember any of it because of his injuries.

Shocking: Richard was left fighting for his life after crashing the Vampire Dragster while going at 288 mph as he tested the vehicle at the former RAF Elvington airbase

Shocking: Richard was left fighting for his life after crashing the Vampire Dragster while going at 288 mph as he tested the vehicle at the former RAF Elvington airbase

Freddie Flintoff crashes a jet trike – 2019

In September, Freddie revealed he suffered a nasty escape after a high speed crash in a jet trike during filming. The cricket star, 41, insisted he was ‘absolutely fine’ after his jet trike careered off the road during a race at the Elvington Airfield near York. Freddie reportedly careered his high speed trike off the road as he filmed the high-speed race. Crew members rushed to Freddie – who was wearing a full motorcycling suit and helmet for the scenes – but he emerged with barely a scratch.

Close call: In September last year, Freddie revealed he suffered a nasty escape after a high speed crash in a jet trike during filming

Close call: In September last year, Freddie revealed he suffered a nasty escape after a high speed crash in a jet trike during filming

Paddy McGuinness’ back axel comes off his Pontiac Firebird – 2020

In the latest series of Top Gear, Paddy embarked on the ‘original’ American Road Trip with Freddie and Chris Harris. He arrived in their start point of Peru with a Pontiac Firebird which didn’t have a roof amongst several other problems. When the trio decided to test out their cars on a straight 1/4 mile stretch of road Paddy’s car only got a few yards before the back end of the axel came apart entirely and he was forced to abandon the car.

In the latest series of Top Gear, Paddy was forced to abandon his Pontiac Firebird after the back end of the axel came apart entirely (pictured)

In the latest series of Top Gear, Paddy was forced to abandon his Pontiac Firebird after the back end of the axel came apart entirely (pictured)

Jeremy Clarkson flips over his Reliant Robin – 2010

In a now famous segment from Top Gear, former presenter Jeremy flipped over a Reliant Robin multiple times. The motorcar journalist was flipping it over to prove that the three-wheeled car could easily tip over. In his Sunday Times driving column Jeremy revealed that he had actually asked crew to tinker with the car ‘so that the poor little thing rolled over every time I turned the steering wheel’.

Flipping heck: In a now famous segment from Top Gear, former presenter Jeremy Clarkson flipped over a Reliant Robin multiple times (pictured)

Flipping heck: In a now famous segment from Top Gear, former presenter Jeremy Clarkson flipped over a Reliant Robin multiple times (pictured)




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