James May: ‘I won’t return to ‘Top Gear’ without Jeremy Clarkson’

'Me and Hammond with a surrogate Jeremy is a non-starter,' says May

James May has revealed that he will not be returning to Top Gear after the BBC decided not to renew his co-host Jeremy Clarkson’s contract.

The contracts of May and the show’s third host Richard Hammond expired alongside Clarkson’s and though Hammond has yet to discuss his future on the show, May has now ruled out a return without Clarkson.

“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,” May told The Guardian. “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 they would be stupid enough to try that.”

However, May refused to rule out a future return to the show if Clarkson were brought back. “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,” May explained. “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.”

According to bookmakers, Great British Bake Off host Sue Perkins is front-runner to take over from Clarkson on Top Gear, with Dermot O’Leary, Chris Evans and Jodie Kidd also in the running.

Meanwhile, Clarkson is due to reunite with his former Top Gear colleagues Richard Hammond and James May for a series of live shows in the UK and abroad later this year (2015). Following Clarkson’s departure from the BBC motoring programme, the live shows have been retitled ‘Clarkson, Hammond and May Live’ and will not feature any Top Gear clips or branding.

The BBC announced on March 25 that it would not be renewing Clarkson’s contract following his infamous “fracas” with Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon. The corporation’s internal investigation into the incident, headed by Ken MacQuarrie, the director of BBC Scotland, found that Tymon was “subject to an unprovoked physical and verbal attack” by Clarkson. North Yorkshire Police announced earlier this month (April) that they will not be pressing charges over the incident, which happened at a hotel in the area.