Matt LeBlanc will leave Top Gear after one more season hosting the British car show, reports the BBC, which also airs the series. Unlike some other recent Top Gear departures, the Friends star appears to be leaving of his own volition. He was fairly well-received by viewers, but said the U.K.-based show was putting too much of a strain on his personal life.
LeBlanc told the BBC that Top Gear was “great fun,” but that the “time commitment and extensive travel … takes me away from my family and friends more than I’m comfortable with.” He added that “it’s unfortunate, but for these reasons I will not be continuing my involvement with the show. I will forever be a Top Gear fan and I wish the team continued success. Thanks for a great drive.”
LeBlanc joined Top Gear in 2016 as part of an ensemble of new hosts brought in to replace Jeremey Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May. Clarkson was fired for punching a producer during an argument over catering, and Hammond and May left with him in order to keep their team together. The trio now hosts The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime.
When LeBlanc arrived, British radio personality and Ferrari enthusiast Chris Evans was the ostensible leader of the team. But Evans’ performance was widely panned, and he left after one season. That pushed LeBlanc into a more prominent role on the show, which gradually reformed around a new trio of hosts consisting of the American actor and Brits Chris Harris and Rory Reid.
Top Gear made other format changes as well, such as making room for occasional appearances by additional hosts like ex-Formula One team owner Eddie Jordan. But the show has maintained the focus on automotive hijinks and globe-trotting adventures that made it so popular in the first place. LeBlanc’s enthusiasm for cars and affable on-camera persona helped bring fans back to Top Gear after the show’s overhaul. Finding a replacement for him won’t be easy.
LeBlanc’s departure won’t be the only major change at Top Gear. Government regulators have approved a plan to turn the site of the show’s test track into housing. The BBC has not discussed plans for a new track or a relocation of the Top Gear studio, which sits next to the current track.