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Chris Evans

Chris Evans

Yui Mok/PA Wire

Chris Evans

And on that bombshell, Jeremy Clarkson has gone. 'Top Gear's' main man has caused one controversy too far, gone out in a blaze of producer-punching glory, jettisoned from the BBC's mega-successful motoring franchise.

The Star in a Reasonably Priced Fracas has roared off into the sunset, no doubt raising a defiant two-fingered salute in mesh-backed, leather-palmed driving gloves as he does so.

The petitions, debates and post mortems will doubtless rumble on well into the summer. But it's now time to take a breath, step back and see the broader picture. Forget Clarkson for a moment, no matter how hard his acolytes might protest, and instead ask: where now for BBC Two's top-rated show and one of the corporation's biggest-earning properties worldwide?

There is one way that is clearly a bad idea. The biggest mistake the BBC could make would be to fill Clarkson's size 11 cowboy boots with a like-for-like replacement and try to pretend nothing has changed. Clarkson worked precisely because he was such a cartoonish, larger-than-life figure. A watered-down tribute act just wouldn't cut the mustard. Fans wouldn't buy it, critics would have a field day, the show's tone would falter and ratings would wither. Instead, the Beeb would be better off trying to turn this unholy, headline-hogging mess to their advantage. When key talent leaves or situations change - think Brucey bowing out of 'Strictly Come Dancing'- it's a chance to modernise.

Besides, what often gets forgotten is that 'Top Gear' existed pre-Jezza, as a relatively sober motoring review programme. It was pretty successful on it own modest terms, too. It began in 1977 as a monthly magazine show, with Angela Rippon behind the wheel.

Three years later, Noel Edmonds took over and as the show evolved through the Eighties, new presenters came on-board - including former Formula One driver Tiff Needell, and then, in 1988, a reporter from 'Performance Car' magazine called Jeremy Clarkson, who helped turn it into the glossy, growling entertainment behemoth known today. Despite his protestations to the contrary, Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans continues to be mooted as Clarkson's most likely replacement.

If he's really in the frame, the BBC should treat Evans as a creative equal, respecting him as a dazzlingly inventive broadcaster and originator of fresh entertainment formats. Start with a clean slate. What would a 21st century motoring programme made in Evans's image look like? (© Daily Telegraph London)

Telegraph.co.uk