Matt LeBlanc has had his first taste of Top Gear controversy.
The former Friends star – together with the BBC's revamped motoring show – was branded "gravely disrespectful" by a retired British colonel after paparazzi images appeared to show him performing stunts near one of London's most famous war memorials, leaving large tire marks on the nearby streets.
Top Gear bosses defended the show, claiming that the photos looked like the shoot happened closer to the so-called Cenotaph in central London, but that filming had actually taken place "a respectful distance away" and had all been agreed with the local council.
"This is a sacred tribute to millions of people who have done far more for their country than Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc ever will," said former army colonel Richard Kemp, speaking to U.K. newspaper The Daily Telegraph. "Jeremy Clarkson was certainly no saint but I don't believe he would have ever performed a stunt in such bad taste."
On Monday co-host Chris Evans used his BBC radio show to apologize "unreservedly" for the incident, saying that he "completely understood the furor" it had caused, however close the filming had actually been to the memorial.
Matt LeBlanc through the years:
Matt LeBlanc through the years
Matt LeBlanc 'Top Gear' stunt criticized as 'gravely disrespectful,' co-host apologizes
FILE - This is a Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012 file photo of Matt LeBlanc as he arrives at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles. The BBC said Thursday Feb. 4, 2016 that former "Friends" star Matt LeBlanc will be joining the broadcaster's popular "Top Gear" program, presenting the revamped car show with British TV presenter and DJ Chris Evans. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)
Matt LeBlanc during 'Love Ride 8' for MDA at Glendale Harley Davidson in Glendale, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - NOVEMBER 3: Actor Matt LeBlanc attends 'The Professional' Beverly Hills Premiere on November 3, 1994 at the Academy Theatre in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - MARCH 5: Actor Matt LeBlanc, actress Lisa Kudrow, actor Matthew Perry, actress Jennifer Aniston, actress Courteney Cox and actor David Schwimmer attend the 21st Annual People's Choice Awards on March 5, 1995 at Sound Stage 12, Universal Studios in Universal City, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
FRIENDS -- 'The One with the Chicken Pox' Episode 23 -- Air Date 05/09/1996 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing (Photo by Gary Null/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Actor Matt LeBlanc poses for a photo outside the Warner Brothers studio Friday, Oct. 24, 1997 in Burbank, Calif. LeBlanc is one of the six costars of the hit NBC television series "Friends".(AP Photo/Susan Sterner)
Actors Matt LeBlanc, left, David Schwimmer, center, and Matthew Perry, of the television show "Friends," pose for photographers as they arrive at the 28th annual People's Choice Awards show in Pasadena, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 13, 2002. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
The cast members of the television show "Friends" arrive at New York's Rockefeller Center for NBC's 75th Anniversary event Sunday May 5, 2002. From left: Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox Arquettte, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston and Matt LeBlanc. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
Matthew Perry, left, and Matt LeBlanc accept the Choice TV Comedy Award for their show "Friends" at the Teen Choice Awards 2002 in Los Angeles, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2002. (AP Photo/Lucy Nicholson)
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Matt LeBlanc at the premiere of "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle".
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Co-stars from the comedy "Friends" Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer, and Matt LeBlanc, left to right, make an award presentation during the 55th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2003, at the Shrine Auditorium on Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
Matt LeBlanc arrives for the 55th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards with his wife Melissa McKnight, who is preganant, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2003, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. LeBlanc is nominated for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series for his work on Friends. (AP Photos/Kim D. Johnson)
Actor Matt LeBlanc from the television show "Friends" arrives at the 30th Annual People's Choice Awards Sunday, Jan. 11, 2004, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2004 file photo, Matt LeBlanc, nominated for best actor in a comedy or musical series for his work in "Friends," arrives at the 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, file)
Actors Matt LeBlanc, left, and Stephen Mangan take questions about the Showtime show "Episodes," during the 2011 Winter Television Critics Association press tour on Friday Jan. 14, 2011 in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
FILE - In this July 29, 2010 file photo, actor Matt LeBlanc, from "Episodes", participates in a panel discussion at the CBS, Showtime and The CW Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif. LeBlanc was nominated for an Emmy award for best actor in a comedy series for his role in âEpisodesâ on Thursday, July 14, 2011. The Emmy awards will be presented on Sept. 18 (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Actor Matt LeBlanc poses backstage with the award for Best Actor in a TV Series, Comedy or Musical for "Episodes" during the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Tanika Ray and Matt Leblanc attend the CBS, Showtime and The CW 2012 TCA summer tour party at 9900 Wilshire Blvd on July 29, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Invision/AP)
Matt LeBlanc arrives at the InStyle and Warner Bros. Golden Globe After Party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday Jan. 13, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Actor Matt LeBlanc arrives at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards Performers Nominee Reception at the Pacific Design Center on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP)
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT - PREMIUM RATES APPLY Lizzy Caplan and Matt LeBlanc seen at Showtime's Holiday Soiree, on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Showtime/AP Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Matt LeBlanc (L) and Andrea Anders arrive at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on September 18, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Scott Kirkland/Invision for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences/AP Images)
Matt LeBlanc, Kathleen Rose Perkins and Mircea Monroe seen at Showtime's 2014 Winter TCA, on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Showtime/AP Images)
Actor Matt LeBlanc poses for a portrait on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP)
Nominees Allison Janney, left, and Matt LeBlanc attend the Television Academy's 66th Emmy Awards Performance Nominee Reception at the Pacific Design Center on Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014, in West Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)
Andrea Anders and Matt LeBlanc seen at Showtime's 2014 Emmy Eve Soiree held at the Sunset Tower Hotel on Sunday, August 24, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Showtime/AP Images)
Andrea Anders, left and Matt LeBlanc arrive at the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
CORRECTS ID - Actor Matt LeBlanc arrives for the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix auto race at the Circuit of the Americas, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc seen at Showtime's Annual Summer Soiree at 2015 TCA held at the Pacific Design Center on Monday, August 10, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Showtime/AP Images)
Matt LeBlanc attends the Miss Golden Globe InStyle Party held at Ysabel on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, in West Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by John Salangsang/Invision/AP)
Matt LeBlanc arrives at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
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"It doesn't matter what actually happened, it doesn't matter what the circumstances were that could explain this away, what is important about this is what these images look like and they look entirely disrespectful, which is not and would never be the intention of the Top Gear team or Matt (LeBlanc)," he said. "On behalf of the Top Gear team and Matt, I would like to apologize unreservedly for what these images seem to portray."
The new-look show – which is set to launch in May in the U.K. on BBC and BBC America in the U.S. – will have to go some way if it is to match the levels of controversy achieved by its former hosts Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond.
In their last few years at the helm, the former Top Gear team was, among numerous incidents, forced to flee Argentina after using number plates that seemed to refer to the Falklands War and faced severe backlash after footage showed Clarkson appearing to use the N-word. The BBC eventually dropped the host – who is soon set to unveil his new show with Amazon – after he punched a producer.