In Brief

Has Top Gear returned to its former glory?

Matt LeBlanc and Chris Harris head to Oman in what critics call 'one of the season's best' road trips

Top Gear: teething problems continue for Chris Evans

20 January

BBC boss Kim Shillinglaw, the person in charge of the Top Gear reboot, has left the corporation as negative rumours continue to dog the hit motoring show's new series.

Her departure comes as the BBC insisted filming was going ahead as planned, despite reports suggesting it may not be ready for its launch, says the Daily Telegraph.

The new series is due to start on 8 May, but there has been tabloid speculation that main presenter Chris Evans and the show's producers are experiencing continued teething problems.

Over the weekend, pictures appeared of Evans filming in California with new co-star Sabine Schmit -  but he appeared to have had to stop the car to vomit by the side of the track.

A "well-placed source" told The Sun: "It would be unfair to expect him to be perfect right from the word 'go'. But how can someone who gets car sick possibly host Top Gear?"

James May, former Top Gear presenter and Jeremy Clarkson confidante, has also weighed in, telling the Radio Times: "I was surprised they showed lots of Top Gear compilations over Christmas. I thought, 'Oh, so now they're celebrating us'. But I also thought it's harsh on Chris Evans.

"Just as he's trying to launch his version of the programme, the BBC is saying, 'Look how brilliant it was before.'"

He continued: "I'd like to see Chris's Top Gear do well. It's a ballsy call to continue it. I wouldn't want to be the one presenting it when we'd just finished, but there must be a way of reinventing it. We always said it would survive beyond us."

Reports of Evans's poor performance may have been greatly exaggerated, he added, saying: "I think the stories about Chris's version being in trouble might be an elaborate hoax before it explodes onto our screens in brilliance."

Chris Evans admits hosting Top Gear has been a 'baptism of fire'

11 January 

New Top Gear host Chris Evans says that the atmosphere in the office when he began work on Top Gear was "apocalyptic", and that the early stages of filming had been challenging.

Speaking at the Television Critics Association press tour in California last week, Evans said that his first few days working for Top Gear were like "armageddon", the Daily Mail reports, but added that he always knew that taking over the show from Jeremy Clarkson would be a challenge.

"I like the old show. It was brilliant there's no denying it," he said. "If the old show had never been taken off I'd still be watching it."

Evans said that he understood that some fans of the programme would not be happy that he had taken over from Clarkson and his co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond. "If people came to the show for that [on-screen chemistry], I can't give them that right away. I can only give them the best show that I can produce about cars. I hope that [camaraderie] will develop but I'd be crazy to think it will happen right away"

Evans added that the hectic filming schedule alone has been "a baptism by fire to say the least."

But the 49-year-old TFI Friday presenter said that he was determined to make his reboot work, likening Top Gear to Star Wars. "Different stars can pass through it," he said, but "the car is definitely the star." 

Chris Evans unveils new team for Top Gear to rival Clarkson and Co

24 December

The new faces alongside Chris Evans on the new series of Top Gear have been unveiled.

Two relative unknowns, Journalist Chris Harris and German racing driver Sabine Schmitz have been selected after the likes of Jodie Kidd, Zoe Ball and Suzi Perry all ruled themselves out.

Schmitz is a racing driver for Porsche and BMW, reports the Daily Mail. She has appeared on Top Gear in December 2004, racing Jeremy Clarkson round the Nurburgring.

The 46-year-old became known as Queen of the Ring in Germany, after she claimed to have gone round the track more than 30,000 times.

She hosted a German TV show called D Motor, which is a similar programme to Top Gear, where she would take on a new driving challenge each time.

Chris Harris is a motoring journalist who has worked as a reviewer, writer and editor for many car magazines, including Evo and Autocar.

He has his own YouTube channel, called Chris Harris On Cars, where he provides video reviews to his 321,000 subscribers.

In 2011 he was banned from reviewing Ferraris after writing an article where he described the brand as 'profoundly irritating'. Harris and Ferrari have since made up.

He is still banned from reviewing Lamborghinis, after he wrote an article with the headline 'Lamborghinis Are The Perfect Cars For People Who Can't Drive' and described the company's future as 'bleak'.

The news will come as some relief to Top Gear fans after news broke that one of Chris Evans’ chosen executive producers Lisa Clark would be leaving before the programme had even aired.

According to the Guardian, Evans personally brought in Clark, who worked with him as a producer on The Big Breakfast, to help reinvent Top Gear following the departure of co-hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond.

Her arrival was much hyped by Evans but only a few months in, Clark has left the BBC to pursue “new projects”.

Top Gear's 'Reasonably Priced Car' goes for sale on eBay

22 December

Top Gear's 'Reasonably Priced Car' has been listed for sale on eBay.

The car, a 2013 Vauxhall Astra Tech Line 1.6-litre introduced in series 20, is to be sold by Vauxhall with the proceeds going to the automotive industry charity BEN.

With 2,908 miles on the clock, the 115bhp Astra rides on 17-inch alloys, has a sat-nav with a 7-inch colour monitor, Bluetooth and most importantly two Corbeau racing seats with 5-point safety belt harnesses and a full roll cage. Motoring Research points out that the airbags have been disabled, so the Astra should not be driven on the road.

The car's stint on the popular motoring show means it has been viewed by as many as 350,000,000 people in 170 countries. Among the celebrities who have driven it are Will Smith, Ed Sheeran, and Jimmy Carr.

The singer Olly Murs was the fastest celebrity to lap the Astra around the Top Gear Test Track at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey.

The Astra is the fourth car to be featured as Top Gear's 'Reasonably Priced Car' since the show's reboot in 2002. Pistonheads says the segment has introduced cars "to an audience that probably wasn't aware of them", giving extensive air time to fairly mundane run-arounds on a show known for showcasing supercars.

The advert on eBay shows that at the time of writing, the Astra has received 11 bids and is currently sitting on a price of £8,100. Bidding ends on 27 December.

Chris Evans reveals Top Gear reboot air date

30 November

Chris Evans may still be without any official co-hosts for his rebooted Top Gear, but he does have one thing: a start date. The presenter has announced that the motoring programme will return to screens on 8 May next year.

The show has been given a total overhaul after Jeremy Clarkson was dropped for punching a producer.

According to reports at the time, the BBC initially tried to convince Clarkson's Top Gear co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond to stay on, even tempting them with vastly improved contracts, but the pair chose to leave the corporation to start a new venture with Clarkson on the online streaming service Amazon Prime instead.

In the wake of Clarkson's departure, the BBC appointed Evans, who revealed the start date for the show in an interview with James Martin on BBC One's Saturday Morning Kitchen at the weekend.

Evans said that the new Top Gear team has "already started making the films", the Daily Mail reports. He added: "We're going to America to make our first inter-continental in January."

But the 49-year-old presenter has yet to disclose any new information about the identity of his new co-hosts.

Evans has previously hinted that he could even present the show alone. Speaking to the Press Association, he explained: "We are going to do things differently, because we have to, we want to.

"And also, the second you wander off into the 'Well, I’m the main host, and this is my mate over here and my mate over here', if there’s three of you and you go and make a film together, suddenly you're doing what they did. Why would you do that?

"Because [Clarkson, Hammond and May] were brilliant at it, I’m not going to do that. So, one thing is for sure, there's not going to be me and one guy there, and one guy there, that's not going to happen."

The launch date for Clarkson's rival Amazon Prime show has yet to be announced.

Chris Evans: filming Top Gear feels 'weird'

27 October

Chris Evans has started filming Top Gear and says it feels "weird", according to The Mirror.

The ginger-haired presenter says it is strange to be starting work on a series that the BBC will not broadcast until May, but adds that he is thrilled to be anchoring what he calls "the biggest show in the world".

Explaining his decision to sign-up for Top Gear, Evans said he was only willing to be involved with the show once it "became a blank canvas". He explained: "My friends weren't involved in it any more. I didn't want to be a pawn in that horrible game of who's doing this and who's doing that."

There has been a curiously muted response to news that he has started filming the motoring series, particularly when compared to the avalanche of frenzied commentary that greeted news that former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson was underway with his own new Amazon motoring show.

However, there has been speculation over what an Evans-hosted Top Gear will look like. The Guardian notes that the format and approach of the new episodes of Evans' other outlet, TFI Friday, is true to his traditional approach.

This means, they speculate, that Top Gear is likely to move from the carefully-scripted approach of the Clarkson era, to an "as-it-happens" format in which Evans "further adrenalises with rapid patter and a gang dynamic involving sidekicks or audience to create an atmosphere of spontaneous mayhem".

Earlier this year, BBC2 controller Kim Shillinglaw said the programme would be "really different" under Evans, with a new, supersized Top Gear track at Dunsfold in Surrey.

Evans caused raised eyebrows at the premiere of Spectre last night when he arrived wearing "dad jeans" and trainers, rather than the customary tuxedo.

'Where is Top Gear World, the theme park?' asks Chris Evans

26 October

New Top Gear host Chris Evans plans to make the show "bigger than it ever has been" – and even dreams of launching a Top Gear theme park.

In his new book, Call The Midlife, Evans suggests that people would come from the "four corners of the planet" to stay at Top Gear World, and that it would be the perfect venue from which to host the programme live.

He said the show is currently like the "old League Division One before it became the Premiership, a stellar multi-billion-pound franchise" and that his aspirations are grander than just maintaining the status quo.

"For a start, where is Top Gear World, the theme park?" he asks. "People would come from the four corners of the planet to stay there for a few days, even if it were located in grey old England. We live three miles from Legoland, and it's packed all year round. I mean, Legoland is OK but it's no Universal Studios."

Evans added that fans could hypothetically win tickets to be in the audience for a live show that would "kick it up the backside".

BBC Worldwide might have already beaten him to it, however, with reports that it has signed a deal with the company building a £2bn Paramount Pictures resort in Kent. The London Paramount Entertainment Resort is set to offer rides based on its own blockbusters, such as Star Trek and Transformers, but also popular BBC shows.

There has been no confirmation about which programmes might be developed into rides, but the Daily Telegraph highlights Doctor Who, Sherlock and Top Gear as some of its most iconic shows.

Evans has said he does not see Top Gear as "fragile and vulnerable" because of the shock departure of Jeremy Clarkson and his co-hosts – but rather as an "unexploded bomb perfectly primed for detonation".

In a recent interview with The Times, he said: "I've got to make it better than it was in my opinion, otherwise what's the point in doing it? I'm just the maintenance manager otherwise."

Chris Evans: 'We still haven't signed any Top Gear co-hosts'

16 October

Chris Evans has admitted that the BBC still hasn't signed any co-hosts for the revamped Top Gear due to be broadcast next year.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph ahead of the relaunch of his other TV show, TFI Friday, the presenter said that the hunt for other cast members was "ongoing".

"The second we sign anyone – this is for sure – I will just announce it. We haven't yet," he said.

Asked if he would be watching Jeremy Clarkson's new motoring show, Evans replied: "Of course I will! Goodness knows what they are going to do. I am really intrigued to be honest."

When Evans was half an hour late to his radio interview with Vanessa Feltz yesterday, a number of reports suggested that it might be the first sign that the wheels were coming off, "as they famously did in 2001 when he was fired from Virgin Radio after a six-day bender kept him from the office," the Telegraph says.

"I would be a fool to say there is no danger but it feels pretty remote," Evans replied when asked directly. "What is interesting is you look at where you are right now and go, ok, I am in an entirely different place and I am doing different things for different reasons."

So will Evans be able to juggle both TFI Friday and Top Gear at the same time?

"I might wake up tomorrow and it has all turned to s***, but I can't really see it," he says. "Someone once asked Elton John, 'what would you do if it all ended tomorrow'? And he said, 'well, it's not going to happen. It is impossible for that to happen because I am Elton John.'"

TFI Friday starts tonight at 8pm on Channel 4

Chris Evans: can host juggle Top Gear and TFI Friday?

15 October

The new host of Top Gear, Chris Evans, was half an hour late for a Radio 2 Breakfast Show interview yesterday and was forced to admit that he is now busier than ever.

Yet the presenter insisted that he also has more time on his hands than he did in the past.

Evans told Radio 2's early breakfast presenter Vanessa Feltz that working on TFI Friday would not have an impact on his work for Top Gear, saying he had "never been busier but never had more spare time". 

He continued: "I am more organised. Before I did the whole Alice Cooper thing where you have to live the life to portray the life,  [but] you don't really have to do that."

So why was he late for the breakfast show? According to the Guardian, the 49-year-old TV and radio host didn't attempt to blame his "hard living" lifestyle, but rather put it down to parental commitments. 

"I'm not blaming anyone apart from myself. But if I was blaming someone else – or something else – it would be parents' evening."

Preliminary work on the rebooted Top Gear is now underway, but the new-look programme is being overshadowed by ex-Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson's forthcoming motoring show for Amazon Prime.

The two shows will go head to head next year – although only Top Gear will be broadcast on terrestrial television. Those hoping to watch Jeremy Clarkson's new show will have to sign up to Amazon's subscription service for £79 per year.

Chris Evans hints that he won't have co-presenters on Top Gear

08 October

The new host of Top Gear, Chris Evans, has hinted that he may not have any co-presenters when the rebooted motoring show begins next year.

At an industry event in Cannes, the annual Mipcom TV trade show, Evans paid homage to his predecessors, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, and said it would be almost impossible to reproduce the trio's on-screen chemistry.

"We are going to do things differently, because we have to, we want to," he told The Guardian. "They were brilliant at it, I'm not going to do that. They're the Three Stooges, they are the Bee Gees, they are and I'm not, I'm me. I'm on my own, so do I form a band or not?"

The idea that Evans may opt to fly solo rather than hiring co-presenters to support him was reinforced by claims that he held the first "full-on Top Gear production meeting" at his local pub last month. The entire cast and crew was said to be in attendance but there were no reports of any recognised presenters there other than Evans.

The BBC held open auditions to try to find new co-hosts to join Evans on the revamped programme, but so far no new names have been announced.

Although some things are likely to change, others are expected to remain very much the same. Evans is keen to maintain the live studio element of Top Gear, says the Guardian, which notes that it is "a style of broadcasting he is comfortable with given his experience on shows such as Channel 4's TFI Friday and The Big Breakfast."

The new show is currently in pre-production and is expected to hit screens next year.

Top Gear: what to expect from Chris Evans' new motoring show

6 October

The new incarnation of Top Gear is set to be "really different" without the familiar face of Jeremy Clarkson, according to BBC2 controller Kim Shillinglaw. The show will apparently retain "many aspects" of the series when it was presented by Clarkson and his co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond, reports The Guardian. But there are some changes in store…

New 'supersized' track

The Top Gear track at Dunsfold in Surrey, home to the 'Star in a Reasonably Priced Car' segment of the show, is expected to get a new, supersized track.

Chris Evans new face of Top Gear

Clarkson will be replaced by Chris Evans, the Radio 2 DJ who is also due to present a new series of Channel 4's TFI Friday. Speaking about Evans, Shillinglaw said she could not think of anyone who better combines an "absolute passion for cars" with "incredible" spontaneity.

A female co-host

Evans has "100 per cent" confirmed that the new Top Gear line-up will include a woman. Former model Jodie Kidd was widely tipped for the job, but she subsequently announced that she would not be joining the new team. Kidd said she had been in talks about the show and was "greatly honoured" to have been considered, but feared that it would be "all-consuming". She told the Daily Telegraph: "I love doing all the different things I am doing in my life at the moment. Top Gear is the most brilliant show on this planet but it would just take over your soul. That would be it." Evans, who has signed a three-year deal to lead the new line-up for the show, said: "I want people who are extremely knowledgeable about cars, I want to have people who have great energy, people who have good timing, people who have warmth about them, people who are keen and eager to do things differently."

Fewer controversies

Evans has said he would never let anything go out on Top Gear that he thought could "justifiably attract any negative reaction or criticism for the sake of it to cultivate notoriety". He added that "careful doesn't mean boring" and that it was a "lack of imagination that makes you have to shock" – comments that some interpreted as a little dig at Clarkson.

Shillinglaw has said she is "excited" and "terrified" at the thought of bringing back the show without Clarkson.

Speaking about Clarkson's departure, Shillinglaw said: "It was a very sad episode in lots of ways. For me, the biggest reminder is for all this is telly, for all this is business, a competitive industry, at the end of the day it's about human beings."

Top Gear: will Jenson Button star in Chris Evans' new show?

29 September 2015

Jenson Button is expected to announce his retirement from Formula 1 and according to reports could be set to join Chris Evans on the rebooted Top Gear next year.

All eyes will be on his next move, but according to the Daily Telegraph, he is "expected to combine a sportscar drive in the Le Mans-style World Endurance Championship with a media career", which may include becoming a co-host on the new Top Gear programme.

Asked last week whether he had made a decision on what he would do next, Button said: "Yes, [my] head knows. Whatever decision happens, I am happy."

Kevin Eason, writing in The Times said that Button is likely to have a stellar career on television.

"There will be no lack of offers because Button is a PR man's dream," Eason writes. "Popular with fans of all ages and nationalities. He is known to have had negotiations with the formidable Porsche World Sportscars squad that won the Le Mans 24-hours this year and a victory at that blue riband event would be an historic addition to his 2009 F1 world championship.

"He has also refused to flatten rumours that he will join his friend, Chris Evans, in hosting the BBC's new Top Gear programme. He is open to the idea as long as he could find time to drive."

If Button does join the line-up, speculation will focus on who else might join the new Top Gear.

After appointing Evans, the BBC announced that one of the show would definitely include a female host. A number of names have been linked to the show, but so far nothing has been confirmed and Evans himself refuses to be drawn on question.

Some news outlets reported last week that Zoe Ball, who has worked with Evans previously, was set to join Top Gear after successfully completing a screen test with the BBC. But Evans wrote on Twitter last week: "Hilariously inaccurate story in 2days paper. Re my good friend Zoe Ball excelling in Top Gear screen test. She hasn't even been for one." 

Another former colleague of Evans, Holly Samos, has also been mentioned as a possible co-host (see below). Her name was linked with the show when Evans denied the rumours about Ball, and after another possible contender Jodie Kidd ruled herself out of the running. Earlier this week, the Daily Mirror declared that Samos has now become the "favourite to join [Evans] on Top Gear".

With Jeremy Clarkson confirming that work on his new motoring show for Amazon is now underway, pressure is mounting on Evans to unveil Top Gear's final line-up. The revamped show is expected to go into production next year.

However, fears are said to be brewing among BBC bosses that the new show will be an international flop because Evans is not a familiar face overseas.

Worth £50m a year to commercial arm BBC Worldwide, Top Gear is watched by 350 million viewers in 214 territories.

So will they stay tuned without Clarkson, Hammond and May fronting the series? A television source told The Sun: "British audiences are going to know exactly who Evans is, but globally the viewers are going to be at a loss.

"If they don't connect with his presenting style straight away, they could be turned off forever. It's a huge concern."

Next week, Evans will be at MIPCOM, an annual television industry trade show held in the French town of Cannes, to boost his profile.

BBC Worldwide has said it is "delighted" to be joined by Evans to celebrate "the world's favourite car show" and described MIPCOM as the "perfect opportunity" for Evans to meet its international partners.

Top Gear: will Holly Samos be one of Chris Evans' co-hosts?

22 September

Chris Evans may be keen to play down speculation about the identity of his new Top Gear co-hosts, but the rumours refuse to go away.

The most recent name to be linked to the new show is Evans's former "radio sidekick" Holly Samos who, according to the Daily Mirror is now a "favourite to join him on Top Gear".

Samos currently hosts a programme on BBC Radio Oxford and has previously worked as Radio 5 Live's F1 pit-lane reporter. She still presents video content for some F1 teams, The Sun reports.

Addressing speculation that Samos could be set to join Evans's team, an "insider" told The Sun: "Chris and Holly have brilliant chemistry and would be great together on Top Gear. Holly is a motoring nut."

The BBC has said that at least one of the revamped show's presenters will be a woman, but reports last week that Zoe Ball was set to join the show were dismissed by Evans, the Evening Standard says.

The 49-year-old wrote on Twitter last week: "Hilariously inaccurate story in 2days paper. Re my good friend Zoe Ball excelling in Top Gear screen test. She hasn't even been for one."

With planning already underway, Top Gear's producers may have to move quickly to appoint the show's new co-hosts ahead of its expected launch next spring. Evans, who signed a deal worth a reported £5m to front the show, recently told Top Gear magazine that, cast aside, everything is ready to go: "We are ready to roll. We are now champing at the bit and getting far too hysterical for our own good."

Several other household names continue to pop up in media reports as likely contenders for the new show.

Motorcyclist and mechanic Guy Martin is seen as a popular replacement for Richard Hammond.  

"The flamboyant racer would bring some youth, swagger and cool to the show and his shows on Channel 4 have earned him critical acclaim and saw him tipped as a future Top Gear host, long before Clarkson got angry over the lack of a warm steak," BT says.

"His adventurous approach to driving would make him a great fit as a replacement for Hammond and he’s been very quiet about the possibility of taking the job, which suggests that he hasn’t ruled it out yet."

Another name that recurs is that of actor Philip Glenister, whose character on the police procedural Life on Mars made the catch phrase "Fire up the Quattro" famous. The actor is also known to be a huge motoring enthusiast and has hosted a number of factual car programmes for the BBC.

Other possibilities include F1 star Jenson Button and model and presenter Jodie Kidd, though the latter insists she is not interested in the role.


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