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Top Gear is back this week, but with a pretty different presenting team behind the wheel. For season 27, existing presenter Chris Harris is joined by super-enthusiastic newbies Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness. But, um, who exactly are these two new daredevil Brits stepping on the gas? Before the show returns Sunday at 8/7c on BBC America, here’s a handy guide to the Top Gear debutants.

1. Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff is a very successful former international cricket star.

He played for England’s national team between 1998 and 2009, and was named “Man of the Series” in 2005 when England won “the Ashes,” a biannual run of grudge matches against longtime rivals Australia. After retiring from cricket in 2010, he used his sporting popularity as a springboard for his TV career.

2. Paddy McGuinness is a comedian, actor, and TV presenter whose break came when he was discovered by U.K. comedy giant Peter Kay.

Most notably, Paddy played a cheeky nightclub bouncer in Phoenix Nights, Kay’s cult sitcom set in an old-school British “working men’s club.”

3. Freddie also had a very brief career as a professional boxer!

When Freddie announced his decision to train for a professional fight in 2012, some critics claimed it was just a gimmick for a TV documentary he making. But he managed to prove them wrong by winning his debut bout against American boxer Richard Dawson in front of a hometown crowd at Manchester Arena. Freddie admitted after his victory that “it’s not natural to me, I’ve had to work so hard,” and to date it remains his only pro fight.

4. Paddy hosts one of the U.K.’s biggest primetime Saturday night shows, Take Me Out.

It’s a long-running dating show in which a single guy aims to secure a date with one of 30 single women standing in formation in a TV studio. As the guy reveals more about himself by answering questions and showing pre-recorded videos about his life, the women can turn off a light in front of them to indicate that they’re no longer interested in him. As you can imagine, there’s definite potential for awkwardness, but McGuinness’ jovial hosting style generally keeps the vibe fun and frothy.

5. Freddie has spoken candidly about his battle with depression. And in 2012, he made a BBC documentary about mental health issues in sport.

Discussing how he manages his depression, he told GQ in 2017: “Through talking about it and getting help, I know how to deal with it. It’s not particularly pleasant but I don’t feel the urge to drink [alcohol]and I don’t feel the urge to do something to try to change my state of mind. I’m actually quite comfortable with it.”

6. Paddy has spoken equally frankly about he and wife Christine’s experience bringing up their twins, who have been diagnosed with autism.

“There’s lots of things we can’t do – we can’t even go on a family holiday together,” he told the Daily Mirror recently. “But when you start speaking about it, other people get in touch and say, ‘I thought it was just me, I’m in that position too’. Someone who’s considered to be a celebrity, who has a fantastic life and a good job and everything else – if they’re struggling, what chance has everyone else got? I want to put it out there, show there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

7. Freddie and Paddy come from roughly the same part of north west England.

Paddy hails from the town of Farnworth just outside Manchester, while Freddie grew up in Preston, a small city about 25 miles further north. So don’t be surprised if the pair enjoy some playfully salty “northern banter” when they’re on screen together.

8. Freddie has moonlighted as a celebrity interviewer

But, as he recalled during a U.K. TV interview, his professional encounter with Will Smith didn’t go to plan!

9. In 2015, Paddy guest-starred in the U.K.’s most popular soap opera, Coronation Street.

He provided some light relief as Dougie Ryan, a nosy and braggadocious guy who irritated two of the shows’ main characters during their summer vacation in Wales.

10. Freddie is also a panelist on A League Of Their Own, a long-running sports panel show which, until very recently, was hosted by James Corden.

Who do you think is a better dancer – Freddie, James, or Jack Whitehall, who also appears in this clip?

Are you excited to see Freddie and Paddy on Top Gear?

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Filed Under: Top Gear
By Nick Levine