It’s no secret that after the last series of Top Gear, change needed to happen.
Viewers for the final episode in the series had sunk to 1.9 million and the tabloids were rife with speculation about feuds and off-screen unease.
It wasn’t long before presenter Chris Evans, who had signed a three-year deal to host the show, announced he was quitting, saying that standing aside would be “the single best thing I can do now.”
It’s certainly been a turbulent 12 months in the life of Top Gear, but now things are looking quite different.
Ahead of series 24 starting, RadioTimes.com sat down with Executive Producer Clare Pizey and Series Editor Alex Renton on location in Dunsfold to talk about why this series will be better than the last, their thoughts on The Grand Tour and why we’ll see a more balanced dynamic between Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid:
1. This series will simply be better than before
“I think there’s a lot that we’ve taken from the first series to move into series two and make it better,” says Renton. “I think we’ve nurtured what we had from series one and were able to expand on that more for series two and it’s really exciting.”
Pizey says: “I think it’s important to remember from series one that we made a lot of films and the films were well-received.
“We proved that we’ve got a team who knows how to make the films and we built on those films and we’ve made tweaks to the rest of it, but now it’s up to the viewers.”
2. The trio have had more time to get to know each other
Renton admitted that he believed they were now seeing “that chemistry coming through” between presenters LeBlanc, Harris and Reid.
“They just know each other better now,” agrees Pizey. “If you think about it they were only really booked in February  for series one and we were on air in May. It doesn’t give you long when you’re making so many films – and we were making a lot of individual films.
“By working together, you can’t force chemistry. You have to give it time and we’ve had some time, so that’s the difference.”
Both Renton and Pizey also admit that this time around, they have also had “more time” to work on the series and improve it.
3. Top Gear is a “different beast” to The Grand Tour
“I loved Top Gear with Jeremy, James and Richard,” says Pizey when asked whether they have compared show to the Amazon Prime vehicle for Clarkson, Hammond and May.
Top Gear Executive Producer Clare Pizey
“I was a complete and utter fan and loved every single episode – I completely and utterly loved it. And now surely you can have both?”
Renton adds: “I think we’re getting on with what we do and allowing them to do what they do. We’ve got to make the best show that we know how to make and we hope that people love it.”
4. Although there will be inevitable comparisons, the new trio are very different
Having LeBlanc, Harris and Reid hosting equally in the studio is bound to be directly comparable to Clarkson, Hammond and May now that there’s three men hosting together.
“I think comparisons are inevitable but we’ve got a really clear job to do,” says Pizey. “And that’s to make the show that we think that people who love cars and always loved Top Gear.
“Our three are a very different three to Richard, James and Jeremy,” she adds. “Three guys, that’s where we’ve ended up, and I think it’s the right decision.”
5. The presenting will be split more equally between the presenters
Instead of Chris Evans taking the helm alongside LeBlanc in the studio, now it seems as though the studio hosting will be split pretty equally between the core team.
Pizey describes the dynamic between them as having “more of a balance”, and it won’t just be LeBlanc taking a leadership role. Renton agrees.
“They all have their areas of expertise, but I think it’s a good even balance across the hour of the show,” he says. “When we do a discussion about a car at the end of a film, you can see the knowledge of the three guys.”
Pizey describes LeBlanc as “the most mechanically adept of the three” presenters. “Matt can take a car to pieces and build it again. He can take the engine out and rebuild it,” she says.
Meanwhile Eddie Jordan will feature in one or two films throughout the series, while Sabine Schmitz will star in three films. However, the pair won’t be studio-based unlike LeBlanc, Harris and Reid.
6. The ambition is bigger and the celebrities will feature more
“I also think the ambition and scale of the films is bigger than it was last series,” says Renton. “And the excitement of the whole editorial of the film – putting them together has been great fun and I think that’s really coming through.
The celebrity segment will also be undergoing big changes. Instead of being “one 12-14 minute chunk” like the show has seen previously, the guests will be “woven throughout the whole hour”.
Although unclear on specifics, Pizey says the Top Gear set will be facing some changes. She promises it will “look quite different” – although will still be “clearly” recognisable to viewers as Dunsfold aerodrome.
7. Chris Harris is taking over from The Stig
Well, only a little bit. Whereas celebrities were previously driven around the track by Stig, they will now be taught by Harris.
“We know that we can get some very good content out of that, which we couldn’t really do with the Stig because obviously the Stig doesn’t speak,” says Pizey. “I think putting Chris Harris – who is an absolutely brilliant driver – in a car with those celebrities who might get a touch of red mist, feels to me like really good content.”
Top Gear returns Sunday March 5 at 8pm on BBC2