Entertainment & Arts

Top Gear return watched by 4.4m viewers

Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans Image copyright AP
Image caption Three-wheeler race-off - Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans prepare to do battle.

The relaunch of BBC Two's Top Gear was seen by an average of 4.4 million viewers, overnight figures show.

New host Chris Evans said earlier in the week he would be "disappointed" with anything fewer than five million viewers for the show's first episode.

The final Top Gear featuring former host Jeremy Clarkson attracted 5.3 million viewers last June.

But the new show was still the most watched programme in its 20:00 time slot, attracting 22.8% of the audience.

Image caption Rory Reid, Sabine Schmitz, Matt LeBlanc, Chris Evans, Chris Harris, Eddie Jordan and The Stig make up the new team

Its nearest rival was the British Soap Awards on ITV, which were seen by an average of 3.9 million viewers.

The first episode featured Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc driving Reliant three-wheelers from London to Blackpool.

Viewing peaked just before the show ended, with 4.7 million watching.

Evans seemed pleased with the show's first outing in a series of tweets he published on Monday.

Image copyright Twitter/Chris Evans
Image copyright Twitter/Chris Evans

The new presenters were signed up after the old team left following a fracas between lead presenter Jeremy Clarkson and a producer.

Image caption Hollywood star Jesse Eisenberg was seen tackling the Top Gear track.

Evans opened the show saying: "Welcome to Top Gear with our all-new, improved audience."

Clarkson was fired from Top Gear in March last year after he punched a producer following a row about the provision of food late at night while filming on location.


by Lizo Mzimba, entertainment correspondent, BBC News

There's bad news and good news for Top Gear in the overnight figures from its launch programme. Such has been the media attention surrounding the show, it's certain to have attracted many who haven't been regular viewers in the past. But it still didn't manage to reach the five million figure hoped for by lead presenter Chris Evans.

However, it was still the second most watched programme of the day on any channel (after Countryfile), with a figure well up on the majority of BBC Two shows. And it actually achieved a larger audience share than the launch of the last Clarkson, May and Hammond series in 2015.

It's one of the BBC's most important programme brands, making tens of millions for BBC Worldwide, so a lot of attention will also be paid to how it performs internationally over the next few days.

But the real test, both here and abroad, will be the figures when people who recorded to watch later or who used catch-up services are taken into consideration. And particularly where those figures are later in the series - when it's either built a larger audience or lost viewers who've decided the show's not for them.

Evans made a jibe about the incident at the start of the episode, adding: "We don't make jokes about catering on this show any more."

Another joke referencing Clarkson's departure was made when Evans bragged he had "won custody" of masked driver The Stig.

The revamp featured many of the same elements the show is best known for, including a profile of a supercar and a head-to-head challenge between the presenters.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionTV critic Kevin O'Sullivan: Top Gear 'like the old show without the laughs'

Reviews of the show by TV critics were mixed, with many saying the format had changed little since the last series, while some felt it was enjoyable and just needed some time to bed in.

Final consolidated figures - where on demand and catch-up viewing is taken into account - will not be known for a week.

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