One of 'Top Gear's most senior producers has revealed that Jeremy Clarkson was his longtime hero, but he felt sorely let down by the actions of the show's star that led to the end of one of the BBC's most successful programme.
Richard Porter, who worked as script editor for 13 years on the show, told BBC Radio 5 Live that, when Clarkson came to the production office to apologise for the punching incident that led to his exit, the presenter didn't stay long enough to sit down or take his coat off.
Richard told radio host Phil Williams: "He came in, I don’t know whether he was embarrassed, having to come in straight from BBC management, admitting he’d made a terrible mistake, and then coming in to see the gang.
"It just felt like he wanted to get it over and done with, he didn’t sit down or take his coat off. I think he was quite haunted and hurt by what had happened himself. He wanted to stay at home and lick his wounds. I didn’t want him on the ground kneeling and weeping, but there is a middle ground."
Richard has written a book about his time on the show, which became increasingly turbulent as Clarkson's debacles threatened to overshadow the car format that made the show so successful. He reflects in the book on Clarkson's altercation with producer Oisin Tymon:
"It was stupid and unnecessary. We were a tight team. Whatever else is going on, you don’t turn on one of your own. Jeremy had let us down. When the reward is a smack in the chops, that suggests a lack of respect. His apology seemed half-hearted and feeble."
Richard also shed some light on the team's disastrous foray to Argentina, which saw 'Top Gear' run out of town by a crowd of raging locals earlier in the year.
Despite the team's protestations, few really believed that the cause of the controversy - the registration plates on Jeremy Clarkson's car which read 'H982 FKL' - was anything other than a deliberate slur, a reference to the UK's conflict with Argentina back in 1982, when we went to war over the Falkland Islands.
However, now Richard has sworn the registration plates were a completely unplanned accident, brought about by the purchase in the UK of the only suitable car, and it being shipped to Argentina before any of the 'Top Gear' crew had seen the car to check it out.
"Hand on heart, I can’t say this enough, it wasn’t deliberate. The original concept was to build a small town at the most southerly settlement, and the car bit came belatedly, because there was no obvious car."
Once the team had settled on V8 engines, Richard reports Clarkson choosing a Porsche 928 GT. He explains a researcher found it online, and an engineer went to check on the car. The team wired the money to the seller, and the car was shipped across the Atlantic without the producers having set eyes on it.
"When we saw the ad, the plates had been blanked out," says Richard now. "The first time we saw them was in South America, which was when they were spotted by a South American website, who published the pictures.
"We were back in London, and we thought ‘Oh no.’"
During his chat, Richard emphasised how much Jeremy Clarkson contributed to the show, saying he spent many sleepless nights worrying about how to improve the tiniest details of the show.
"I would say that yes, the pressures of the previous year were on Jeremy's shoulders. He was the engine room of the show.
He was across every small part of the show. He used to lie awake at night worrying about tiny details. He’d be fretting over the minutest thing that he thought should be better, and he put the most pressure on himself."
Jeremy Clarkson and his former co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May are now set to launch a new car show on Amazon Prime, while the 'Top Gear' format is being revamped by the BBC with Chris Evans in the driving seat.
Click here to listen to the full interview with Richard Porter on BBC 5 Live.