Clarkson appears to swipe at 'Mr Shouty' Chris Evans
Top Gear continues to haemorrhage US ratings
Jeremy Clarkson has apparently jumped into the debate about the new Top Gear after fans interpreted a tweet of his as a dig at his replacement Chris Evans.
The sacked presenter said he was 'quietly hopeful' that his new show would be popular with his followers - seen by some as a reference to Evans' reputation as 'Mr Shouty' on the new version of the programme.
The news comes after it emerged that the opening show of Top Gear saw its audience plummet in the US compared to the last series despite having a new American host.
The first episode of the revamped programme, fronted by former Friends star Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans, attracted 388,000 viewers when it aired on May 30.
This compared with 530,000 viewers for the opening episode of the previous series, presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, according to Nielsen ratings, which also include recorded viewings that night.
In between the first two episodes, Clarkson tweeted last week: 'The films we have made for the Grand Tour are emerging slowly from the edit. I'm quietly hopeful you'll like them.'
A number of fans assumed this was a dig at the way Evans has been criticised for shouting too much while presenting Top Gear.
Robert Tennison replied, 'Ha quietly, cause that bloody Chris Evans keeps shouting,' while another viewer wrote: 'Hopefully you don't shout throughout the show.'
Lisa Cherrett added: 'I can't wait. You guys know how to tell a story - and you don't need to shout about it.'
And another fan said: 'No noisy ginger bloke shouting all over them? I'll enjoy them.'
BBC America, which released Top Gear's US ratings, said the 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.'
Other ratings which included recorded viewings three days after Top Gear was shown in America also fell.
Some 547, 000 viewers were recorded for the season premiere, compared with 792,000 viewers for the 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.
His shouty presenting style has irked viewers and yesterday it became apparent just how annoyed they are as it transpired 1.5million viewers have abandoned Top Gear in a week.
But Chris Evans chose to come out fighting over the latest round of criticism of the motoring show, by insisting overnight viewing figures have 'never been less relevant'.
The second episode of the revamped show on Sunday night saw its overnight audience fall by a third to just 2.8m, down from 4.3m last week and believed to be its lowest overnight audience for at least a decade.
It also led to calls from viewers for Evans to be replaced by Formula One driver Jensen Button, who appeared as a guest.
But far from lying low, Evans, 50, took to Twitter yesterday to respond to critics and was backed by BBC bosses who last night spoke out in support of the new show and its presenters.
He wrote: 'The way Top Gear is being viewed is repositioning the way television is consumed. Last week 9 million viewers. This week we shall see.'
Evans later added: 'Overnight television viewing figures for Top Gear have never been less relevant. Obviously some newspapers prefer to live in the past.'
His comments come after it was revealed that the first episode of the revamped BBC2 series attracted a total of 8.15million viewers during the week, thanks to iPlayer - nearly doubling the audience from the 4.3m who tuned in on the night.
As with the first episode, Evans was again criticised on social media on Sunday for his shouty presenting style.
David Soutter wrote on Twitter: 'Top Gear Chris Evans truly dreadful, why does he have to shout so much'.
Another Twitter user Casey Liss added: 'I didn't think any human could shout more than Jeremy Clarkson. Then Chris Evans appeared AND BOY DID [HE] EVER CORRECT ME.'
But Evans made light of his 'Mr Shouty' label in the second episode by warning viewers, 'I get even more shouty', having been wheeled out on a hospital bed for the start of the show.
The ginger-haired presenter's co-hosts joked that he had needed to be heavily sedated after getting overexcited as he joined Formula One driver Jensen Button to put a McLaren supercar through its paces.
Button, actor Damian Lewis and rapper Tinie Tempah received rave reviews - with some even suggesting McLaren F1 driver Button, 36, should be made a permanent host.
On Twitter, Melanie Millner wrote: 'Chris Evans and Jenson great banter get Jenson on next series as a presenter #Topgear.'
Paul Swain tweeted: '#TopGear definitely better this week! Good to see @JensonButton and @Tinie Tempah throwing round some motors!'
Rich Laverty added: 'Jenson Button should retire at the end of 2016 and present Top Gear. He's got that dry wit that Le Blanc has and Evans painfully hasn't.'
Lewis appeared on the show to drive a Mini Cooper around a track for the 'star in a rallycross car' slot.
One viewer tweeted: 'Damian Lewis you were the best part of tonight's Top Gear.'
Tinie Tempah, 27, accompanied presenter Matt LeBlanc on an SUV challenge filmed in South Africa.
Last week's first episode was heavily criticised and drew 1.4million fewer viewers than the last episode of the previous series, fronted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.
But Evans hit back, tweeting: 'The new Top Gear is a hit. OFFICIALLY' and 'Top Gear audience grew throughout the hour. FACT.'
Last night, Alan Tyler, Acting Controller of BBC Entertainment Commissioning, backed Evans and his presenting team.
He said: 'We are delighted that this was the strongest launch episode of Top Gear since 2010 with 6.4 million tuning in for the first programme of the new series.
'Last night, Chris, Matt and the team once again brilliantly led BBC Two's biggest show of the day, by some margin. It secured a peak audience of 3.3m, and the show again remained the most requested programme on BBC iPlayer.
'With lots more adventures on the way in this new series, including a continental challenge with the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, a luxury car contest in Ireland, stunning review films, plenty of power laps and many more great guests taking on the all-new rallycross track, we are looking forward to Chris, Matt and the gang bringing more of the all-new Top Gear to our audiences.'
Last year, Clarkson was fired by the BBC after verbally abusing and punching Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon while the team was on location.
Clarkson flew into a rage after being told he could not order a steak after a day of filming in March last year, calling Mr Tymon a 'lazy, Irish ****' during a confrontation at a hotel in North Yorkshire.
The presenter and his former employers agreed in February to pay Mr Tymon more than £100,000 in damages for injury and racial discrimination - allowing the BBC to avoid a full tribunal hearing.
Clarkson is fronting a new show for Amazon Prime called The Grand Tour with fellow presenters Hammond and May.