TV

LeBlanc gears up with friends

Top Gear, back for Series 24, is all about cars, though it wouldn't be interesting without humour, says its stars

Matt LeBlanc is back behind the wheel of his starring vehicle Top Gear - this time promoted to main presenter, with two familiar petrolheads in tow.

The 49-year-old US actor joined the reboot as co-host alongside English presenter Chris Evans last year.

For Top Gear Series 24, which is available on BBC Player (bbcplayer.com), his driving mates include English motoring journalists and TV presenters Chris Harris and Rory Reid, both of whom joined the Top Gear line-up last year.

Harris, 42, is known for his popular YouTube channel Chris Harris on Cars, which he launched in 2014. Reid, 37, got his Top Gear gig after winning a public audition for the role.

The trio answered some of our questions.

Are you pleased with how filming has gone?

Harris: Top Gear is all about the cars. We've got humour in it but the unique premise of the show is it all starts with the car. If you look at the metal we are squeezing into this season, it is mouth-watering.

I would say because of the amount we are including, it is the strongest season of cars Top Gear has ever had - and I will happily stand by that statement.

The people who work behind the scenes are incredible. For one film we made with a Ferrari, we had only a day to shoot it... Only by the sheer excellence and maximum efficiencyof the crew did we smash it.

And we really enjoyed it! Matt, Rory and I front the programme but the size of the show behind the scenes is a juggernaut. It sounds so glib but the three of us can't do it unless everyone else is mega at their job.

Reid: I have had some pretty surreal moments. I just returned from Cuba. I took part in a massive drive across a country that is so alien to so many people. It was about 30 degrees C while it was -2 back home! We also looked at their culture and it was a fascinating film to take part in.

What is different about this season is we are talking to people and letting them have a voice. We want them to share their stories and bring something else to the programme.

LeBlanc: We film a Bond sequence that involves me driving an Aston Martin. I don't want to give too much away, but it centres on two guys poking fun at each other and having a good time. They are chasing each other, and then they are chased.

You can talk about the technical differential, power shifting, timing, four valves, but people will start snoozing (if you don't include humour).

This year, it is very much a three-way partnership. Describe the banter.

(From left) Rory Reid, Matt LeBlanc and Chris Harris travelled all over the world for Top Gear Series 24. PHOTO: BBC

LeBlanc: What people forget is for the three guys who were on the show before us, it took them a while to build up a rapport.

This is now the first season for the three of us and it does take a little while. You take the three people, put them together in a room and say "it's in your interest to get along" and everyone is open to getting along - but it takes a little while to speed up the shorthand.

But what's great is we are getting to a point where we are really starting to click. We are having so much fun together!

You have flown all over the world for this. Which country has been your favourite?

LeBlanc: Kazakhstan was great because it's the three of us together and we had a lot of fun.

It's a place I never thought I would find myself driving in and in something I wouldn't expect to be driving. It was one of those moments where you go "You are on Top Gear? Right on".

Harris: We shot a film in California. It was hardcore. The schedules were harsh but of course, when you get there, you are presented with two amazing cars, and there are scenes that I still chuckle about. We were really buzzing.

What has been your favourite car to drive in this series?

LeBlanc: The Lamborghini Huracan was a fun car to spin around.

Reid: Volkswagen Golf GTI. It's such a good car. It is not on the level of a Porsche but in the right hands, it is quicker.

Harris: I had a full 11/10, out-of-body moment when I drove Ferrari FXX K. That woke me up proper sideways. It does 190kmh. Nobody else had driven it before. Amazing.

Did you have anything you were desperate to do?

Reid: I wanted to do something where there are races involved. Chris is one of the best drivers I have ever seen and I wanted to see where I was in comparison to him. I am happy to say I won a couple of races!

LeBlanc: No I didn't go into the series with any pre-conceived ideas. I was more like 'okay what is coming this year?' I have tried to imagine what they are going to throw at me but I always fall shy.

We've done everything from going to Kazakhstan and driving a 500k-mile car, then to a trip across part of America driving an open-top Porsche and a Lamborghini. I have come to it with an open mind.

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