Chris Evans’s mischievous side was very much in evidence during his Radio 2 Breakfast Show yesterday.
Looking through the papers on Friday morning, the new Top Gear presenter came to headlines regarding former incumbent Jeremy Clarkson’s claims that he was asked to return as the host of the high-profile motoring show months after being axed for punching a producer.
Clarkson said on Thursday that he had been asked to return to the motoring show just days before Chris Evans was offered the job but declined the offer because “too much has gone on”. (The BBC was quick to deny the claims.)
“Well, as to whether Jeremy was offered his old job back or not,” Evans cheekily said about his friend, “either outside or inside his own head he still said no to the voices. Therefore, I shall continue my resurrection of the world’s favourite television car show, as auditions for a new Top Gear presenter go live in 26 minutes from now, and I can’t wait.”
Clarkson is said to be planning a new, rival motoring programme with his former Top Gear colleagues James May and Richard Hammond, which could be unveiled within a fortnight. And he yesterday had a bit of extra fun at Evans’s expense. In his interview in The Sun, he said, “I hope Chris enjoys running what, for the next couple of weeks, is the world’s biggest car show.”
In today’s Sun column, Clarkson – as well as insisting that a senior executive asked him if he would consider returning to Top Gear last week, “over a cup of tea in a Mayfair hotel” – goes through his biggest moments from his 13-odd years presenting the programme.
His high point was, he writes, the Botswana special in the programme’s early days. The three of them drank “several million gallons of beer” and he and Hammond “decided it would be a very good idea to put the freshly severed head of a cow in James’s tent” in order to lure a hungry predator.
The low point, he writes, was when he heard of Hammond’s car crash in 2006, which left him in a critical condition, but from which he recovered: “I do feel the most amazing sense of relief.” Another, rather less serious low point included his having, during their North Pole Adventure, to share a tent with May, “who at night became a 6ft sinus”.
His favourite drive was, he writes, crossing the Atacama Desert in a ruined Range Rover, the best car he ever drove was a Lexus LFA, and the best guest was Ranulph Fiennes.
As for his “best bollocking”, although he admits that it’s difficult because they were so plentiful, his favourite was when television executive Danny Cohen accused him of racism for naming his dog Didier Dogba.
Sometimes your first instinct proves to be the right one. The suspicion that Chris Evans would eventually end up hosting Top Gear was hard to shake, even though he’d “categorically” ruled himself out of the running in recent weeks.