Top Gear’s launch episode with new presenters Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness pulled in an average overnight audience of 2.5 million viewers, the BBC has said.

This is an increase from the first episode of the last series, which was Friends star Matt LeBlanc’s last one and had an overnight average of 1.9 million viewers, according to the broadcaster’s figures.

The motoring series, which aired on Sunday night between 8pm and 9pm, had a peak audience of 2.8 million viewers.

BBC Two Controller Patrick Holland said: “I am delighted by the reaction to the new Top Gear line-up. When Paddy, Fred and Chris met, the chemistry was immediate and we were sure they would be a great new team.

“Top Gear is such a great BBC Two show, filled with mischief, insight and adventure, and we are over the moon to see such a positive response from the audience. I can’t wait for the travels ahead.”

Elsewhere, for the time period between 6.30pm and 8pm, in which ITV’s Soccer Aid and Channel 4’s Conservative Party leadership debate overlapped, the winner in viewing figures was the charity sports match, which had an average audience of 3.8 million.

According to ITV, the programme, which aired until 10pm, had a peak viewing figure of 4.7 million.

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One game… one trophy. @socceraid

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The Soccer Aid for Unicef match was won by the World XI team, managed by Piers Morgan and Harry Redknapp.

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BOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!! @socceraid

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Britain’s Next PM – The C4 Debate had an average of 1.3 million viewers and a peak audience of 1.5 million, Channel 4 said.

The first live televised debate, which saw five Tory hopefuls and an open lectern left for Boris Johnson who did not participate, was hosted by Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

Tory leadership race
Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab and Rory Stewart during the live Conservative leadership debate on Channel 4 (Tim Anderson/Channel 4/PA)

TV industry title Broadcast said the debate “outperformed Channel 4’s share across all demographics bar 25-34s”.

Following the debate, Guru-Murthy tweeted: “Well tonight was illuminating in all sorts of ways. But we also need to see them tested at length individually. So much we didn’t have time for tonight even with 90 mins. I hope the final two agree to a series of long in depth interviews with variety of journalists (inc me!)”.