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Matt LeBlanc to Leave ‘Top Gear’ After Next Season

Matt LeBlanc is leaving the BBC’s flagship automotive show “Top Gear,” BBC Studios confirmed Thursday.

LeBlanc will depart after the next season – his fourth – airs later this year, BBC Studios said. The former “Friends” star said that the time and travel commitments for the show fueled his decision to leave but that he would “forever be a ‘Top Gear’ fan.”

“My experience on ‘Top Gear’ has been great fun,” LeBlanc said in a statement. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the whole team. However, the time commitment and extensive travel required takes me away from my family and friends more than I’m comfortable with. It’s unfortunate, but for these reasons I will not be continuing my involvement with the show.”

LeBlanc, who can currently be seen in “Episodes,” joined the British show as co-host in 2016 alongside Chris Evans, following the departure of longtime hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond. Evans left the re-booted show after one season following criticism of the chemistry between the hosts and falling ratings, leaving LeBlanc to lead the presenting team. Ratings have continued to fall off drastically from the numbers recorded by Clarkson’s trio.

Patrick Holland, controller of BBC Two, said: “I want to thank Matt, [who] has thrown himself into the show with real passion, revealing his extraordinary car knowledge and a willingness to get down and dirty. We were always going to be borrowing him from his day job as one of the top comic actors in Hollywood, so I wish him all the very best.”

“Top Gear” is one of the BBC’s most popular brands, airing in more than 200 territories around the world. It has scored with younger viewers, with the most recent season attracting six times the average number of 18-to-34-year-olds to BBC Two.

When the show was relaunched in 2016 with Evans and LeBlanc, the opening episode saw overnight viewing figures of 4.4 million with a peak of 4.7 million, its lowest in more than a decade. The final show fronted by Clarkson, May and Hammond drew 5.8 million viewers. In the second year, with Evans gone and LeBlanc center stage, the audience dipped to 1.9 million by the season’s seventh and final show.

LeBlanc’s third season, which aired earlier this year, kicked off with 2.4 million viewers. His current co-hosts are Chris Harris and Rory Reid.

Clarkson was dropped from the show in 2015 after he was accused of physically assaulting a producer. May and Hammond decided to exit at the same time.

Holland assured fans that LeBlanc’s final season would be “something special” and that the broadcaster had “great plans to welcome a new co-host to join the team for 2019 and beyond.”

BBC Studios handles the “Top Gear” brand globally.

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