James May rules out Top Gear return without Clarkson

JAMES May has ruled out a Top Gear return without Jeremy Clarkson, branding the idea "awks".

The 52-year-old presenter wants to continue working for the BBC but will not be doing so on the hit motoring show with co-host Richard Hammond and a "surrogate Jeremy".

Clarkson's contract with the BBC was not renewed following a "fracas" with Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon last month. He had been the subject of a string of controversies, including accusations of racism.

Since then, the futures of May, Hammond and the series have been in doubt, with all three presenters removed from the Top Gear website. May and Hammond's contracts have also expired.

"Me and Hammond with a surrogate Jeremy is a non-starter, it just wouldn't work," May told the Guardian. "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."

May is still hopeful that the three presenters will reunite further down the line. "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," he said.

"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."

May had been fronting Top Gear with Clarkson and Hammond since 2003. The trio are currently teaming up for a series of Top Gear Live shows, rebranded as Clarkson, Hammond and May Live.

Female presenters are reportedly being considered to front Top Gear, while unseen episodes featuring Clarkson are set to air on the BBC in the summer.

"Jeremy will be back on the BBC," said BBC2 controllor Kim Shillinglaw.

"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 describes the BBC's recent decision over Clarkson as a "light kicking…not excluding him from the club".

The BBC will be keen to preserve Top Gear, which is watched by more than 6 million people on BBC2 alone and broadcast to more than 200 countries globally.