TOP Gear’s new show has flopped in the US, despite being fronted by American actor Matt LeBlanc.

Friends star LeBlanc and co-host Chris Evans were notably less popular than their predecessors, if the ratings were anything to go by.

While Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May managed to pull in more than half-a-million viewers on their final premiere, the new line-up is lagging behind.

The first episode of the revamped motor show pulled in just 388,000 viewers - down from 530,000 on the first episode of the last series.

This low number even includes viewers who watched the motorhead show on record, according to Nielson ratings.

BBC America, which released the ratings, said Top Gear's opening show faced tough competition from two high-profile sports events - the finals of the NBA Western Conference and ice hockey's Stanley Cup, as well as the drama mini-series Roots.

A spokeswoman said: "Premiere night was an incredibly competitive evening in the US with programmes that attracted a heavily male-skewing audience, which overlaps greatly with the BBC America audience."

Ratings for recorded viewings three days after Top Gear was shown in America also fell.

Just 547,000 people watched the season premiere on record, compared to 792,000 last series.

The US viewing figures come after the BBC defended Top Gear's performance in the UK despite a sharp fall in ratings on its second outing.

Overnight ratings showed the latest instalment of the BBC Two motoring programme drew 2.8 million viewers, losing around a third of the 4.4 million who watched its relaunch on May 29.

The audience grew throughout the episode, peaking at 3.3 million, but failed to match the ratings of Antiques Roadshow and Soccer Aid.

Alan Tyler, acting controller of BBC Entertainment Commissioning, insisted Top Gear's new presenting team had "brilliantly led BBC Two's biggest show of the day, by some margin".

Evans, 50, and former Friends star LeBlanc, 48, took over presenting duties on Top Gear after Clarkson was sacked for an "unprovoked physical and verbal attack" on a producer.

Clarkson and his former co-hosts May and Hammond will be back with a new Amazon Prime motoring show called The Grand Tour, which will make its debut on the streaming service in the autumn.

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