Chris Evans has quit as the main presenter of Top Gear after just one series.
"Stepping down from Top Gear," he confirmed, somewhat dejectedly, on Twitter. "Gave it my best shot but sometimes that's not enough. The team are beyond brilliant, I wish them all the best."
He faced a torrent of criticism from fans throughout his brief time on the show, Clarkson et al's boots simply proving too big to fill.
"Full steam ahead then with Radio 2, CarFest, Children In Need, 500 Words and whatever else we can dream up in the future," he added.
The former TFI Friday host elaborated on his tweets in an official statement, which read: “I have never worked with a more committed and driven team than the team I have worked with over the last twelve months. I feel like my standing aside is the single best thing I can now do to help the cause. I remain a huge fan of the show, always have been, always will be. I will continue to focus on my radio show and the allied events that it encompasses.”
There is no official confirmation yet on whether Matt LeBlanc and the rest of the new presenters will be staying on, but Evans and Linsey's words certainly suggest so.
Evans felt doomed to fail on the show before it started, such was the loyalty among fans to Clarkson, Hammond and May in spite of the 'fracas'. The revamped show initially drew fairly strong ratings once iPlayer figures were taken into account (something Evans was very vocal about), but was largely mauled by critics and obliterated by fans, who found Evans' enthusiasm forced. Ratings then waned, leading to an all-time low with the final episode of series 22.
LeBlanc faired better in terms of audience response and he will likely remain with the show, either joined by a yet-to-be-announced new co-host or serving as the sole main presenter.
This is all great news for Clarkson's Amazon Prime show, The Grand Tour, which is now poised to see the trio return to glory following the BBC's failed Evans experiment.
The Telegraph cites a BBC source as saying Evans had 'wanted to quit for at least a week'. It also claims a friend commented: "Every single day he's been accused of something else. In the end you just think, 'f*ck off'".
Top Gear's original Stig, Perry McCarthy, told the BBC: "It's sad for Chris but personally I was expecting such an announcement, I wasn't expecting it this quickly but I did think that Chris would step down from it.
"Chris is an enormously popular radio presenter and TV show host but he hasn't quite gelled with this show, he's not really gelling with the viewers.
"It must be a little bit painful for him to receive this reaction from everybody and I don't think he'd want to continue, I probably wouldn't want to continue if I was getting constant criticism either."
Update - Co-host Chris Harris has commented (obliquely):
Aside from Top Gear, police today confirmed they are investigating historic allegations of sexual assault, after Chris Evans was accused of grabbing a female colleague's breasts during his time on The Big Breakfast in the 1990s.
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