Chris Evans has been revealed as the new host of Top Gear following months of rumours over who would replace sacked Jeremy Clarkson – but who will join him on the BBC show?
The announcement that the radio DJ will lead “an all-new line-up” has sparked fierce speculation over the co-presenters of the hit motoring show. Evans – who said he was only convinced to take the three-year contract, worth a reported £3 million, after previous co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May confirmed they would not return – revealed the show will “definitely, 100 per cent” have a female co-host. We look at potential favourites to replace the pair on the new-look Top Gear.
The former model is the favourite to join Evans at the wheel of the hit show. She has already appeared as a guest and holds one of the fastest lap times in the show’s “star in a reasonably priced car” challenge. And the 36-year-old has experience of fronting a motoring programme. Kidd, the granddaughter of Canadian newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook, has already presented Channel 5’s Classic Cars Show. Kidd has remained tight-lipped about speculation she will be offered a role, telling reporters in April it was “all changing on the show”. “It’s going to be interesting, the next couple of months,” she added. She would certainly bring a touch of glamour to the BBC2 show.
The motorcycle racer and broadcaster already has a huge following – for his exploits on two wheels and his TV presenting. Martin has already enjoyed success with shows including Channel 4’s Speed with Guy Martin, in which he attempted to break four speed records. And the 33-year-old, from Grimsby, has not ruled out joining Top Gear. Speaking to Ulster TV about the speculation earlier this year, Martin said: “I don’t think I’d be able to get the time off work! I don’t want to try and be the man who replaced Jeremy Clarkson, but never say never.”
Actor Philip Glenister is also no stranger to TV car shows. He has presented For The Love Of Cars, a Channel 4 show, with restoration expert Ant Anstead. But the 52-year-old is perhaps best known for his role as DCI Gene Hunt in the BBC television series Life on Mars and its sequel Ashes to Ashes. His character is the one who drives the show’s trademark Ford Cortina around the streets of 1970s Manchester. Experience at driving a class car is something that might help Glenister on the Top Gear race track…
After years of success on The X Factor and Big Brother’s Little Brother, O’Leary is seen as a safe pair of hands for presenting high-profile shows. And, having announced he would be leaving ITV’s The X Factor in 2014 after seven years in the post, he seemed like a dead-cert for Top Gear. But the 42-year-old has previously ruled himself out, telling reporters in April he had not been approached about the job. Of course, we know Evans said the same thing just weeks ago, so his denial does not necessarily mean it won’t happen.
The Formula One correspondent for the BBC is a friend of Evans . The 45-year-old has also previously hosted The Gadget Show and MotoGP motorbike racing.
Other names reportedly in the frame include actor Steve Coogan, Mr Bean star Rowan Atkinson, racing driver Vicky Butler-Henderson and Will Macdonald – Evans’ old sidekick. Evans, a known car enthusiast, called Top Gear his “favourite programme of all time” as he confirmed he was signing a contract. Having initially been considered the front-runner to present the show after Clarkson was fired, he had repeatedly ruled himself out of the running.
The 49-year-old has long been tipped to take the driving seat on the flagship BBC show after Clarkson was sacked for punching a producer in a row over steak. Evans told his listeners on his BBC Radio 2 show on Wednesday morning he was only offered the job last Thursday afternoon when presenters Hammond and May finally ruled themselves out of returning.
He said he immediately texted the three presenters, Clarkson, May and Hammond, to tell them he had been offered the job and accepted it, and they lined up to congratulate him. Evans told his listeners Clarkson said: “I knew you would, and best of luck.” He also revealed Hammond also gave the move his seal of approval. In a text, Hammond told Evans: “You were designed and built for that job and it will be great. It was also always the BBC’s very best option if you take it up, and I certainly don’t blame you for doing so. Good luck. Richard.” The DJ told listeners he will be meeting show’s producers on Wednesday and said “we realise there is a lot of work to do and serious focusing to be done”.
Evans, who is good friends with the show’s three former presenters, revealed he recently went on a three-day joint family holiday with May which the pair spent mainly discussing the fate of the former Top Gear team. He said: “We talked about what he might do, what Jeremy might do, and what Richard might do for most of the three days, if I’m honest with you. “I said, well look, this is what happened to me back in the 90s when it all went pear-shaped, and this is what I should have done and didn’t do and this is what I’ve learnt from the situation.”
Evans added: “I did not want to be involved in bookies’ odds and all that kind of stuff because that is not what the situation needed. And I had to get out of that madness and let other people get involved in that if they wanted to. “That for me was going to contaminate the situation.” But that changed when May and Hammond finally decided they would not return. Evans said that after talking it over with his wife Natasha he decided to take up the BBC’s offer.
He said: “We decided what I do for a living is radio, television and a bit of writing, and it’s the biggest television show in the world, it’s my favourite television show of all time, you know how much of a fan I am of the show, and I love producing TV and you know the kind of TV I love to produce, and so I said yes.”