Chris Evans was really, really sure he wouldn’t be the new presenter of Top Gear. Right up until last night, when he said he would.
This is what he said when his name was first mentioned as a potential successor to Jeremy Clarkson.
He also retweeted messages saying what a bad idea it would be for him to take over the job, adding “Don’t worry your little cotton socks. Never going to happen. That’s a 100% categorical ‘true fact’ as JC would say.”
Then, on his Radio 2 show, he said rumours that he would take over from Clarkson were “absolute nonsense”.
“This is not true,” he said on air. “Not only is it not true, it’s absolute nonsense. From what I’ve seen on Twitter and various social media, there’s a 50/50 split approximately as to whether me being involved in the show is a good idea.”
He added: “In TV or radio, if you get a 50/50 love/hate reaction that usually equals massive hit. I used to work for [ratings body] BARB and knock on people’s doors and this was the rule of thumb.
“However, I’m in the no camp. So regardless of whether it would be a hit, I’m voting a no for myself on that show, so that’s never going to happen.”
Even last Friday, when he was chatting to F1 racer Lewis Hamilton on TFI Friday, he was publicly hedging his bets about a Top Gear role: “I did say ‘never,’ but I downgraded it to ‘never say never’,” he admitted.
Except, as he revealed on his Radio 2 show this morning, Evans had actually been messaging his Top Gear mates and BBC executives the entire time.
He revealed the boss of BBC Entertainment contacted him last Thursday about taking over the show, but that he’d already been in touch with the BBC even before Clarkson was officially dropped.
“I had one brief text exchange about Top Gear with somebody very high up at the BBC, and it was when what has now become infamous happened,” Evans told his listeners. “And that was very short, very concise, and saying: if anything happened in the future, would you be up for a conversation?”
Then, on Thursday, that “conversation” was initiated: “I got a text and it was from Mark Linsey who is the head of entertainment for BBC TV, and basically it said: ‘would you be interested at all in having a Top Gear conversation?'” he revealed. The BBC had decided to approach him after Richard Hammond and James May confirmed they wouldn’t be returning.
“So the text that I received on Thursday was pretty similar to the one three months ago or whenever it was.”
The presenter also explained that the reason he had denied his involvement for so long was that he didn’t want to become “a pawn in a chess game involving three, including Jeremy, of my friends.”