BBC2's Top Gear is notorious for angering cyclists, caravan owners and the green lobby with outrageous stunts.

Its latest project was no exception - presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May racing across the Arctic Circle in a gas-guzzling 4x4 against colleague Richard Hammond, who was driving a sled pulled by Canadian inuit dogs.

But today a top Southampton doctor and record-breaking polar explorer ridiculed the project, claiming it could have been done "in a Mini".

Dr Mike Stroud claimed the show misled viewers into thinking that its three stars had travelled to the North Pole when they had actually only gone to the North Magnetic Pole.

Dr Stroud OBE, who has made five gruelling expeditions towards the North Pole, mocked the programme's portrayal of polar exploration as "easy".

The 52-year-old branded presenter Jeremy Clarkson "ignorant and irresponsible" over claims that their Arctic trip found little evidence of global warming.

He said huge trucks and even aeroplanes regularly negotiate the same swathes of ice which the programme portrayed its stars daringly crossing in a 4x4.

The hour-long Top Gear Polar Special, which attracted 4.5 million viewers, followed the trio as they journeyed for several days across frozen seas and ice boulder fields.

The presenters claimed during the programme that they risked freezing to death, drowning in ice-cold water or being eaten by polar bears during the 350-mile race.

But while Clarkson painted their eventual victory over Hammond as a triumph for the automobile, Dr Stroud described their achievement as "laughable".

Dr Stroud, who in 1993 joined Sir Ranulph Fiennes in becoming the first explorers to walk unaided across Antarctica, said: "This was a disturbing example of very misleading TV.

"Where they went is 1,200 miles from the North Pole - that's 400-500 miles south of where expeditions to the true North Pole start.

"The conditions you face when travelling to the North Pole bear no resemblance whatsoever to those you encounter when going to the North Magnetic Pole.

"They may have come across small areas of difficulty but the ice is incredibly smooth and the going is generally very easy.

"You could do most of their journey in a Mini."

Dr Stroud, a consultant gastroenterologist at Southampton General Hospital, said he was infuriated by Clarkson's claims on the show about global warming.

He said: "It made me pretty livid to hear him spouting that kind of message like a buffoon when there is so much clear evidence that polar ice is melting year on year.

"The Arctic in general is showing critical signs of global warming and then they go and unnecessarily contribute to the problem by driving a gas guzzling truck across the ice.

"By claiming that what they have seen is in some way evidence that the effects are not that bad, despite proper evidence to the contrary, is ignorant and irresponsible."

A BBC spokeswoman said: "Perhaps the trip could be done in a mini but I'd like to see them try and go over the boulder fields in it.

"There are areas of thin ice and thick ice that can be covered by large vehicles as our maps showed.

"For someone as accomplished as Dr Mike Stroud the journey may well have been a walk in the park.

"But for our presenters, who completely lacked experience, it was a real challenge.

"The publicity material for the show, the co-ordinates and the graphic maps shown on-screen all clearly show that the trip was to the Magnetic North Pole."

She added that Clarkson's remarks about global warming were "part of his style" and refused to comment on them.