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Matt LeBlanc joins Team “Top Gear”

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Always stuck in second gear. Central Carperk. I’ll be there Ford you. How *you* drivin’? Social media lit up with Friends/car-themed wordplay this morning upon news that Matt LeBlanc has been unveiled as Chris Evan’s co-presenter on the rebooted Top Gear. And that’s precisely why LeBlanc’s is an inspired appointment: because he’ll appeal to the demographic that the petrolhead programme’s previous line-up didn’t.

As a much-loved star of the definitive Nineties sitcom, Golden Globe-winning Le Blanc has huge currency with those aged 20 to 40. His character, struggling Italian-American actor Joey Tribbiani, was a likeable lunk who loved food, group-hugs, La-Z-Boy chairs and the ladies. He was the one Friends flatmate you wanted to be friends with. Now Sunday night TV viewers will get the chance.

With its dad jean-wearing, real ale-scented, trenchantly reactionary views and spectacular boys’ own stunts, middle-aged men and teenage lads have long adored Top Gear. Now those people in between – twentysomething, thirtysomethings, many of them (heaven forfend) female – might just tune in too. Previously deterred by the blokey boorishness of Clarkson and co, they’ll want to see what jolly old Joey’s up to now.

LeBlanc is a more credible motoring expert than he might first appear. He’s a lifelong petrolhead who owns as many cars as Evans. He’s the fastest ever Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, setting a scorching, still-unbeaten lap time of 1min 42.1secs in the Kia cee’d.

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He recently presented spin-off Top Gear: The Races. His real-life love of cars was even worked into Friends plotlines – see the episode where Joey pretended to own a Porsche (“It’s Porsche-a!”).

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