A FAMILY karting business has been threatened with legal action by the BBC after using the name of one of its most popular shows.

TopGear Karting, based in Durham City, has been using the name since it opened in 1999 - and also hosted birthday parties with its own version of "The Stig".

But last week its owners were surprised to receive a letter from BBC Worldwide Limited asking them to stop using trademarks associated with their motoring show - which has been running since 1977.

Manager Iain Donald said: “I think it looks like they are clutching at straws. It’s been TopGear since 1999 so it’s quite a lot of time and there’s never been anything before.

“We’re only small family business. We’ve had a lot of people come in the past and ask if we’re affected by the BBC but we’ve never had any bother before.”

The company, which is part of Renny's Lane Industrial Estate, however was also advertising birthday parties with “The Stig” – Top Gear's famous mystery driver.

Since the company received the letter on June 29 it has changed the name of its driver to the “Tamed Racing Driver”.

It is still seeking legal advice on whether it will have to change its name.

Mr Donald added: “It’s a shame, more for the children than ourselves because they love The Stig. Nobody is pulled up on dressing up as Disney characters for birthday parties and they are a lot bigger than the BBC.

“About five years ago the business was really low and there weren’t many customers so we worked hard to get local schools and the community on board. It would be hard to throw all that down the drain.

“If we have to change it will have a massive impact on the business. I wouldn’t even like to think what it would cost us.”

A spokesman for BBC Worldwide Ltd said: “We contacted TopGear Karting after a member of the public contacted us about their unauthorised use of both the Top Gear brand and The Stig character. We are keen to ensure members of the public, expecting to book an event endorsed by a known and trusted brand, are not misled.

“BBC Worldwide manages this brand commercially for the benefit of the licence fee payer, with all profits from commercial enterprise being returned to the BBC. As such we have a responsibility to protect the use of this brand and the BBC’s intellectual property.”