Top Gear's Richard Hammond Angers Travellers With 'Pikey' Reference

Oh dear, here we go again - another Top Gear gaffe. Well, it has been a few weeks since the last one.

This time it was Richard 'the hamster' Hammond who pulled the short straw of which member of the crew's turn it was to rile another section of humanity. The target this time? Travellers - or 'Pikeys' in Hammond's words.

Writing in the latest issue of Top Gear magazine, Hammond was waxing lyrical on his love for his Land Rover:

"I have, over the past 10 years I've owned it, spent way too much money on my Land Rover. It was born 27 years ago as a red fire truck, but is now a black pickup with a canvas roof."

"It's spent time as a blinged-up street cruiser with chrome wheels, blue neon underlighting, straight-through dragster sidepipes and pumped-up stereo that could damage your pelvis on loud."

So far, so Pimp My Ride, but then the Top Gear and children's TV presenter goes on:

"I have fitted chrome accents on the dash and commissioned back seats bearing my daughters' names. Yes, I am a pikey, and it is important that my Land Rover reflect that."

The Irish Traveller Movement condemned Hammond's use of the word and demanded the BBC issued an apology.

Talking to the Huffington Post UK, spokemans Matthew Brindley, said: 'The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain condemn Richard Hammond's and the BBC's use of such highly offensive terminology which causes great distress and upset to the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities."

"It is completely unacceptable in this day and age that a public body like the BBC and a prominent public figure like Mr Hammond feel they can casually ridicule and offend Irish Travellers and Gypsies who are a protected ethnic minority group under the Equality Act. We call for Mr Hammond and the BBC to issue an immediate apology."

It's not the first time Hammond has used the expression though. In 2009, the TV programme was comparing different types of saloon cars and to pass judgement on one vehicle, placed a pie and a key on the bonnet. Hammond said 'he was a bit of a pikey himself'.

Last year, he courted further controversy when he described Mexicans as '"lazy, feckless" and "flatulent". The remarks drew condemnation from the Mexican ambassador who accused the show making "outrageous, vulgar and inexcusable insults".

Update: 1 June 2011 After this story was published, Top Gear magazine has apologised over the issue. Editor Charlie Turner commented: "We’re sorry this term has caused offence. That was never the magazine’s intention – or Richard’s."