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James May rules out return to Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson

James May aka ‘Captain Slow’ has said he will only return to Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson, adding that the show would be “lame” with a “surrogate Jeremy”.

May ruled out the idea of hosting Top Gear without the 55-year-old presenter in an interview with MediaGuardian: “Me and Hammond with a surrogate Jeremy is a non-starter, it just wouldn’t work. That would be lame, or ‘awks’ as young people say.

“It has to be the three of us. You can’t just put a surrogate Jeremy in and expect it to carry on. It would be forced. I don’t believe [the BBC] would be stupid enough to try that.

“It doesn’t mean I won’t go back, we may all go back in the future. It might just be we have a break from it. I don’t know.”

May commented on the “virtually impossible” task the BBC is now faced with, having failed to renew Clarkson’s contract after a ‘fracas’ with producer Oisin Tymon.

“It would be a bloody tough call to do Top Gear without Jeremy, that would be a bit of a daft idea. I don’t think you could carry on with two people and put someone in as the new Jeremy because they are not going to be the new Jeremy.

“That would be short sighted and I don’t think it would work. Virtually impossible.”

Fans of Top Gear, of which there are more than 350 million worldwide, should remain optimistic for the trio. May added: “In the future when all this has blown over there might be an opportunity for three of us to get back together on the BBC to do Top Gear or a car show of some sort.

“The BBC haven’t completely closed the door on Jeremy’s return. They’ve not banned him or fired him, only just not renewed his contract for the moment. It’s a subtle difference but an important one.”

BBC 2 controller Kim Shillinglaw admitted Clarkson may return to the Beeb in the future. Speaking at a programme launch, she said: “Jeremy will be back on the BBC. It is serious and unfortunate what happened but there is no ban on Jeremy being on the BBC. It’s a big deal what happened and Jeremy, as any human being would, needs some time out.”

May did, however, mention there might be a non-compete clause in place, which would mean Clarkson will have to wait before making a rival car show – something he has hinted at doing quite plainly. Sky ruled out the possibility of the 55-year-old jumping ship.

It recently emerged that Clarkson had been rocked by a cancer scare two days before the incident with Tymon occurred, in addition to dealing with the death of his mother and divorce from his wife.

Clarkson is said to have written much of Top Gear and was responsible for reviving and reinventing the show in 2002, after the BBC axed it in 2001.

Netflix has since been touted as a serious option, having seen the on-demand service sign the producers behind the BBC’s Blue Planet and Planet Earth. We speculated on where Clarkson would go next.

So there you have it. We may not have seen the last of the world’s most popular, middle-aged buffoons after all, which is hardly surprising when you consider Top Gear is said to make the BBC Worldwide £50 million a year.

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