New Top Gear presenter Chris Evans: I'll have a female co-host
Newly-appointed Top Gear presenter Chris Evans has confirmed he will be joined by a female co-host on the show, sparking speculation former model Jodie Kidd is in the driving seat for the job.
Evans, who was announced as the new host of the hit show last night, told Radio 5 Live's Nicky Campbell he could "100%" confirm he would have a female co-star "but not for the sake of it".
Kidd, a former model who has already appeared on the BBC2 show as a guest, is the bookmakers' favourite for one of the two spots left after Richard Hammond and James May left.
A spokesman for William Hill said: "We think Jodie is almost a certainty but the third member of the expected triumvirate looks very open.
"There will be a load of celebrities willing their phones to ring."
The bookmakers have Kidd at 5/4, Guy Martin at 2/1, Philip Glenister at 3/1 and Dermot O'Leary at 5/1, even though he has previously ruled himself out, telling the Daily Mirror he had not been approached about the job.
Evans, who hosts the Radio 2 breakfast show, is meeting show bosses today and revealed Jeremy Clarkson was among the first to congratulate him on getting the job.
Evans, 49, has long been tipped to take the driving seat on the flagship BBC show after Clarkson was sacked for punching a producer in a row over steak.
The flame-haired presenter repeatedly ruled himself out of the running, but 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.
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."
He revealed Hammond also gave the move his 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 show's producers today 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 is 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".