Following the departure of Chris Evans after fellow presenter American Matt LeBlanc had threatened to quit the show unless Evans was sacked due to alleged inappropriate behaviour on set, the BBC has confirmed that LeBlanc will front the next two series of Top Gear, which are due to air next year.
LeBlanc will lead the show, following the departure of Chris Evans at the end of Season 23. British motoring journalists Rory Reid and Chris Harris will also return full-time.
German racing driver Sabine Schmitz and F1 pundit Eddie Jordan will continue to make regular appearances, and The Stig will still be there, lingering ominously in the background.
BBC Two channel editor, Patrick Holland, said: “I am thrilled that Matt LeBlanc is returning to Top Gear. He’s a huge talent whose love of cars is infectious. I can’t wait for the series to return to BBC next year.”
Mark Linsey, BBC Studios director, added: “Matt was hugely popular with Top Gear viewers last series with his humour, warmth and obvious passion for cars and for the show, so I couldn’t be more delighted that he’s agreed to come back and do more for us.”
BBC head of factual entertainment Clare Pizey will act as executive producer on the new series, while Top Gear long-termer Alex Renton is series editor.
After an apparently troubled production process, the Season 23 premiere was watched by 4.3 million viewers. That figure fell by roughly half over the course of the season, but the worldwide audience and views on catch-up services were reportedly healthy. Overall, though, it underperformed considerably compared with previous series hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.
Many put the blame on Chris Evans, and he took the fall, resigning after just the one season. It will be interesting to see if the slimmed-down presenter line-up can arrest the decline in audience.
We are still interested to see what, if any effect, the former presenters’ new show, The Grand Tour, has on Top Gear.
The BBC has not yet announced an air date for the premiere of Season 24 of its show. Filming for the series was originally slated to start this month.
The Grand Tour will start airing from 18 November 2016. Studio recordings began on 17 July 2016 in Johannesburg.