Chris Evans has quit Top Gear after his six-episode stint in charge of the series saw audience numbers plummet to an all-time low.
Evans’s first episode was seen by 4.3m viewers when it aired at the end of May, below the 5m benchmark the presenter had set, and his uncertain and “shouty” presenting style sparked an immediate backlash from viewers.
Despite the presenter and BBC bosses insisting the show’s audience was in good shape, the series saw viewing figures fall week after week and Sunday’s episode attracted just 1.9m viewers.
Although the numbers watching is higher when those who recorded episodes and those who watched via iPlayer are taken into account, known as the consolidated audience, the series has still performed below the levels seen during the Jeremy Clarkson era.
Last week’s episode had a consolidated audience of 3.568m, up on the previous week’s 3.224m but significantly below the series opener’s 6.421m.
Clarkson, who was dropped by the BBC after an altercation with a member of the production team, is currently filming a new series for Amazon Prime Video along with his Top Gear colleagues Richard Hammond and James May.
Audiences have consistently criticised Evans’s lack of feel for the show and his apparent determination to turn it into a “car-based TFI Friday”.
However co-presenters Matt Le Blanc and Rory Reid have fared better, with many saying they’d like to see the departure of Evans and the pair take over as lead presenters.
Announcing his departure on Twitter, Evans wrote: “Stepping down from Top Gear. Gave it my best shot but sometimes that’s not enough. The team are beyond brilliant, I wish them all the best.
In a statement issued by the BBC, he added: “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.”
Mark Linsey, Director, BBC Studios, commented: “Chris is stepping down from his duties on Top Gear. He says he gave it his best shot doing everything he could to make the show a success.
“He firmly believes that the right people remain, on both the production team and presenting team to take the show forward and make it the hit we want it to be.
“The new series has so far notched up over 30m views in the UK alone and has already been sold to 130 territories worldwide.”