I have almost always enjoyed Top Gear, admiring the team's knowledge of cars and sharing their interest in them and often amused by the commentary and good old-fashioned japes that men of my generation do seem to get up to when left alone for a while.
The Patagonia adventure had all the makings of being great, and the publicity that preceded it regarding Argentinians being upset at a number plate led to quite a bit of anticipation that this would be a good few hours' viewing. It started well and I loved the idea of taking some great V8s on a journey and the scenery in this part of the world was wonderful.
It went wrong for me, though, when all three cars seemed to get completely wrecked by many of the roads, or not particularly close approximations to roads, chosen. We could go along with a few difficult miles, deserts and even some fields or river crossings. Trying to take these cars across a track strewn with logs and boulders or, the most ridiculous, along a beach with barely two feet clear of debris larger than anything other than a jeep would get over, was not so good.
There was no reason why the Mustang should be shoving along some massive tree trunk nor the Lotus or Porsche being crunched into and over massive rocks. However well-made originally, they were never going to survive that sort of treatment. It was, indeed, remarkable how well the Lotus managed throughout and that was quite heart-warming but you did wish it hadn't been put through quite such challenges at the same time. It had earned its stripes long before.
I have a feeling that a massive amount of repairs must have been conducted behind the scenes and my hearty congratulations to whoever managed those - usually miles from anywhere.
This year's show, once you get over those way too tough track elements, was fun and the ending genuinely quite worrying. There were no signs of the three stars in the last segment when stuff was being thrown at cars and you do wonder whether they had been quietly flown out via another route. It probably would have been a good idea to put another plate on the Porsche. I take the view that it was genuinely its original plate - that one being reissued as it had been on a private plate before. We are told in one article that the crew did see that it was possibly something that could be a problem at an early stage but no-one seemed that bothered. The intention to have a football match was real and we're told that they would have removed the plate at that point if not before. So one does have to wonder why they didn't do something very simple like buy any old plate for it before setting off.
I do think, however, that the demonstration was not so much about one of the registration plates but just a general opportunity taken to whinge on an international scale. Top Gear has the most extraordinarily wide following across the planet and I reckon a group of Argentians who will probably never be reconciled to the idea of the Falkland Islands being British saw a chance to project their objections across the world.
Disrupting Top Gear wasn't very difficult by the look of it. A few hundred men throwing eggs and rocks would have been pretty terrifying for a crew more familiar with hoards of autograph hunters. It would have been quite satisfying for the protesters to see what was a surprisingly big fleet of TV crew vehicles scurrying away, battered and more than a bit baffled that night.
I wonder what happened to the cars? After surviving so much before it seemed a bit sad that they may well just have been wrecked by a mob.