Just three days after Chris Evans was unveiled as his replacement, Jeremy Clarkson has claimed he was asked to return to Top Gear but rejected the BBC’s offer.
The controversial presenter, whose contract on the motoring show was allowed to expire in March after he punched his producer Oisin Tymon during a row, told the Sun that a BBC executive offered to reinstate him just last week.
Clarkson claims he turned down the position because of what had happened following his departure, including being compared by the corporation to paedophile DJ Jimmy Savile.
"I had a meeting with a BBC executive last week and they asked if I'd come back to Top Gear,” the 55 year old reportedly said.
"But it was never an option, even with the one million people signing the Bring Back Clarkson petition - for which I was extremely humbled.
"Too much has gone on. After I'd been compared to Jimmy Savile by someone from the BBC and it was splashed all over a Sunday newspaper, how could I go back?
"The spotlight would have been on me and the show would end up being neutered. It would be difficult to do anything without interference. It would have been impossible to make the show I'd want to make."
A BBC spokesman said: "We haven't offered another Top Gear contract and the BBC had placed on record its thanks to Jeremy for his broadcasting on the programme and wish him well for the future."
Former TFI Friday host and Radio 2 DJ Evans was unveiled as the new face of Top Gear on Tuesday and has since revealed he is to hold auditions to find a co-host.
Yesterday he called on Top Gear fans to send in short audition clips for a job on the show, as he admitted he has been terrified of losing his driving licence since landing the presenter role.
Chris Evans: Career in pictures
Chris Evans: Career in pictures
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Chris Evans in a studio, 1980s
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(L-R) Gaby Roslin, Chris Evans, Paula Yates and Mark Lamarr on Big Breakfast TV Show, 1992
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Chris Evans on the day of his 30th birthday, in London, 1996
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Chris Evans in 1997
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Chris Evans of England wears a policeman's hat having fun with Mark O'Meara captain of the USA team on the range before the fourball matches on the first day of All-Star Cup on the Roman Road Course at The Celtic Manor Resor in Newport, 2005
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Chris Evans and Ronan Keating arrive at the Gala Dinner on the first day of the Northern Rock All Star Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, 2006
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Chris Evans poses in the awards room with the Music Radio Personality of the Year Award at the Sony Radio Academy Awards 2007 at Grosvenor House Hotel in London
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Chris Evans presents during 'Thank You For The Music - A Celebration Of The Music Of Abba' at Hyde Park in London, 2009
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Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans and David Cameron appear on the Andrew Marr show on BBC TV in London, 2010
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Chris Evans and Moira Stuart during Chris Evans' first day as the host of the Breakfast show, the position he took over from Sir Terry Wogan, 2011
Mark Allan/BBC/PA Wire
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Chris Evans interviews Luke Darlington (L) Prince Harry and JJ Chalmersfor his breakfast show at BBC Radio 2 Studios in London, 2014
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Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans attends the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco, 2015
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Chris Evans with Jeremy Clarkson outside BBC Radio 2 Studios, 2015
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Chris Evans meets Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, following the launch of BBC Radios 2's '500 Words', a children's story writing competition which is supported by the duchess, in the Morning Room at Clarence House in London, 2015
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Chris Evans at the celebrity start at The London Marathon 2015 in London
The DJ, who is a keen petrolhead, said that he had "never driven more carefully" since getting the hosting job.
He told candidates they needed to have an "appetite, hunger and need" to host the motoring show, and to send in videos of themselves from the waist up, with "no stunts, no gimmicks" or cars, behaving as they would if they were on the show.
BBC Two controller Kim Shillinglaw yesterday played down suggestions that the new co-host will be a woman after Evans told BBC Radio 5 live that the new line up would “definitely” include a female presenter.
Clarkson’s former Top Gear co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May have previously ruled out returning to work on the car programme without him.Reuse content