A friend of suspended Top Gear star Jeremy Clarkson has labelled the BBC investigation into his fracas with a producer ‘preposterous and ponderous’.
Clarkson, who is originally from Doncaster, has been defended by his Sunday Times colleague AA Gill.
Meanwhile, Clarkson, whose alleged row with producer Oisin Tymon was reportedly over a £21.95 steak, described himself as a ‘not very interesting fat man’ and joked about retirement while he awaits a disciplinary hearing.
Mr Gill said Clarkson had called BBC bosses to apologise over the the fracas which led to his suspension in an attempt to draw a line under the matter.
Writing in the Sunday Times, he said: “Jeremy reported the incident. It was over the absence of hot food at the end of a long and frustrating day with the prospect of another early start in the morning.
“The producer, Oisin Tymon, had not made a complaint. Jeremy called Danny Cohen, the director of BBC television, directly and explained he had lost his rag. Sources close to Top Gear say the reasons were that he wanted to apologise and make an amend, not least for the sake of the hundreds of people standing by to carry on with the rest of the show.
“Cohen had a choice: to do the right thing or the bureaucratic thing, but at the BBC no good intention goes unquestioned.”
Defending Clarkson, he said: “People work long hours with a great deal of stress, and small things - almost invariably food - are tetchy trip-wires. Whatever did happen, in mitigation to Jeremy , nobody works harder or under more stress than he.”
In his column for the Sunday Times, Clarkson wrote: “We read often about active and busy people who die the day after they retire because they simply can’t cope with the concept of relaxation. So as I seem to have a bit of time on my hands at the moment, I thought it would be a good idea to take up some kind of hobby.
“I began by watching daytime television, and soon felt myself starting to slip away. So I turned over to the news and it was all about a not very interesting fat man who had been suspended from his not very important job. But watching the fat man made me hungry and that’s when the penny dropped: I’d take up cooking.”
It does not go well though, the star admitted, and he concluded: “So my new hobby is called ‘going out to restaurants and letting people who know what they’re doing cook my food’.”
It comes after reports suggested the row erupted because no hot food was laid on at Simonstone Hall Hotel near Hawes, North Yorkshire, where the crew were staying after filming.
It could be weeks until Clarkson’s fate is decided and it is understood not all the potential witnesses to the row have yet been contacted ahead of the hearing.
He is scheduled to appear alongside co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond at four live shows in Norway on March 27 and 28 and a decision on whether to go ahead is expected early next week.
All three men’s contracts expire three days after the Norway gigs, which could render any disciplinary hearings redundant.
The BBC panel will be led by Ken MacQuarrie, the head of BBC Scotland, who carried out the investigation into Newsnight’s false expose of Lord McAlpine.
The last three episodes of the series have currently been put on hold.
The corporation has apologised to viewers who complained about the postponed episodes.
In a statement it said: “We do hope you’ll understand that we value this reaction, but the investigation is still under way. Until more is known, we’re therefore unable to say anything further in response and will not yet be making further statements about the issue.
“We realise you’ll be disappointed that we can’t respond to you in any more detail but thank you for contacting us.”
A lawyer for Mr Tymon said his client ‘intends to await the outcome of the BBC investigation and will make no comment until that investigation is complete’.
A petition calling for the BBC to reinstate Clarkson has now been signed by more than 900,000 people.
Change.org, the website hosting the petition, has revealed people from Sheffield are among the strongest supporters of the online campaign.