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London: Britain's BBC said Matt LeBlanc, former star of 1990s US hit comedy Friends, will join the new presenting line-up for its popular car show Top Gear when it returns in May.
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Top Gear gets a major overhaul for the upcoming season, with host Chris Evans joined by Sabine Schmitz, David Coulthard and Chris Harris.
The American actor, who achieved global fame as Joey Tribbiani in the NBC sitcom, will be the first non-British host of the show, the BBC said on Thursday.
"As a car nut and a massive fan of Top Gear, I'm honoured and excited to be a part of this iconic show's new chapter," LeBlanc said in a statement. "What a thrill!"
Top Gear, one of the BBC's most successful and profitable shows, was taken off air last year after its star Jeremy Clarkson physically attacked a member of production staff.
The show's producers said on Thursday that LeBlanc would join the show's host, Chris Evans, a British presenter whose hiring was announced last summer.
"Matt's a lifelong fellow petrolhead, and I'm thrilled he's joining Top Gear," Evans said in a statement. "Acting out our craziest car notions on screen is a dream job and I know we'll both be debating some epic road trip ideas."
LeBlanc, who will be the first American to co-host the program, is no stranger to Top Gear, especially its segment "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car." During an appearance, he zipped around a racetrack in a Kia Cee'd, earning the segment's fastest time for that model (though the actor Rowan Atkinson came close).
"Just don't use the brake as much, that's all," LeBlanc said while behind the wheel.
Even with LeBlanc's automotive chops, the previous cast could be a tough act to follow. After the BBC restarted Top Gear in 2002, the cars tended to take a back seat to the antics of its three hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, as they traipsed around the globe.
Controversy occasionally followed but it came to a head when Clarkson was suspended last March after he attacked a producer after a night of drinking. The contract for Clarkson, once among the BBC's highest-earning employees, was not renewed.
In July, Amazon announced that Clarkson and Hammond would join the company to film a new motoring show.
The BBC has said that more cast members will join LeBlanc and Evans. According to The Guardian, two possibilities are Sabine Schmitz, a German racing driver, and Chris Harris, a British journalist.
Reuters, The New York Times