LeBlanc bows out: a history of Top Gear presenters

Howzat: cricket legend ‘Freddie’ Flintoff and comedian Paddy McGuinness confirmed as new Top Gear presenters

Top Gear presenters 2019

A new series of Top Gear will get underway on Sunday 17 February at 8pm, with Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid primed for five hour-long episodes. LeBlanc has confirmed that series 26 will be his last, with Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff and Take Me Out presenter Paddy McGuinness in the driving seat for the next series, likely to hit our screens in 2020. Here, we introduce the new presenters and take you through a gallery of previous hosts, including Noel Edmonds, Jeremy Clarkson and Chris Evans.

Here, we introduce the latest presenters and look back at over 40 years of the BBC’s premier motoring show.

Andrew Flintoff

Top Gear presenter Andrew Flintoff

Ashes winner Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff said: “It’s not often you have the chance to do both of your dream jobs, but I’m now lucky enough to say I will have.

“I’ve always been passionate about cars and I’m so excited to be joining the Top Gear team.”

Paddy McGuinness

Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuinness

Comedian Paddy McGuinness said: “To be hosting a show I’ve watched and loved from being a small boy is beyond exciting. Top Gear fans worldwide are a passionate bunch and I consider myself one of them.

“Now’s let’s start up this Great British machine and see what I can do.”

In the meantime, here are some presenters from Top Gear’s past.

Angela Rippon – 1977 – 1979

Top Gear presenter Angela Rippon

Back in 1977, Angela Rippon was a broadcaster and motoring correspondent for the AA. Hard to believe now, but back then, Top Gear was a monthly 30-minute show, broadcast only in the Midlands. The BBC liked what they saw and moved the regional show to the network in 1978. Angela Rippon takes the honour of being the very first presenter of Top Gear.

Barrie Gill – 1978 – 1979

Barrie Gill was a motor racing commentator for BBC Grandstand and presenter of Top Gear between 1978 and 1979. Sadly, Barrie died in 2003.

Noel Edmonds – 1979 – 1980

Noel Edmonds arrived in 1979 and subsequently replaced Angela Rippon as the main presenter in 1980. It’s worth checking out his review of the Fiat Strada, which was so critical, it led to Fiat threatening to sue the BBC. Remember, this was 1980 BC – Before Clarkson.

Judith Jackson – 1979 – 1982

Judith Jackson also arrived in 1979 and went on to feature in a total of 16 episodes until 1982. But that’s nothing compared to the next female presenter on our list…

Sue Baker – 1980 – 1991

Top Gear presenter Sue Baker

Sue Baker presented well over 100 episodes of Top Gear between 1980 and 1991, driving hundreds of cars in the process. Today, Sue remains at the forefront of motoring journalism.

Frank Page – 1980 – 1988

This was a golden era for Top Gear in its original format. Back then, the likes of Sue Baker, Frank Page and the following two presenters were household names in Britain…

Chris Goffey – 1981 – 1997

Take Chris Goffey, a seasoned pro with a style very much in keeping with the tone of the original format. Sky News approached Chris Goffey for his views of the ‘fracas’ involving a certain Jeremy Clarkson.

William Woollard – 1981 – 1991

Ah, one of the all-time greats of Top Gear. To many, William Woollard was the very best Top Gear presenter of all-time, complete with famous one-foot-on-the-bumper pose. He arrived in 1981, having made his name on the popular Tomorrow’s World.

Tom Boswell – 1981 – 1990

Top Gear presenter Tom Boswell

Tom Boswell presented two episodes in 1981 and 1982, before appearing in 20 episodes between 1988 and 1990, specialising in safety and motorcycles. He died in 1990.

Peter Burgess – 1985 – 1986

Peter Burgess is one of our own, being chairman of Motoring Research, as well as contributing to MSN. Peter appeared in seven episodes between 1985 and 1986.

Russell Bray – 1986

Motoring journalist Russell Bray presented three episodes of Top Gear in 1986, referencing it on his LinkedIn profile as ‘brief presenting stint on Top Gear (who hasn’t) an eon ago while a junior journo’. Back in the days when a ‘tache was required for aspiring motoring journos.

Malcolm Wilson – 1986 – 1994

Malcolm Wilson is a former world rally driver and head of the Ford World Rally Team. He also appeared in 14 episodes of Top Gear between 1986 and 1994.

Tony Mason – 1986 – 1998

Top Gear presenter Tony Mason

Former rally co-driver Tony Mason was also a regular presenter on Top Gear, often wheeled out to remote forests to deliver rally reports in the dead of night. Tony appeared in 128 episodes between 1986 and 1998.

Tiff Needell – 1987 – 2001

Former F1 driver Tiff Needell burst onto the scene in 1987, closely followed by a cloud of tyre smoke. When Top Gear was cancelled in 2001, Tiff jumped ship to present Fifth Gear on Channel 5. But that wasn’t before he was able to deliver a memorable feature involving the Ford Puma and Messrs Clarkson and Willson.

Jon Bentley – 1988 – 1997

Jon Bentley is perhaps best known for presenting The Gadget Show, but he was also a presenter of Top Gear between 1988 and 1997. He’s also a former Top Gear presenter and series editor.

Beki Adam – 1988 – 1990

Today, Beki Adam runs a small business in Sussex and stood for parliament as an independent in the 2015 General Election. Back in the late 80s, Beki also enjoyed a short run on Top Gear. On her YouTube channel, Beki mentions a disagreement about a poncho, with the producers believing she should wear a Puffa jacket. As you can see, Beki won the argument.

Jeremy Clarkson – 1988 – 2000 and 2002 – 2015

Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson

Without question the most famous Top Gear presenter… in the world. Clarkson’s first stint on Top Gear began in 1988 and continued until 2000. In the early days, his hair was big and he spoke in a classic BBC style. As the years went by, he became more outspoken and helped to transform the show into a global phenomenon.  

Quentin Willson – 1991 – 2000

In the early 90s, Quentin Willson was quite the star on Top Gear, famously appearing alongside Clarkson and Needell. He quit in 2002 and recently appeared alongside Jodie Kidd in The Classic Car Show.

Nicky Fox – 1991 – 1992

Hands up if you remember Nicky Fox? Nicky appeared in six episodes between 1991 and 1992. Not to be confused with Sam Fox. We don’t think she ever presented Top Gear.

Janet Trewin – 1991 – 1995

Another name you may have forgotten, although Janet Trewin did present a total of nine episodes in the early 90s. Today, Janet works as a freelance reporter, presenter, producer and presenter. She was also the first female presenter for Radio 1’s Newsbeat. We bet you didn’t know that.

Steve Berry – 1993 – 1999

Top Gear presenter Steve Berry

Steve Berry is a broadcaster and presenter with a long and varied career in television and radio. Steve presented Top Gear between 1993 and 1999, as well as the short-lived Top Gear Radio Show on BBC Radio Five Live.

Michele Newman – 1993 – 1998

Michele Newman arrived from a career in local news and presented Top Gear between 1993 and 1998. She later went on to co-present Pulling Power on ITV, where she appeared alongside the likes of James Allen and Mike Rutherford.

Russell Bulgin – 1994

Russell Bulgin was one of the best motoring writers of all-time. Most people will have forgotten that he also appeared in three episodes of Top Gear in 1994.

Andy Wilman – 1994 – 2001

Yes, that Andy Wiman. Today, Wilman is best known for being the show’s executive producer and the man credited with re-inventing and reinvigorating Top Gear. He also appeared in a total of 36 episodes between 1994 and 2001.

Vicki Butler-Henderson – 1994 – 2001

Top Gear presenter Vicki Butler-Henderson

Vicki Butler-Henderson was another Top Gear presenter who would jump ship to Channel 5. But that wasn’t before she presented 108 episodes between the years of 1994 and 2001. Today, Vicki can still be seen on television, with Fifth Gear currently showing on Quest.

Julia Bradbury – 1998 – 1999

The late 90s and early 00s saw a period in which Top Gear experimented with a number of different presenters. Julia Bradbury arrived in 1998, but didn’t hang about too long. Later, Julia would go on to present Watchdog and Countryfile, but that’s not before she went topless in front of James May…

Kate Humble – 1999 – 2000

Yes, Kate Humble really did spend some time presenting Top Gear. In fact, Kate appeared in 31 episodes between 1999 and 2000.

James May – 1999 and 2003 – 2015

James May appeared alongside Julia Bradbury in 1999 and famously sported a much shorter haircut. He returned in 2003 to help front the show with Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond. From that point on, there was no stopping them. At least there wasn’t until the steak incident…

Brendan Coogan – 1999

Top Gear presenter Brendan Coogan

Steve Coogan is often linked with the Top Gear job, but his brother actually got there first. He appeared in 1999, before a drink-driving conviction cut short his Top Gear career. He also appeared on Men & Motors, former home of Richard Hammond.

Adrian Simpson – 2000 – 2001

Blimey, Adrian Simpson presented a total of 35 episodes in 2000 and 2001 and was one of the last presenters to appear before Top Gear settled on the three amigos. A case of what might have been for Adrian?

Jason Barlow – 2000 – 2002

Motoring journalist Jason Barlow appeared on the show between 2000 and 2002. Top Gear was officially cancelled in 2001, but Jason Barlow presented a one-off show from the 2002 Birmingham Motor Show. Other TV highlights include Channel Four’s Driven and BBC2’s Wrong Car, Right Car.

Jason Dawe – 2002

Jason Dawe presented Top Gear for a single series in 2002. Positioned very much as the used car specialist, Jason was being primed as the third piece in the Top Gear jigsaw. It didn’t work out for Jason and he was replaced by James May for the 2003 season.

Richard Hammond – 2002 – 2015

Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond

Richard Hammond enjoyed a career on BBC local radio and Men & Motors before making his Top Gear debut in 2002. He was ever-present before the actions of Clarkson prompted a move to Amazon Prime.

The Stig – 2002 – present

Yes, it’s The Stig. Can we really call a mute and faceless racing driver a presenter? Well he has been a permanent fixture of Top Gear since 2002, so we can’t leave him out. Perry McCarthy was outed as the original black Stig and Ben Collins took over in 2003. The current Stig – introduced in 2010 – has so far managed to remain anonymous.

Chris Evans – 2016

Chris Evans was the much-hyped marquee signing following the incident with the steak, but things didn’t go entirely according to plan. He quit after one disastrous series, with the show recording its lowest audience figures since the return of Clarkson in 2002.

Matt LeBlanc – 2016 – 2019

In 2016, the American actor best known for playing the role of Joey Tribbiani in Friends became the first non-British host of Top Gear. Following Chris Evans’ departure, LeBlanc became the show’s anchorman, although he doesn’t look anything like Ron Burgundy. LeBlanc will leave the show in 2019.

Chris Harris – 2016 – present

Top Gear presenter Chris Harris

Chris Harris is well-known to car enthusiasts, having written for a number of magazines and appeared in hundreds of YouTube videos, notching up millions of views.

Rory Reid – 2016 – present

Rory Reid made his debut presenting the online spin-off show, Extra Gear, before becoming a Top Gear presenter in series 24.

Sabine Schmitz – 2016 – present

Sabine is a German racer who grew up just 300m from the Nürburgring and cut her TV presenting teeth on German TV. The ‘Queen of the Nürburgring made regular appearances on Top Gear before becoming a presenter following the departure of Clarkson, Hammond and May.

Eddie Jordan – 2016 – present

Eddie Jordan is the former racing driver and F1 team owner with a penchant for brightly-coloured trousers. He also plays in a band called Eddie & The Robbers, named after a remark Bernie Ecclestone once made about the Irishman.

Related Articles

Gavin Braithwaite-Smithhttp://www.petrolblog.com
Writer with a penchant for #FrenchTat. Also doing a passable impression of Cousin Eddie in an Italian-German beige motorhome.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


The history of in-car entertainment

From the first car radios in the 1920s to wireless Apple CarPlay, we tell the story of in-car entertainment.

Mini John Cooper Works GP (2020) review

With a top speed of 164mph, the two-seat John Cooper Works GP is the fastest Mini ever. We go for a wild ride

Mini to realign with new SUVs, more EVs

The Mini Electric will be joined by a new all-electric compact SUV and a new larger SUV – but petrol and diesel engines will remain.

Fiat Tipo Cross leads facelifted family hatch range

The Fiat Tipo Cross is an SUV-style crossover range-topper for the facelifted Tipo range – and all models get a distinctive new front end