James May has confirmed he has quit Top Gear just weeks after fellow presenter Jeremy Clarkson was sacked for hitting a producer.
May left the long-running motor show when his contract expired last month, but has only now gone public with the news.
He told the Guardian: “Me and [Richard] 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 they would be stupid enough to try that.”
The former presenter did not rule a return all together, though, saying he’d be prepared to return if the three presenter were reunited.
“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.”
Although he has quit the show, May denied he had quit the BBC completely, tweeting:
I have not quit the BBC, just so you know.
— James May (@MrJamesMay) April 23, 2015
May’s refusal to return without Clarkson puts the future of the show in doubt. Although Richard Hammond has not said whether he also intends to quit, the Guardian reports that there are “currently no Top Gear talks ongoing with May or Hammond, after their contracts expired last month”.
“It would be a bloody tough call to do Top Gear without Jeremy, that would be a bit of a daft idea,” May added.
“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.”
May also hinted that the BBC could even bring Clarkson back to the show at some point: “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.”
Top Gear is one of the BBC’s most successful shows, watched in more than 200 countries around the world and generating some £50m a year.