Despite reports of some issues behind the scenes, the BBC is still working to launch a new version of Top Gear this May. The network announced radio host and Ferrari enthusiast Chris Evans as the main presenter last year, but now there’s an even more high profile name attached to the rejiggered car show.
Matt LeBlanc will join Evans, “tame racing driver” The Stig, and possibly additional presenters when the show relaunches, Top Gear announced on its website. While he’s best known for playing Joey Tribbiani on Friends, LeBlanc is also a consummate car guy who has appeared on Top Gear before. In those previous appearances, LeBlanc showed that he’s not exactly a slouch behind the wheel.
He set the fastest-ever lap for the show’s “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment,” in which celebrity guests lapped the Top Gear track in small economy cars. LeBlanc’s 1:42.1 lap in a Kia Cee’d was never beaten, so when a new version of the Cee’d appeared, then-host Jeremy Clarkson flew him back to compare the two cars back to back. LeBlanc is also hosting a clip show of Top Gear races that will tide fans over until the Evans-led series premieres, and his show Episodes previously aired on BBC Two, the same channel as Top Gear.
Casting LeBlanc definitely changes things up. The previous trio of Top Gear hosts were all automotive journalists who just happened to be good at being on television, but for this version, the BBC is leaning toward entertainers, who just happen to be car fans. That makes sense, as the show didn’t attain its popularity just by focusing on the cars.
And there may be a few automotive celebrities in the mix as well. Top Gear says there will be more news on “additional cast members” shortly, and there have already been reports that Nürburging expert Sabine Schmitz and British automotive journalist Chris Harris will appear on the show. Former Formula One driver David Coulthard is also rumored to have some, unspecified role.
Meanwhile, the previous Top Gear contingent of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May continues to work on a new car show for Amazon. They’ve apparently already wrangled a Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1, and Porsche 918 Spyder for one episode, so the Amazon show could give Top Gear a run for its money.