Matt LeBlanc on new Top Gear season: We've been thinking outside the box

Cape Town – Top Gear season 25 hits South African screens on Wednesday, 25 February at 20:00 on BBC Brit (DStv 120).

Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris, Rory Reid and The Stig return with guest appearances from Sabine Schmitz and Eddie Jordan.

During six hour-long episodes, the team does it all: building the world’s fastest tractor, riding in America’s Wild West in shiny new V8 sports cars, attempting to land a NASA research plane in America’s ultimate muscle car and much more. 

The new season was filmed in different locations including Japan, USA, Portugal, Italy and just outside of Guildford.

Watch the trailer here:

LeBlanc sat down for a quick Q&A and tells us what to expect from the new series, more about the stunts and what he loves most about this job. 

How has Top Gear moved on since the last season? 

Every season we try to progress it. What we’ve done this time is broaden the appeal of the show. This year the films are bigger and have way more comedy. We’ve been thinking outside the box more, and the chemistry between the three of us has been getting stronger as we get to know each other better. It’s enjoyable to watch people who are enjoying their job. No one wants to watch someone who hates their job. It will always be a car show, but we’re trying to broaden the demographic to make it appeal to a wider audience.

Can you please expand on that? 

Inevitably on Top Gear, you have to have a lot of exposition about the technology of cars. So someone who is not a petrol-head like myself won’t care to watch that. But as with any form of good storytelling, if you can deliver a narrative in an engaging way, audiences will be drawn in. People often come up to me and say, “I don’t care about cars, but I watch Top Gear. I find it really involving, and I also learn something about cars along the way.” In a nutshell, the car will always be the star, but we’re trying to make an hour of entertainment that the whole family can watch.

Can you tell us about some of the stunts you get up to this year? 

We had a lot of fun with some tractors. The theme of the film was that tractors are blocking up Britain. When you get stuck behind one, you can’t go anywhere. So we’re trying to speed up farming.

Why do you think the show has had such longevity? 

The relationship between the presenters is a key part of it. It works so well for us because we all share a passion for cars. But Top Gear also lets you travel the world from the comfort of your own home. It allows you to ride along with this incredible machinery and some vehicles that are not very desirable, too. We drive a lot of terrible cars in the series, but we always have fun doing it. There is always something to talk about in a car. You can find something to say about every single car in the show, whether that is its quirkiness, its lack of design or the way it turns in and out of corners.

What else continues to make Top Gear so popular? 

Even people who aren’t car people have a relationship with cars. The automobile is so woven into the fabric of our lives. It’s part of our memories of a first date, a trip to the grandparents or a ride in the back of a police car! Everyone has stories about cars. They’re like part of the family. They are wrapped up in so many family stories. They are the transporters to get you where you want to go.

Top Gear has been running for 41 years now. Do you think it will still be going in 41 years’ time? 

Why not? It’s a timeless show. I wonder what they’ll be covering in 41 years. If we’re making flying cars, I’m sure Top Gear will be talking about that. It’s a very strong brand. There will always be a place for it because human beings have a strong sense of independence, and the car gives you that. You start the car on your driveway and suddenly you’re the master of your own destiny. That’s a very human instinct. That’s why I’m not a fan of autonomous cars. I can see the point of them if you’ve had too much to drink at the pub and need a lift home. But I don’t think that’s what they’re designed for!

What do you particularly love about the job of presenting Top Gear? 

It’s a lot of fun. You take someone who loves cars and give them the keys to the most exotic cars. That’s pretty amazing. Top Gear is that adventure you can’t buy. That’s what’s so special about it. We go to great lengths to provide an adventure that a) you wouldn’t have thought of, and b) even if you had thought of it, it would be almost impossible to pull it off. We’ll get to drive a mountain road where the police have locked the road down, so we have it all to ourselves. That’s something you can’t do anywhere else. This job is great. I still have to pinch myself that I’ve got it!

(Photos: BBC)