LeBlanc hopes to help Top Gear’s US popularity


New Top Gear co-host Matt LeBlanc has likened Top Gear’s global success to being a bit like soccer – in that it is a huge deal everywhere on earth, except in the U.S. But there’s a feeling behind the scenes of the show that he might be able to help change that. “It’s a little tricky in the sense of how this show is going to be received,” LeBlanc told the Daily News of the revamped program.

“Last week I tested out the new Ferrari 488 Spider,” he told the Daily News. “It was bad to the bone — really easy to slide sideways in. It was actually harder to keep it going in a straight line.”

At home, LeBlanc says, he drives “a few Porsches — I like Porsches. I have a new turbo that is probably my everyday car, but I like to rotate around. I have a 1988 Carrera that I rebuilt,” he adds. “It’s in great shape and it’s got about 111,000 miles on it and it runs like a clock. I have a 12-year-old daughter and it’s her favorite. She calls it our ‘little black jelly bean.’”

LeBlanc says he’s been into cars his whole life. He sheepishly admits his first car was a 1984 Nissan pickup truck. “It was a good little truck,” he says of the car that his dad gave him. “All my friends had cars that needed repairs. Mine was brand-new, it didn’t need anything, so I got bored with it. I gave it up and bought a 1978 Chevy Blazer that needed a lot of work.”

But despite his love for cars, LeBlanc is taking over what’s arguably the most popular and respected car show on the planet — and that’s a gig that comes with baggage in the trunk. “Some of the tweets have been pretty mean,” LeBlanc says of the initial reception. “I’ve seen them say stuff like, ‘How could they be letting a Yank do ‘Top Gear’?!’”

There’s “no bad blood” between him and the departed hosts, says LeBlanc. He appeared on the show’s “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” segment in 2012 and then was interviewed by Clarkson. “I’m looking forward to seeing their Amazon show,” he says.

Many fans argue it was the chemistry between the hosts that made the show special — and they’re not wrong. But BBC America and its parent, the BBC, believe that viewers will tune in to see the cars in action. LeBlanc is simply hoping fans will give the new version a chance.

“Honestly,” he says, “I really hope people like it.”