Top Gear faces a race against time to make new episodes of the rebooted show.
The BBC motoring programme is understood to have initially committed to making up to 18 episodes in its first year, including two Christmas specials. So far only six have been shot and broadcast – and the show has lost its lead presenter, Chris Evans.
According to sources, the two planned Christmas specials have been shelved, with production aiming to start a new series for next spring.
However, the BBC has not disclosed how many episodes will be made for series two, which is expected to launch with former Friends star Matt LeBlanc at the helm following the departure of Chris Evans. LeBlanc is believed to be locked in negotiations with the BBC about a new deal.
Insiders say that the BBC was due to make two tranches of eight episodes, with two Christmas specials in between, by the spring of 2017. So far, six new episodes have been filmed after the first tranche was cut from eight to six, as exclusively revealed by RadioTimes.com in February.
“It’s six down, 12 to go. It is hard to imagine the show making 12 more episodes by the spring – possible, but it will be a big ask,” a source told RadioTimes.com.
“There are many expensive multi-series contracts in place and there can be no slip-ups. Top Gear can play catch-up in theory but it could impact quality.”
Some voices within the BBC are suggesting the production could be licensed by an established independent production company. Currently it is made by BBC in-house entertainment.
“This is a major production which requires real skills and clever marketing,” said another source. “Is the BBC in-house team up to it?”
The Daily Telegraph reported at the weekend that the Christmas specials were to be axed and that the show was advertising for a new series producer who, according to a job description, must be able to “manage their own emotions in the face of pressure”.
The newspaper also claimed that BBC executives are planning a low-key overhaul of the production team, in which Evans’s responsibilities as “creative lead” will pass to Alex Renton, the series editor, who has worked on Top Gear for more than a decade.
BBC Worldwide had not replied to requests for a comment at the time of publication.