- May insists BBC should not attempt version with 'surrogate Jeremy'
- Car show could return next year with completely new presenting team
- May, 52, and Richard Hammond saw their contracts finish last month
- Clarkson sacked for assaulting producer at hotel in North Yorkshire
James May today ruled out returning to Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson, insisting it would be ‘lame’ with a new presenter in place of his sacked co-host.
The 52-year-old said the BBC would be ‘stupid’ to try a version of the motoring programme with 'a surrogate Jeremy', Richard Hammond and himself - adding that the idea was a ‘non-starter’.
His comments have raised the chances of the show returning next year with a completely new presenting team, given that both May and Hammond saw their contracts finish last month.
Presenters: James May (pictured on April 2 in London) said the BBC would be 'stupid' to try a version of Top Gear with Richard Hammond and a host other than Jeremy Clarkson (pictured on Monday in Istanbul)
May told The Guardian: ‘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 they 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. It would be a bloody tough call to do Top Gear without Jeremy.’
It comes a day after BBC2 boss Kim Shillinglaw, who has been tasked with finding a replacement for Clarkson on Top Gear, said the 55-year-old presenter ‘will be back on the BBC’ at some point.
Hosts: Clarkson (centre - with fellow presenters Richard Hammond, left, and May, right) was sacked by the BBC after an ‘unprovoked physical and verbal’ attack that left his victim in need of hospital treatment
Miss Shillinglaw also confirmed Clarkson's final Top Gear scenes will be screened later this year and she was not thinking of his replacement ‘in terms of gender’.
Me and Hammond with a surrogate Jeremy is a non-starter, it just wouldn’t work
Clarkson was sacked by the BBC after an ‘unprovoked physical and verbal’ attack in North Yorkshire that left his victim, Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon, in need of hospital treatment.
The star was suspended last month when he became the subject of an internal BBC investigation after he attacked Mr Tymon, 36, splitting his lip and verbally abusing him.
Clarkson's contract was not renewed, with director-general Tony Hall saying at the time 'a line has been crossed' and 'there cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another'.
Victim: Clarkson was suspended last month when he became the subject of an internal BBC investigation after he attacked Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon (pictured), 36, splitting his lip and verbally abusing him
Clarkson said he considered turning his back on presenting altogether in the immediate fall-out from the incident, but has since stated that he expects to present another TV show on cars in the future.
It would be a bloody tough call to do Top Gear without Jeremy
Earlier this month, North Yorkshire Police said that following an investigation Clarkson would face no further police action over his attack on the producer at a hotel in Hawes.
Meanwhile, Clarkson revealed in a newspaper column earlier this month that he was told by a doctor that he might have cancer, two days before assaulting Mr Tymon.
Top Gear - which is said to generate about £50million a year for BBC Worldwide - is viewed by more than six million viewers on BBC2 and watched in more than 200 countries.
O'LEARY, GLENISTER OR KIDD? THE FAVOURITES TO REPLACE CLARKSON
DERMOT O'LEARY (6/4)
Bookmakers’ favourite O'Leary, 41, is currently being lined up to host a different prime-time BBC One motoring show - after ending his eight-year stint as host of ITV's The X Factor last month.
PHILIP GLENISTER (11/4)
Car enthusiast Glenister, 52, known for playing a politically-incorrect police detective in TV series Life on Mars, is presenting the second series of For the Love of Cars on Channel 4.
JODIE KIDD (5/1)
The 36-year-old model owns a number of cars, co-presents The Classic Car Show on Channel 5 and achieved one of the fastest lap times as a Top Gear 'Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car'.
GUY MARTIN (13/2)
The 33-year-old motorcycle star made Channel 4 programme Speed, and said last month: 'I don’t want to try and be the man who replaced Jeremy Clarkson, but never say never.'
Favourites: Presenter Dermot O'Leary, actor Philip Glenister, model Jodie Kidd and motorcyclist Guy Martin
CHRIS EVANS (8/1)
BBC Radio 2 host Evans, 49, another well-known car enthusiast, has been tipped as a favourite - but told listeners last month that claims he would replace Clarkson were 'absolute nonsense'.
SUE PERKINS (10/1)
Great British Bake Off host Sue Perkins, 45, was named as the favourite a fortnight ago, but this prompted a barrage of abusive tweets from ‘blokes wishing me dead’, which saw her quit Twitter.
STEPHEN FRY (14/1)
QI presenter Stephen Fry, 57, has appeared on Top Gear twice - but has been repeatedly prosecuted for speeding and managed to crash and write off the Reasonably-Priced Car.
STEVE COOGAN (14/1)
A tongue-in-cheek petition signed by more than 34,000 people is calling on the BBC to hire fictional broadcaster Alan Partridge - played by 49-year-old Coogan - as the new presenter.
Fifth to eight: Chris Evans, Sue Perkins, Stephen Fry and Steve Coogan are also said to be in the running
Odds supplied by bookmaker Paddy Power