Chris Evans originally ruled himself out of Top Gear to avoid becoming 'a pawn in a game'

The Radio 2 presenter said he did not want to get wrapped up in bookies' odds when the outcome involved his friends

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Chris Evans, who will become the new Top Gear presenter, has said he previously ruled himself out of the job because he didn’t want to be a “pawn in a chess game” with Jeremy Clarkson.

Evans, who has been the favourite to replace Clarkson since his dismissal in March, denied he was taking on hosting duties at the time, tweeting: “I can categorically say I am not and will NEVER be running for office. Pls discount my candidacy.”

The Radio 2 DJ told his breakfast show listeners he had not wanted to get caught up in an ongoing public “game” involving his friends Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, at a time when their futures were undecided.

“I did not want to be involved in bookies’ odds, that’s not what the situation needed. I had to get out of that madness, let other people get involved in that,” he said.

Evans said he was only offered the job last week, and had contacted Clarkson and the show’s former presenters Hammond and May by text before making the announcement.

Hammond and May have endorsed Evans as the new face of Top Gear. Hammond texted the radio DJ back to say: “You were designed and built for that job and it will be great. It was 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.”

May tweeted last night to wish Evans good luck in the job, calling the BBC’s decision “a ballsy call, frankly, and to be admired.”

Evans said Clarkson texted him back to say “I knew you would” and gave him a piece of advice "that he couldn't repeat on the radio".

In an official statement confirming Evans as the new Top Gear host, he said: “I promise I will do everything I possibly can to respect what has gone on before and take the show forward.”

The replacements for Hammond and May have yet to be announced. Jodie Kidd and Dermot O’Leary are thought to be among the favourites to front the new line-up alongside Evans.

Top Gear will return for 18 more shows next year, starting in March or April.

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