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And on that bombshell… Matt LeBlanc to leave Top Gear

Written by James Mills

And on that bombshell… Matt LeBlanc to leave Top Gear

Ever since its reinvention at the hands of Jeremy Clarkson, Top Gear has never steered far from controversy, even playing on the joke by signing off each episode, ‘And on that bombshell…’. Now Matt LeBlanc has dropped a bombshell of his own, announcing the next series of Top Gear will be his last.

The American actor and presenter said he was hanging up his driving gloves to spend more time with his family and friends. The news effectively confirms what a lot of people already knew; namely, that’s he’s one of the good guys. The appointment of the star, in 2016, who made his name in Friends, the American‘90s sitcom, came as a shock to bookies and fans of the show.

Initially, LeBlanc was co-host with Chris Evans. The pair were drafted in after Jeremy Clarkson did not renew his contract with the BBC, following the ‘steakgate’ fracas, in which Clarkson punched a producer of the TV show during a row about the lack of hot food following a day of filming. It was Evans, a darling of the BBC, who failed to win over the fans. He eventually departed at the end of his first series, leaving LeBlanc to front the show with Rory Reid and Chris Harris.

In a statement, LeBlanc said that despite Top Gear being "great fun", the "time commitment and extensive travel... takes me away from my family and friends more than I'm comfortable with." He added: "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."

Chris Harris Tweeted ‘Best of luck big dog’.

BBC Two controller Patrick Holland said: "Matt has thrown himself into the show with real passion, revealing his extraordinary car knowledge and a willingness to get down and dirty. We were always going to be borrowing him from his day job as one of the top comic actors in Hollywood so I wish him all the very best."The next series of Top Gear (Matt's last) promises to be something very special and we have great plans to welcome a new co-host to join the team for 2019 and beyond." Fellow presenter Rory Reid thanked Le Blanc for ‘all the laughs’.

Any replacement for LeBlanc is likely to need international recognition, as the BBC profits from selling Top Gear to more than 150 third party territories. Speculation has already begun as to who could fill LeBlanc’s shoes. Guy Martin, the motorbike racer, and Philip Glenister, the actor, are two names linked to the role.

Viewing figures for Top Gear have dropped dramatically since Clarkson, Hammond and May left to join Amazon and front The Grand Tour. The most recent series, which aired this year, attracted an average audience of 3.1 million, down from the more than 7 million who regularly tuned in during the show’s peak under Clarkson. The BBC is still to announce when the next series of Top Gear will be aired.

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Written by James Mills

Read more from James Mills

James Mills is a former editor of BBC Top Gear and Auto Express magazines. He now contributes to The Sunday Times Driving. His favourite car is the Caterham Seven.

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