BBC and rally organisers dispute Noel Edmonds’ ‘fake TV’ claims

TV star claims BBC hid celebrities’ accidents and breakdowns in The Road to Saigon – but organisers say it’s all shown in four-part ‘Eight Go Rallying’

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The Endurance Rally Association and the BBC have strongly disagreed with TV star Noel Edmonds’ claims in The Times that the Eight Go Rallying four-part TV series about to air on BBC2 was ‘fictional’.

Edmonds was one of eight celebrities chosen to take part in the long-distance Road to Saigon historic rally through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. All eight joined the event halfway through at Chiang Mai, with the intention of completing the event to the finish in Saigon. However, not everything went to plan…

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Noel Edmonds and his wife Liz, driving an MGB GT, are both experienced classic rally competitors. They were the only ones to finish the rally in a classic car.

Martin Kemp (Spandau Ballet/Eastenders) and wife Shirlie Kemp (Wham!) were competing in a 1972 Mini, but on an off-road test on the second day Shirlie rolled the Mini. They were forced to complete the rally in a hire car.

Chef Andi Oliver and her daughter, TV presenter Miquita Oliver, were in a 1959 Morris Minor, but their lack of experience and the sweltering conditions meant they struggled to keep up with the pack. The only answer was to occasionally hitch a ride on the back of a breakdown truck.

Tinchy Stryder and Jordan Stephens (Rizzle Kicks) had never driven classic cars before, and the clutch and gearbox of their Hillman Imp suffered through this lack of knowledge. ‘They killed it!’ was one observation.

In The Times, Noel Edmonds complained that the BBC tried to hide these incidents, saying: ‘So did we pack up and come home [after the incidents]? Nope – the producers of this factual programme decided to go fictional. We were told to give the impression that we were still competing against each other and the other rally participants.’

He then added: ‘In this BBC production we’re not competing against each other or motor sport enthusiasts in an endurance rally. We were reduced to simply observing classic rally enthusiasts having a jolly good time. The production contrived scenarios and invented “drama”. They used hire cars for two of the teams, and transported the rally cars on low-loaders so the celebs could enjoy air-con in a minibus.’

He continued: ‘Liz and I flatly refused to co-operate and were the only team to drive the entire 2500 miles in our own car. Yes, we got a big silver cup, but we would have preferred a great experience and the chance to contribute to an honest production.’

The BBC disagrees with Edmonds’ claims. In a statement it said: ‘The programme was produced with input from industry experts and in accordance with relevant health and safety guidance. If Noel had waited to see the programme first, we hope he’d agree that far from deceiving viewers the programme faithfully follows the celebrities on their adventure — and yes, it was gruelling.’

It continues: ‘As viewers will see, when “mishaps” happened during the course of the filming, this is reflected in the programme. With reference to two of the celebrities not having driving licences, it is common practice in ERA rallies for teams to include a non-driving navigator with no requirement for a licence. In a demanding drive like this, it’s not surprising that not all the original cars made it to the end — as viewers will see.

‘Whilst the road trip may not have felt “epic” or “unique” to Noel, to the average person it would be a privilege to take part in such a trip for a TV programme.’

The BBC also said Edmonds’ contract made it clear that the celebrities would not be competing against participants in the official rally: ‘The other participants remain positive about their experience, and we think viewers will enjoy the programme.’

The rally organiser, Endurance Rally Association (ERA), also pointed out that Noel Edmonds made the claims before having seen the programme, and that there was actually no way for the celebrities to compete for honours in the event because they joined the rally halfway through.

You can make up your own minds when Eight Go Rallying airs on BBC2 on August 19.

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