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Last Updated: Monday, 29 January 2007, 17:54 GMT
Top Gear crash wins ratings clash
Richard Hammond and Shilpa Shetty
Top Gear's peak audience exceeded Celebrity Big Brother's
Top Gear won the battle of the ratings on Sunday, with more watching dramatic footage of Richard Hammond's car crash than the Celebrity Big Brother final.

At its peak, the BBC Two motoring show was seen by 8.6 million - 1.3 million more than the 7.3 million who watched Shilpa Shetty win the Channel 4 show.

The station has continued to defend the show against charges of racial abuse.

But Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan told BBC Radio 4 that there were "important lessons to be learned".

"We're very sorry for any upset caused," he told the BBC's Torin Douglas, while dismissing any suggestion Channel 4 was rethinking its position on the show.

The station was "committed to the programme going forward", he said.

'Completely fixed'

Top Gear's average audience on Sunday night was 7.9 million, compared to the 4.8 million who saw its rival's first hour.

That figure rose to 6.5 million as the Channel 4 show reached its conclusion.

That's how it is in the world; things go wrong
Richard Hammond

The average audience for the last series of Top Gear peaked at 5.3 million in August 2006.

Celebrity Big Brother was also beaten by BBC One drama Waking the Dead, which reached an average audience of 6.7 million.

Top Gear viewers saw Hammond introduce shocking footage of the 280mph accident in a jet-powered car that left him fighting for life last September.

The 37-year-old declared himself "completely fixed and normal" and implored co-presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May to make no further mention of the crash.

Richard Hammond's crash
Viewers saw Hammond's jet-powered car overturn at 280mph
A spokeswoman for the programme said it was "great to have Top Gear back and in such good form".

Writing on his blog at Topgear.com after Sunday's programme, Hammond defended the decision to show the crash footage.

"We can't pretend it didn't happen - that we can hoon about all over Europe in supercars and punt jet-propelled dragsters up runways at 300mph without things going wrong," he writes.

"That's how it is in the world; things go wrong. And if I've learned one thing, it's that they can go wrong at the worst possible moment."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The first showing of Richard Hammond's crash



SEE ALSO
Shetty wins Celebrity Big Brother
28 Jan 07 |  Entertainment
BBC airs Top Gear crash footage
28 Jan 07 |  Entertainment
Big Brother star Jo denies racism
26 Jan 07 |  Entertainment
In pictures: Richard Hammond's crash
18 Jan 07 |  In Pictures

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