Ben Collins, the racing driver who was The Stig on Top Gear for eight years, has said that the BBC show could thrive without Jeremy Clarkson.
The stuntman fell out with the broadcaster when it launched legal action – which it failed to win – over his decision to reveal his identity and publish his autobiography.
Collins told Radio Times magazine that the embattled presenter was not supportive of him in his own clash with the corporation.
And he said that the BBC2 show could continue to succeed without him.
“Top Gear has achieved huge status and Jeremy has certainly been part of that because he’s got such a big personality... he’s an unstoppable force.
“But fans of the programme love it for lots of different reasons. Jeremy is certainly one of them, but not the only one,” Collins, who was The Stig until 2011, said.
“The Bond franchise... changes and moves forward. Top Gear will always continue... It will carry on and continue to be successful because millions of people watch it.”
Collins said that it had become harder for the show “to reinvent itself”, as it was “possibly starting to strain under the weight of its own success”.
He said: “Things will evolve one way or the other. I don’t think it can be only anchored in one person.”
He added: “I was there for eight years but it came to a natural conclusion. I handed in my notice and had discussions with the BBC and they decided to go to court, which was a real shame and not what I wanted. Was Jeremy supportive? No, he wasn’t. We haven’t spoken since.
“But I get on really well now with the guy that hired me [executive producer and Clarkson’s close friend Andy Wilman] and I’m really delighted about that.”
Meanwhile, Perry McCarthy, who was The Stig from 2002 to 2003, said that Top Gear without Clarkson would take “the fire out of it” and “won’t work”.
“I think you’re going to have a diluted product. I don’t think it will have the value that it did, here and overseas”, he said.
“And God help any soul who takes his place, because that’s like signing up for your own firing squad. The only person who could take it on would be somebody who has nothing to lose.”
Victims of Jimmy Savile have denounced comparisons of the support shown embattled Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson to the widespread protection offered to the dead paedophile presenter as "upsetting" and "totally offensive".
EASILY the most amusing aspect of the whole Jeremy Clarkson affair has been the way his fans have tried to portray him as an outspoken maverick, a free-thinking, free-speaking, iconoclastic rebel who just happens to have fallen foul of the pinko-liberal-feminist-gay-lesbian-transgender-vegan-muesli-eating forces of political correctness that would take all the fun out of television.