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Matt LeBlanc signs new deal with BBC to stay in Top Gear driving seat

Published 26/09/2016

Matt LeBlanc (left) and rally driver Ken Block (right) during filming of the BBC's Top Gear
Matt LeBlanc (left) and rally driver Ken Block (right) during filming of the BBC's Top Gear

Matt LeBlanc has signed a two-series deal with the BBC to host Top Gear when it returns in 2017.

The former Friends star will return to front the popular BBC Two motoring show and will be joined by Chris Harris and Rory Reid, with regular appearances from Eddie Jordan, Sabine Schmitz and The Stig.

BBC Two's channel editor, Patrick Holland, said: "I am thrilled that Matt LeBlanc is returning to Top Gear. He's a huge talent whose love of cars is infectious. I can't wait for the series to return to BBC Two next year."

BBC Studios director Mark Linsey said: "Matt was hugely popular with Top Gear viewers last series with his humour, warmth and obvious passion for cars and for the show, so I couldn't be more delighted that he's agreed to come back and do more for us."

The 24th series of the show will air on BBC Two and globally next year with Clare Pizey as the executive producer and series editor Alex Renton.

LeBlanc previously said he would like to return to Top Gear following his former co-host Chris Evans's departure.

The radio DJ quit after one series, saying he gave it his best shot but it was "not enough".

He added that LeBlanc is the "captain" and should remain on the show and dismissed reports that the pair's relationship had broken down amid flagging audience numbers and unfavourable reviews.

Evans said: ''For me, (LeBlanc) is the man. He is the captain Top Gear truly needs going forward, the perfect torso for the rest of TG's limbs.

''Not only does he eat, sleep, breathe and dream engines, propshafts and trail-braking, but the overwhelming quality that struck me about him is that he's just such a pro."

Evans said working on the programme for a year had been a ''dream'' and ''the Top Gear ship has been steadily re-floated'' following the departure of previous hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond.

LeBlanc's Top Gear deal is partly paid for by BBC Worldwide and not the TV licence fee, meaning his salary will not be disclosed by the broadcaster.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley recently confirmed that under the corporation's new 11-year royal charter, it will be required to share the pay of staff and ''talent'' earning more than £150,000 a year.

Ms Bradley said that the Government is determined the BBC should be "as open and transparent as possible".

The BBC declined to comment on reports that LeBlanc's salary from this new deal is in the region of £2 million.

A BBC spokesman said: "Top Gear enjoys global success and, as such, has long had a commercial element to its funding, outside the licence fee.

"Previous contracts were also structured in this way and in this respect nothing has changed for the upcoming series.

"Where the licence fee-funded element of talent pay is over £150,000, it will be disclosed."

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