Whether Top Gear will ever return to its former glory when Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May fronted the show is another story. But new host Chris Harris has insisted that ratings have, at least, rocketed because Chris Evans has left.
The 42-year-old journalist joined the motoring show last year alongside the BBC Radio Two DJ and thinks the presenter’s shock exit last year actually worked out for the better, because it peaked people’s interest and they’re tuning in to the new series.
The show struggled to rake in two million viewers after Jez and his crew left but Harris insisted it is more focused on the cars than its stars now and ratings are going up because without Chris Evans, the cars come first.
He said: “It’s a bit more car-orientated so the petrolheads are enjoying it. It’s never going to satisfy the full petrolhead audience but the car is at the centre of the show.”
The former race car driver faced criticism at the beginning of the series from fans who thought his presenting skills were not as hot as his driving.
And he’s admitted his co-star Matt LeBlanc – who bosses signed up alongside Evans in the hope his fame would attract viewers – has been helping him perfect his presenting skills alongside Rory Reid.
Speaking to The Sun newspaper, he explained: “I want to still be the guy who drives the cars and demonstrates what they do. But equally I now have to make television. I’m working alongside one of the best comedy actors of my generation and that can be pretty daunting. But he is super, super giving and very helpful.
“It’s like going to school every day because Matt constantly tells me what to do. Hopefully I’ll get better as time goes on. ‘Top Gear’ is a huge brand. We were always going to come across negative comments.
“I just want to be part of something people can watch with their family at 8pm on a Sunday night, and be proud of it. Right now I am.”
Evans turned his back on the show less than 12 months into his three-year contract after his hosting style was heavily criticised by fans but, although it was his choice to leave, he hasn’t spoken to LeBlanc , who he co-presented with, since his departure.
Matt said previously: “I did not know what was coming until I read that [he had quit the show] in the paper. I haven’t heard from him since – which is his choice.”
It was rumoured the pair had locked horns while shooting the series last year, but the 50-year-old hunk is adamant that wasn’t the case and they merely kept a professional relationship because they had busy schedules away from the screen.
– who took over from sacked host Jeremy Clarkson – as they thought his fame would boost viewings.
However, the series’ success didn’t replicate the expectations and every episode was slated online by viewers, who found Evans’ presenting style “awkward”.
Despite the negative reviews, bosses decided to make Matt the show’s main host for the forthcoming series, with a helping hand from Harris and Reid.