Following on from last week's announcement that former star of Friends, Matt LeBlanc, would be joining Chris Evans as one of the presenters of the BBC's revived Top Gear TV series, the corporation has today announced the rest of the lineup, which now comes to a total of seven regular presenters.
Evans and LeBlanc will be joined by racing driver and German TV presenter Sabine Schmitz, whom regular Top Gear viewers will remember taking a Ford Transit van for high-speed laps of the daunting Nurburgring race track some years ago. I grew up next to the Nürburgring and have been racing for most of my life," she said, "so the chance to combine both driving and filming was too good an opportunity to pass up."
Also on the roster will be Formula One pundit, former team owner and former dentist and Bank Of Ireland employee Eddie Jordan. Does his presence indicate that, through Top Gear, the BBC will keep some sort of Formula One coverage going, having surrendered the live race coverage to Channel 4? For now, Jordan is merely saying "I have such enormous respect for all my fellow presenters and I politely ask that they go easy on these old bones."
Representing the professional car reviewing end of things is Chris Harris, a former road test editor of Autocar magazine, and a long-time presenter of videos such as /Drive and Chris Harris On Cars on YouTube. Harris is also an accomplished racing driver in his own right, having put in some very convincing performances at the Goodwood Revival among others. "Top Gear is the thing that helped shape my life with cars, my perception of cars and my obsession with cars, and I'm raring to give it a go" said Harris. "I'm also quite gobby and happy to get into trouble. And if it all goes wrong, well, I can say I was once on Top Gear, and just head back to being that annoying small bloke off YouTube."
The sixth member of the team is Rory Reid, who came to Top Gear's attention thanks to the submission of a 30sec audition tape. Chris Evans had, off the cuff, announced the request for public auditions on his morning radio show on BBC Radio 2, but had done so without consulting senior BBC management on the process. That resulted in a number of heated rows, but Reid, who will be the show's technology correspondent, came through nonetheless. "When I submitted my 30-second audition tape, I knew the odds were very firmly against me. To be the only person to make it through the open audition process makes me immensely proud. I've been a Top Gear fan for decades, but more than that, I live and breathe cars in a way that is perfectly compatible with the show."
And the seventh member? That would be the taciturn tamed racing driver, The Stig. Previous incarnations of The Stig have been played by racing driver Perry McCarthy and racer and stunt driver Ben Collins (who has since gone on to double behind the wheel for Daniel Craig's James Bond). His current true identity is not known, but is thought to be British Touring Car Championship star Gordon Shedden.
Either way, The Stig's presence on the BBC will be a thorn in the side of the much-hyped Amazon Prime motoring show (still-untitled) presented by refugee Top Gear stars Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. That show is expected to begin airing in October of this year (six months after the May debut of the new Top Gear) and Clarkson and his producer, Andy Wilman, had allegedly tried to include The Stig character as part of their show's roster (Wilman and Clarkson had created the original Stig for Top Gear in 2002). BBC bosses rebuffed the move though, saying that The Stig was part of the Top Gear universe, to which the corporation owned all the rights.