Entertainment & Arts

Chris Evans: Top Gear auditions to seek co-hosts

Media captionChris Evans told the BBC's One Show the co-host slot was open to anyone with "a real appetite for cars"

Chris Evans has said auditions will be held to find his co-hosts for Top Gear.

He told the BBC's One Show anyone from around the world with "a real appetite for cars" was welcome to apply, whether they were "famous people" or not.

"If you're up for it, we want to hear from you," the Radio 2 DJ added.

Evans, announced as Jeremy Clarkson's replacement on Tuesday, earlier said the show would star at least one woman, chosen not "for the sake of it" but because of their passion for cars.

Speaking on the One Show, which he presents on Fridays, Evans pointed out that James May and Richard Hammond had been found by an audition process.

'Didn't want change'

He added: "You've got to know something about cars - you can be a mechanic, you can be an amateur racing driver, you can be a guy who's a fireman but has been building his own Land Rover in his shed for five or 10 years... but you've got to know about cars."

Evans said the hosts could be "male, female, young or old, it doesn't matter" and suggested the three-host format would not necessarily return.

"Will we have one host, two hosts, three hosts - will we have hosts who come and go depending what's on the programme that night?" he said, adding that motoring journalists from newspapers or magazines may be suitable hosts.

Audition tapes from as far away as Kazakhstan had already been received, Evans revealed.

He also said: "I loved Top Gear just the way it was. Believe me, I'm number one in the world who doesn't want it to change."

More details on the audition process will be announced on Evans' Radio 2 Breakfast Show on Thursday morning, with a website address given out on Friday.

Image caption Evans is known for his love and extensive collection of cars
Image caption Jodie Kidd and Suzi Perry are being linked to the Top Gear role

Evans said he had already spoken to people on Wednesday who could host the show with him, adding that he had started work on the programme on Saturday.

Former model Jodie Kidd, who presents Channel 5's Classic Car Show, has already been tipped for a role.

Formula One presenter Suzi Perry has also been rumoured for the show.

She appeared prominently in the audience of Evans' TV show TFI Friday last week, shortly after he agreed to front Top Gear.

Bookmakers have made Kidd the favourite to fill one of the two slots left by James May and Richard Hammond, who quit the show in the wake of Jeremy Clarkson's sacking.

A spokesman for William Hill said: "We think Jodie is almost a certainty but the third member of the expected triumvirate looks very open."

Kidd currently attracts odds of 1/3, with former motorcycle racer turned broadcaster Guy Martin at 5/2, and Perry, Philip Glenister and Demot O'Leary all at 4/1.

'Not be a pawn'

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live's Nicky Campbell earlier, Evans said he wanted his co-stars to be "extremely knowledgeable about cars... people who have great energy, good timing... who are keen to do things differently."

Asked if one of the presenters would be female, he replied: "I can confirm that definitely, 100 per cent."

The BBC has not given a timescale for announcing a replacement, but filming on the new series is expected to begin in a few weeks.

Media captionChris Evan tells his Radio 2 listeners how he received the offer of the Top Gear job

Evans has revealed he had received the blessing of Top Gear's former hosts for his new role.

Speaking on his Radio 2 breakfast show, he said he had texted Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May before the announcement was made.

Hammond replied that he "didn't blame him" for taking the job, while Clarkson wished him "the best of luck".

Clarkson "then gave me a piece of advice which I'm not going to repeat on the radio," the broadcaster told his listeners.

Clarkson's contract was not renewed by the BBC after he punched a Top Gear producer in March.

Image caption Evans had previously ruled himself out of becoming a Top Gear presenter

Evans, a noted car enthusiast, had previously ruled himself out of taking over the show.

Explaining his denials, the broadcaster said he had wanted Top Gear to carry on with Hammond and May and did not want to "contaminate the situation" by throwing his hat in the ring.

"Whenever I said 'I categorically rule myself out of running for office', it was because I didn't want to be a pawn in a chess game involving three of my friends."

The situation changed this week, he explained, with Hammond and May confirming they would not continue on the programme in Clarkson's absence.

This led to a conversation with Mark Linsey, the BBC's controller of entertainment commissioning, and an offer he felt he had to accept.

Top Gear, said Evans, was "the biggest television show in the world" and his "favourite television show of all time".

Media captionJeremy Clarkson gives Evans some tips on Top Gear's presenting style

"I love producing TV... and so I said yes," continued the former TFI Friday host, who has signed a three-year deal to host and produce the BBC Two show.

One of the corporation's most popular international exports, it is watched by 350 million viewers worldwide, with overseas sales worth an estimated £50m a year.

Evans' appointment has also received the backing of Chris Goffey, who co-hosted Top Gear in the 1980s and 1990s.

The broadcaster, Goffey told BBC Breakfast, was "the obvious choice", asking: "Who else in TV is really clued-up about the cars and has got a persona to match Jeremy's?"

'Evolution, not revolution'

Speaking to Radio 5 live on Wednesday, Evans said he had started formulating ideas for the show on Saturday, adding they involved "evolution, not revolution".

"The films have got to stay there," he said of the elaborate film sequences that were a feature of the Clarkson era. "They're a crucial part of what Top Gear is.

Image caption Evans was mobbed by reporters as he left the BBC's London HQ on Wednesday

"We'll look at what we have to put in, what we need to put in, and then we'll see what we might want to put in," he continued.

"The first thing I'm going to do is sit down [with the Top Gear production team] and say, 'tell me what you know.'"

Evans confirmed the popular Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment would remain a Top Gear staple, with "bells and whistles" added.

He also reiterated his earlier stated intention that he hoped to remain as host of Radio 2's breakfast show.

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