Everything you need to know about the new Top Gear with Chris Evans

New Top Gear presenters Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc start the show this Sunday 29th May – but will it be any good?

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Top Gear, that little old BBC show about cars, is back. You might have heard.

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This weekend will see the first episode of the post-Clarkson era, and, inevitably, there’s been plenty to talk about.

But forget the rumours about Chris Evans not being able to talk and drive or the rubbish about being sick after a race (if Sabine Schmitz was driving, you’d be puking too). What do you actually need to know about Top Gear with Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc?

When does new Top Gear start?

Ah, an easy one. Top Gear will air on BBC2 at 8pm on Sunday 29th May. Meaning we’ve got a whole bank holiday Monday to work out whether it was any good or not.

Who are the new Top Gear presenters?

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Again, an easy question, although it might take a while to memorise all the presenters replacing Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

Chris Evans and former Friends star Matt LeBlanc are the two main hosts and will present every episode, but they will be joined throughout the series by a revolving roster of motoring men and women, who will come in and out as the show progresses. They are:

  • Eddie Jordan, former Formula 1 team owner and commentator
  • Sabine Schmitz, German racing driver and familiar face from the old-new-Top Gear who “grew up next to the Nurburgring”
  • Chris Harris, an established and respected motoring journalist
  • Rory Reid, a TV presenter and car reviewer
  • The Stig. Some say he is a Clarkson double agent…
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How many Top Gear episodes will there be?

The first series will have six episodes, down from the originally planned eight episodes. There will also be a new spin-off called Extra Gear airing on BBC3 after the main event airs on Sundays, featuring more of Rory Reid and Chris Harris.

Is it still called Top Gear?

Of course, and definitely not to be confused with Clarkson, Hammond and May’s new Amazon show The Grand Tour. The brand is owned by the BBC’s commercial arm BBC Worldwide, after they bought out Clarkson and former producer Andy Wilman in 2012.

How much of old Top Gear has survived?

Ah, well, here’s where it gets a bit more complicated. We know, for example, that the much-loved but slightly shabby Top Gear test track has had a major upgrade, with a “considerably larger” budget than previous years.

We also know that while the interview segment with celebrities will remain, the racing challenge will be different. The Star in a Reasonably Priced Car has been renamed Star in a Rallycross Car – with a suped up Mini Cooper to boot.

In terms of Top Gear films, the model remains pretty standard: big stunts, bigger road trips, plus occasionally a few road tests. Possibly with added fighter jets.

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The Stig will remain, but whether his previous lap times will is unclear. Reports suggest the new show will start with a clean slate – although that didn’t stop Evans digging out a few familiar magnetic strips while preparing the studio. 

What’s going to happen in the first episode of Top Gear?

The first guests will be chef Gordon Ramsay and The Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg.

As well as the celebs, there will be a US-UK race to Blackpool between Evans and LeBlanc in two Robin Rialtos (very similar to the Robin Reliants that Clarkson was so keen in playing around with).

There’s also a “celebration” of the 30th anniversary of Top Gun, with Evans in Nevada racing a 645bhp Dodge Viper ACR against Sabine Schmidt in a Chevy Corvette Z06.

And just to top it off, LeBlanc is in Morocco driving crazy dune buggy the Ariel Nomad.

Is it true that Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc don’t get on?

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This is one of the major sticking points of the show. Clarkson, Hammond and May had years to develop their relationship. Evans had less than a year to pull his team together.

There have been numerous reports that the pair haven’t exactly seen eye to eye on everything, although LeBlanc was quick to pour cold water on that when Radio Times spoke to him ahead of the first episode.

“All this stuff that Chris and I are at war with each other is a big load of bulls**t,” he said. “We’ve never had a rift! I’m a true car fan. Chris is a true car fan. We’re hanging out, having a laugh, doing our best. He is an extremely smart guy. I’d beat him in a race, though – and you can tell him I said that.”

Where else have the Top Gear team been on location?

Oh, it’s been a busy shoot, from Morocco to South Africa via Italy, Kazakhstan, Ireland, the United States – and Blackpool of course. 

How long will this last?

What, are you bored before it’s even begun? Chris Evans’s Top Gear deal is set to run for three years, alongside his BBC Radio 2 show.

Why is there such a fuss?

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Top Gear wouldn’t be Top Gear without a little controversy, but the Cenotaph stunt in March was a step too far for everybody. The BBC confirmed it would not broadcast the footage from that shoot, Evans apologised “unreservedly” and admitted he didn’t know an awful lot about the sequence before reading about it in the papers. So that’s good.

But away from that, Evans has said that “weasels” and “malcontents” want him to fail, and have been pushing stories of ruction and crisis behind the scenes. He has also joked that he is preparing for “imminent career death” ahead of the show.

Will it be any good?

Now there’s a question. Whatever happens this Sunday, it is sure to be the most talked-about show of the year so far.

Eddie Jordan, unsurprisingly, has proved the most bullish of the line-up so far, saying according to Mashable, “Of course we want to beat the other guys.” The other guys being Clarkson, Hammond and May.

“Yes we admire what they did, there’s no question about that,” he added. “The previous show was brilliant. But I think this will be a surprise for you guys. When you actually see what we did in South Africa and all the other shows I’ve seen, we’re going to be better.”

Nothing like a bit of fighting talk before the big race, hey Eddie?

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New Top Gear airs Sunday 29th May at 8pm on BBC2.