Jeremy Clarkson leads applause for Chris Evans on Top Gear
Published 17/06/2015 | 10:05
Newly-appointed Top Gear presenter Chris Evans is meeting with show bosses today to get to work - as he revealed Jeremy Clarkson was among the first to congratulate him on getting the job.
Evans, 49, has long been tipped to take of over the driving seat of the flagship BBC show after Clarkson was sacked for punching one of the show's producers in a row over steak.
The flame-haired presenter had repeatedly ruled himself out of the running, but it was yesterday revealed he has signed a three-year contract to head a new presenting line-up.
Evans told his listeners on his BBC Radio 2 show he was only offered the job last Thursday afternoon when presenters Richard Hammond and James May finally ruled themselves out of returning to the programme.
Although he was sounded out when news of Clarkson's fracas emerged in March.
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" while he revealed he also got Hammond's 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 BBC producers today to discuss ideas for the show, and said "we realise there is a lot of work to do and serious focusing to be done".
Evans revealed Mark Linsey, the BBC's head of entertainment commissioning, texted him last Thursday asking "would you be interested at all in having a Top Gear conversation?".
The presenter admitted he had been approached by someone "very senior" at the BBC months ago when Clarkson was suspended over his "fracas" with a producer.
But he insisted he had not been offered the contract and was keen for the show to continue with May and Hammond at the helm.
Evans said: "Now I have never ever been offered, or had ever been offered, the Top Gear job before that.
"I had one brief text exchange about Top Gear with somebody very high up in the BBC and it was when what has now become infamous happened, and that was very short, very concise saying 'if anything happened in the future would you be up for a conversation?'
"So the text I received on Thursday was pretty similar to the one I received three months ago or whenever it was."
Evans said he was only convinced to take the three year contract, worth a reported £3 million, after Hammond and May decided they would not return to the show.
He said: "Mark explained to me that the situation had changed in the last 24 hours because Richard and James had finally ruled themselves out of a return to Top Gear.
"Before that they were very much considering returning, the BBC had made an offer to them, I was aware of that and I wanted them to return.
"I wanted Top Gear to carry on - this is as a fan - I wanted Top Gear to carry on and I thought, honestly as a betting man, I thought that was going to happen.
"And so 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 two, and in fact three, of my friends."
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 what I should have done and didn't do and this is what I've learnt from the situation.
"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.
"We had our first meeting about it on Friday."
Evans said he texted the previous Top Gear presenters just before the announcement was made.
May was the first off the blocks to offer his support.
Evans said: "He called me back straight away, literally he called me back within a minute of me texting him, and we had a chat and we are going to meet up today and tomorrow to talk about things."
He cryptically added: "Who knows what might happen there?"
Petrol-head Evans promised Top Gear viewers he will "look after it - I promise".